Since 2020, a team of Buffalo Food Equity Network members have led the Western New York (WNY) Food Stories Project to engage community storytellers in sharing their perspectives about food and land issues in Western New York.
Our project centers Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander storytellers to create stories and tools for community transformation and liberation. The first group of storytellers were engaged virtually due to the pandemic, and with support from Nexus Community Partners and the W.I.N. Initiative, a video was produced with highlights from their stories.
This summer, we collected a second group of stories at Buffalo’s 2022 Juneteenth Festival as a participant in the Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion. Approximately twenty festival attendees shared their food stories at a video booth created in collaboration with the W.I.N. Initiative. Now, we are working to create a new video with this fresh batch of stories.
In the coming months, we are looking forward to working with Buffalo Food Equity Network members to find ways to lift up these stories to facilitate change in the WNY food system. Our efforts are grounded in the belief that radical transformation in systems and structures is necessary for communities most impacted by food systems injustices to thrive.
The first Juneteenth festival was held in Buffalo in 1976 and it has now grown into one of the largest celebrations of Juneteenth in the country to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. The Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion was introduced as part of the Juneteenth Celebration in Buffalo in 2019 with the purpose to provide hands-on educational presentations and demonstrations related to agricultural history; as well as resources and education related to current practices and careers in agriculture.
Food for the Spirit has supported Buffalo’s Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion since the pavilion’s inception. Buffalo Food Equity Network members and partners have shared space at the pavilion and provided one-stop access to resources and information for festival-goers. Activities at the pavilion included a children’s shoe box garden project, plant seedling giveaways, gardens-in-a-bag and food demonstrations. There was a video booth set-up by the WNY Food Stories Project, Emergency Food Storage consultations by Ms. Della Miller, and a beautiful exhibit by UB Food Lab students highlighting the work being done by Black women leadership in Buffalo’s food system.
Food for the Spirit staff have supported the Ag Pavilion’s founder and chair, Jaime Swygert, in executing a vision where Black and brown people could convene and gather community resources, historical education, access career information, and learn about food equity, justice, and policy-advocacy efforts.
2022 marked the festival’s return to in-person celebration, after some virtual holdings due the pandemic. In 2020 and 2021, even while the festival was virtual, Buffalo Food Equity Network members continued to support the Pavilion; members held plant seedling giveaways and curated exhibits to commemorate the Juneteenth holiday. This support enabled the Juneteenth Ag Pavilion to continue distributing information and resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Written by Jaime Swygert, Chair of the Buffalo Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion, September 2022.