Global News Brief

Illustration of a pot of soup that reads "Food not bombs" to the left is a stack of papers that read "rent is theft" and to the right is a hot bowl with a spoon in it. Text at the bottom reads "Free Soup for The Revolution"

A glimpse of global resistance and uprising in 2019

Revolution in Haiti – 2018-2019

Uprising in Haiti continues as Haitians demand the current President, Jovenel Moise, step down. Food and fuel shortages sparked the movement and Haitians began to demand the President resign. The country’s fuel shortages became so severe that stores, schools, and hospitals were unable to function. Many media outlets are reporting the uprising in Haiti as a crisis that needs U.S intervention but Haiti has long been under the thumb of neoliberalism and the people are demanding a revolution. One of the ongoing problems in Haiti is food sovereignty. The government continues to import more than half of the country’s food as opposed to investing in Haitian farmers and food production. 

Revolution in Sudan –April 11th 2019

Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by the Sudanese people after 30 years in power. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered around a military base and demanded the President be removed and the country moved into a civilian rule. This did not come easy, protestors endured extreme violence and al-Bashir declared a nationwide state of emergency. Eventually, the President was overthrown. This is the country’s third revolution. 

Uprising in Chile – October 2019

In 2019, Chile had the biggest uprising in the country’s history. The uprising began as a student-led demonstration against a subway fare increase but quickly sparked into a mass revolt. Working-class Chileans had enough and took to the streets demanding government reform. The biggest social problem with Chile is the country’s ever-growing wealth gap and inequality. The people are fighting against: poor health care, privatized pensions, low minimum wages, and high living costs. Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, quickly declared a state of emergency in response to the uprising; enforcing curfews and ordering the military to “restore order”. After the military violently managed demonstrators,  Pinera lifted the state of emergency, replaced eight cabinet ministers and made some “social reform proposals” to satisfy the ears of most. 

Radical Roots Cooperative

Cheyenne Sundance smiling and holding her hips while looking at a head of lettuce

By Cheyenne Sundance

I’ve noticed that over the last few months, I’ve received emails that have addressed Sundance Harvest as a team. I often say “we” when I speak about Sundance Harvest mainly because I’m shy and this is for community – but I think I’m under selling myself. I created Sundance Harvest all by myself when I was 21 years old. I have put my blood, sweat and tears into making it something that’s so tangible and real — high school Cheyenne would have been proud. So now, I make it known that I am Sundance Harvest. This is my baby, I have put in all the work and instead of letting people diminish my achievements, I am holding them up like a shining star. That’s what Sundance Harvest is, my shining star in a bleak and cold night.

A few of you know about how hard it’s been to deal with the rapid expansion of Sundance Harvest. I have had to hire part-time staff and I have realized that I’m not a good boss. I don’t want to be someone’s boss, I want folks to have independence in urban agriculture and craft their own way. So I decided I will not be hiring people. I’m happy about this decision because something really cool and magical birthed out of it. Radical Roots Cooperative.

Radical Roots Cooperative is a dream of mine. People I care about growing food with me and, in turn, growing community. In less than a year, Sundance Harvest has really been active and as a result I’ve noticed so much change in my community. From what I can see, Urban agriculture in Toronto hasn’t been making any major changes. I believe, part of the reason is because the non-profit model is not the solution; I think it’s a part of the larger problem. People who are systematically oppressed have to ask these non-profits and rely on them for food security. Instead what people, largely Black and Indigenous, should have in their communities is food sovereignty. A system whereby they manage it, control the seed, and chose how they grow and when. That’s what justice is. Not just community gardens, but rather community control and financial stability. You cannot pay your rent in tomatoes, you cannot survive the whole winter with just your humble harvests from your small community garden plot. Food insecurity isn’t caused by a lack of food or a lack of awareness of healthy choices, it’s a lack of income.

As someone who grew up in low-income working class home, I know this first hand. The solution is giving communities the tools they need to be resilient and survive — without non-profit interference. This is not say I don’t admire what many nonprofits are striving to do to help aide the effects colonialism, environmental racism and systemic oppression. I just think it could be done differently. What that looks like is urban farms that are governed and run by those who are most affected. Not class and race privileged people who took environmental studies in University and decided they want to “go back to the land”. Instead, those who have been historically displaced from lands here on Turtle Island and aboard that have been (and are) hurt by colonization.

Radical Roots is for us. Everything I have been doing is for us and when I say us — us knows who us is. Radical Roots is going to provide plots for us to farm and grow food as well as a direct sale through a CSA. By supporting Radical Roots, you are supporting the furthering of true food justice in Toronto that’s all led by and for youth. One that’s not dependent on benevolence, instead on independence of marginalized youth. Deciding and curating their own dreams, destinys and hopes for the future — especially in these times of climate crisis.

This is my new project and I’m proud to say that this was the end goal of something I’ve always wanted. I’ve been enjoying how big Sundance Harvest is getting, I won’t lie. But I also know that it’s time for me to give back and do what I’ve always said I was going to do — create a resilient food system. So I will be redistributing most of my food growing land towards this cooperative.

2020 is the year of radical change that has us leading it.

Resist always and forever, speak truth to power and never stop growing.

