Be Brave

By Niaz Dorry
NAMA’s Coordinating Director
At the conclusion of a Food Solutions New England meeting we were asked to list what’s next once we leave. FSNE is a network of organizations, including NAMA, focused on figuring out how as New Englanders can we feed ourselves mostly locally caught, raised and grown food in a few decades. As a network, we have made a commitment to answer this question while also addressing racial inequity and food injustice in our food system. A brave undertaking.
My only thought at the end of the meeting was we must be brave. On the drive home I realized I was telling myself to be brave more than I was telling my colleagues in the room. We must be brave.
There are few if any other marine conservation organizations in the US working at the intersection of social, environmental and economic justice, and equity, health, hunger and community. If it weren’t for our friends in the justice, food, labor and environmental justice movements we would be feeling awfully alone. But we feel supported and we must lean on these networks to remain brave.
Frankly, the marine conservation movement is pretty homogenous, and most of the campaigns and messages are targeting upper middle class and white populations. The new intersection we have been working toward is a whole new way of looking at what it takes to protect the ocean, who wins and loses, making this new way not always welcomed or understood. We must be brave. But we must also be clear.
Our commitment to racial justice, food security and economic justice has been building for some time. NAMA was founded on such principles nearly 20 years ago. In 2008, we began to broaden our circles and get help in making our values a reality. We joined forces with the National Family Farm Coalition, and later the US Food Sovereignty Alliance to highlight the injustices in our food system and the parallels between family farming and community based fishing. In 2012, we launched Celebrate the Fruits of Our Ocean campaign with the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness expanding our work to communities of color and low-income communities in the greater Boston area. Today, these neighborhoods have access to real fish caught by local fishermen at prices they can afford and fishermen can live with. 
Why do race and equity matter? Because race continues to be the major factor for how entire communities are treated, impacting access to resources and the cost of basic needs in communities of color. Race is the reason why many communities are left with limited or non-existent choices when it comes to securing healthy, clean, fair food along the entire food chain.
Whether it’s access to land for farmers or fishing rights for fishermen, race and economic class play a major role. People of color working in the food chain are consistently paid less than their white counterparts. Food servers use SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) at twice the rate of the rest of the US workforce and are three-times as likely to live in poverty. Communities of color are more likely to find highly processed unrecognizable seafood products at high prices in their corner store than fresh seafood at affordable prices. The excuse is often that seafood is too expensive – or maybe even not appreciated – to be offered in communities of color, but as we saw this year at Boston’s inner city farmers markets where seafood vendors consistently sold out these are false assumptions. You can get a glimpse into this data by visiting this link.
Ill-conceived food and fisheries policies have marginalized fishing communities around the world resulting in many injustices along the way for both fishermen and seafood consumers. We’re ready to do what it takes to shed light on these issues and change the unjust systems. But we must be brave.
Please join us as we go into 2014 with a bold and brave approach, and without fear of standing up to those who have been controlling the fishing and agriculture worlds, often at the cost to the animals, the land, the ocean and those who are working on land and sea. 
Without dealing with racial inequity and food injustice we will not succeed at our ultimate goal of marine conservation and will go on compromising the accessibility, viability and sustainability of our entire food system.   . 
Must be brave. Must be very brave.