MLK Day of Service at Elijah’s Promise

To commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy of fighting for racial and economic justice and building power through community, Elijah’s Promise and the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance partnered to host a day of service for families and students at 211 Livingston Ave.

Participants made bagged lunches for the Elijah’s Promise Community Kitchen, created seed packets to distribute at the 2018 Food Forum coming up this spring, wrote letters to refugees and asylum seekers incarcerated at the Elizabeth Detention Center, and watched video content connecting the civil rights struggles of the 1960s with contemporary iterations of the fight for racial, economic, gender, disability, and neighborhood justice.

Sustaining Ourselves: Seed Packet Making

Families helped to make seed packets that will be distributed at the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance Annual Food Forum this Spring. The Food Forum is a chance for New Brunswick residents, non-profits, workers, parents, businesses, churches and other stakeholders in our city’s food system to come together and discuss ongoing initiatives to increase access to access to adequate amounts of nutritious, safe, affordable, and culturally appropriate food. Check out this New Brunswick Today article about the 2015 Food Forum in which urban gardening, transportation, wage theft and workers rights, policy-based advocacy, and public health were discussed.

Growing our own food is a form of self-reliance, community building, land stewardship, and personal fulfillment. MLK Day volunteers made hundreds of seed packets that community gardeners at the 2018 Food Forum will get to take home in time for early spring planting!

Solidarity: Writing Letters of Hope to Detainees

Elijah’s Promise partnered with First Friends NJ/NY to write over 90 letters to folks currently detained at the Elizabeth Detention Center. Some participants in this letter writing activity learned about immigrant detention in New

 Jersey for the first time. The First Friends mission of upholding the inherent dignity and humanity of detained immigrants and asylum seekers is a response to the United States government mandating that 34,000 men, women and families be incarcerated in a massive detention system, comprising federal, state and local jails. Refugees, asylum seekers, survivors of torture, and victims of human trafficking and violent crimes are among those held while their immigration cases are processed, and the very real potential for deportation lingers indefinitely. Writing to detainees is a way to extend hope, solidarity, and support to immigrants who are in an inhumane and unfair situation. If you are interested in becoming involved with detainee advocacy and support, please visit First Friends to learn more.

Making Bagged Lunches

“see the direct connection between strong bodies and strong minds… between food and freedom.”

As the Black Panther Party newspaper proclaimed in 1969, “hunger is one of the means ofoppression and it must be halted.” Each year our Community Kitchen serves over 100,000 meals and regularly distributes bagged lunches. The Kitchen is the cornerstone of our work to increase food security and economic stability in New Brun

swick for those among us who have the least. Following a hierarchy of needs, folks can’t look for a job and kids can’t focus on school if they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. The 160 bagged lunches we made on MLK Day of Service went to a local preschool, a program for folks re-entering society after incarceration, and the City of New Brunswick’s Code Blue Emergency Response on Jan 16. The city opens Code Blue emergency shelters when temperatures dip below 20 degrees or there are 6 inches of snow on the ground.

Media Room: From the March on Washington to the Movement for Black Lives

A bilingual video playlist in our food and media room displayed a varied collection of  Martin Luther King speeches, film from Black Panther Party breakfast programs, documentary segments about Cesar Chavez, present-day undocumented immigrant youth organizing and carrying out direct action to fight for a clean DREAM Act, and songs and speeches of the call for freedom and liberation throughout the last six decades.

Hunger cannot be addressed in a vacuum, just as racial inequality cannot be addressed without tackling socioeconomic inequality. Drawing on inspiration from MLK’s multi-facted approach to justice and peace work, MLK Day of Service at Elijah’s Promise opened discussion and connection among various issue areas. How is the contemporary struggle for racial justice similar to or different from the civil rights struggle in the 1960s? What is charity and what is solidarity? How are we as individuals and as an organization leveraging our resources and power to move towards a liberation model that truly empowers? We’ll be continuing to think about these questions as we transition from winter to spring. We are grateful to have kicked off 2018 with reflection, inspiration, learning, meeting new people, and accomplishing a lot. Thanks to all the volunteers who came out to participate! – Suzy Jivotovski, AmeriCorps Community Food Coordinator