Love, Cheyenne Sundance

Cheyenne Sundance smiling and holding her hips while looking at a head of lettuce

Cheyenne Sundance is an organic farmer and food justice advocate who has worked in both rural and urban settings. Her farming has always been with a social justice framework since being able to grow your own food is the foundation of independence and liberation, especially for those who are Black, Indigenous. Cheyenne provides Toronto with organic and ethically grown produce through her year-round urban farm Sundance Harvest.

Cultivating Food Justice

cheyenne standing in a greenhouse between raised beds with her hands up

An Interview with Cheyenne Sundance of Sundance Harvest

Interview by Shabina 

Over the last decade, I have worked to build my food growing skills. Being able to provide fresh food to my loved ones has always been important to me for several reasons: growing food is financially accessible, environmentally friendly and connects me to my ancestral knowledge. While I am so grateful for what I have learned, one thing always stuck with me; the question of why so many of the well paid “leaders” of the food movement were always white and from wealthy families. Every organization had mandates around anti-racism and being “community-led”, however, they were unwilling to do the work of transferring power to where it belonged.

This frustration led me to search for people working near Toronto to feed their communities and what I found was both inspiring and beautiful. Black-run farms, Indigenous seed savers, community gardens run by immigrants, all run on almost no funding – only a deep love for each other and the earth. This is how I came across Cheyenne Sundance; a 22-year-old, mixed-race, Black farmer, living in Toronto.

Cheyenne is the founder of Sundance Harvest; a youth-run urban farm rooted in food justice and eradication of systemic racism in the food system. She runs all sorts of workshops and programs in her greenhouse, including a Farm School in 2020 which I decided to sign up for. So, when I was offered the opportunity to interview her, I was more than game. 

So, what got you into farming?
Food is essential to any type of justice work, because food is essential to life. It is often the first thing to go when poor or working-class people are struggling to survive. When they have to pay static bills that they can’t budge on, they have to decide if they can afford salad this week. Food is something that is pushed aside because it’s often the only expense that people can see living without. Paying people minimum wage, which is not a reflection of  the true cost of living, often translates into food insecurity.

Food is attached to almost any oppression. Globalization and colonization continue to disrupt traditional farming practices and healthy foods and replace them with conventional foods like grains and chocolate products that are farmed by underpaid and slave laboured children and women. Here on Turtle Island, and beyond, food is the glue that holds together a community and allows people to be independent. Food systems that have been violently fractured due to things like slavery, environmental racism and colonization cause the most marginalized to become the most dispossessed from land and food. The conventional food system is an extension of these histories and ongoing acts of violence. The system is working exactly how it was planned; with the goal of continuing to suppress us. 

I never wanted to farm but the government and people with privilege in the food system aren’t doing anything to help make our communities for food secure, and so I decided I needed to do it myself.

What made you decide to start your own farm?

I noticed how glaringly white urban agriculture and farming is, yet the people who are most affected by food insecurity in Canada are Black and Indigenous people.  I was frustrated at how often urban farming in Toronto is led by people who have race and wealth privilege, who use their privilege to lease public crown land or to lead a non-profit in predominantly Black neighbourhoods, yet had no connection to the communities they claimed to represent. 

The food justice framework has been laid out to help Black and Indigenous peoples, or even other marginalized people- yet we are only given community gardens instead of true leadership to create change. Non-profits are often complacent in white supremacy because they only hire BIPOC people (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour), mainly women/femme folk, in entry level positions but the director is always a white person. 

I couldn’t see any examples work to promote food security led by those most affected. So, I had to create the Sundance Harvest blueprint from my heart. I hope that in a few years I can foster more urban farms that are rooted in justice and that they can be carried on in leadership by people like me. I shouldn’t have to be fighting access to healthy food, I shouldn’t have to be the one who is filling the void that white supremacy and colonialism caused. Those in power should.

What are the struggles you have faced in starting this project?

I have had  no support. Sundance Harvest has not been supported, despite our calls for assistance and partnership, by any other non-profit or organization with the exception of Foodshare. I truly think it’s because 99% of non-profits and urban farms in Toronto are complacent within this system of white supremacy in the food system. They constantly try to solve food insecurity by doling out community gardens or donating to food banks. They never contribute to sustainable change that removes them from the equation. We are consistently made to rely on them.  We need urban farms run by people who look like me and who are actually facing the issues we are trying to solve. 

These organizations are not radical and I learned early on that I cannot expect them to be. I’m happy that Foodshare recognizes racism and colonialism in the food system and strives to do something about it. 

How has the rest of the community reacted to the farm?

I’ve received a lot of support from them! From those who understand that food justice is a real thing of course. From those who have been profiting off their privilege, backlash. 

What motivates you to continue this work?

That I need to teach the next generation to become farmers. The next generation being my community who will be hit the hardest the climate crisis as the cost of food soars. I know there’s a demand, I’ve noticed that when people see me farming, calling out profiteers of colonialism, and building on this simple idea of liberation; they can see themselves. I don’t expect everyone to become a full-time farmer. I do think that more and more people are starting to understand that they have power within the food system. They understand that something is wrong with our current system.

How can people get involved with Sundance Harvest?

My farm school is starting next March 2020. It will be an anti-oppressive farm school. I won’t be teaching you how to build urban farms or agricultural systems that utilize exploitation of the poor and BIPOC people Instead I’ll show you exactly how I created Sundance Harvest. It will cover practical skills and theory and will take place both in my greenhouse and outdoors. There will be field trips and explorations of yourself and your place in the food system.