Guest Post by Kai Kyles, Action Forum Member
Hello everyone! My name is Kai Kyles, and I’m deeply inspired and humbled by the work of Equal Exchange and the Action Forum. I became involved with the Forum after I joined Equal Exchange in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, last November for an incredible presentation about who controls our food system and how we can organize ourselves as citizen-consumers to create a more just, sustainable and democratic food system that works for farmers, workers, and consumers.
This discussion was incredibly revolutionary for me in sharpening my activism, igniting my interests in cooperatives, and challenging my engagement with radical food politics, justice, and sovereignty. The potential for involvement with our food system through the Action Forum more intentionally and collectively is what continues to root my belief in change.
The Action Forum has only began to embrace the "citizen-consumer dilemma," and this is exciting! I’m looking forward to ongoing engagement with people from a wide range of demographics coming together to embrace this system that we all are a part of, and that is incredibly entrenched in many other capacities impacting our livelihoods and sustainability. It is my hope that we also begin to consider more deeply as a part of this Forum sustainable consumption as a means for radical change in systems that need, and I argue require, decentralization.
Food justice work is important because it is rooted in a plethora of other systems and -isms that marginalize, stratify, centralize, and commodify. It is up to us, the people, to demand and continue to push for change for food sovereignty, cooperatives, fair labor and the ongoing decentralization and decolonization of oppressive and corrupt institutions and systems. The Equal Exchange Action Forum is a positive and radical step in shifting power back to the people!
The Action Forum has deepened my work as a budding community organizer in Cleveland and beyond. Currently, I’m pursuing a Master’s Degree in Food Studies (Food Politics Concentration) at the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Penn., and I’m obsessed with exploring the local, as well as global, impacts of cooperatives (farmer, community-owned, etc.) on community food security and sovereignty efforts. The work of Equal Exchange and the Forum has deepened my scholar-activism tremendously in this regard, and through this intentional engagement I’ve become more informed and immersed in the work I hold dear and sacred.