Yesterday, I volunteered to table at the Life is Living Festival in Oakland. The festival is held in cities across the country, and brings together local artists, green businesses and residents of under-served communities. The goal is to create new methods of leveraging the talents and resources of artists and businesses in order to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods.
The first thing that struck me about the event was its authenticity. The people who were attending weren’t simply looking to party, but were actually interested in strengthened their communities. There was a sense of empowered optimism very similar to the attitude of those attending Occupy Wall Street and the other demonstrations that have sprung from it.
I believe we are at a crucial point in American history. Americans are finally realizing that we deserve more – we deserve to be healthy and to be able to get a job and make a comfortable living. This certainly seemed to be the case among those at the festival.
The second thing that struck me was the number of people who had heard of People’s Grocery. PG is a food justice organization and urban farm, working to increase access to healthy food in West Oakland. To those in the food justice movement, PG is quite well known. But my experience at the festival told me that within the Oakland community, residents recognize the value of the work being done by People’s Grocery. People want to eat healthy foods – the problem is affordability. People understand that our current food system is unjust and inequitable, and they are beginning to feel that they can change it. My experience at the Life is Living Festival was very encouraging. Americans are rediscovering their voices and starting to assert their rights to a basic quality of life.