During the first North American Permaculture Convergence (NAPC) in August 2014, self-organized people of color (POC) and white allies (Allies) identified a need to address issues of race and racism within the permaculture movement. After meeting separately as a POC and Allies caucuses, the groups came together and endorsed the following points as powerful requests of all leaders and practitioners within the permaculture movement of North America.
We gathered in a circle, surrounded by the wider group on the morning of the last day as three members of the POC caucus, Uma Lo (NYC), Anandi Premlall (NYC) and Louis “Babalu” Alemayehu (Minneapolis/St.Paul), took the mic and shared our requests and a poem.
The following requests and associated suggestions represent a place to start the long journey towards inclusive community, rather than a conclusive and comprehensive list of appropriate actions. They are practical ways to counteract interlocking social, cultural, and economic systems that perpetuate domination and structural disparity. They are concrete ways to demonstrate that affirming the human dignity of all matters to you.
DRAFTED AUGUST 30, 2014
- Include/Provide anti-oppression training as content for all permaculture gatherings such as the NAPC, PDC courses, or other regional gatherings.
- Treat this training/content as an integrated focal point of the gathering, and schedule it in such a way that it is easily accessible and highly visible.
- In particular, we challenge/encourage permaculture teachers and leaders to seek out anti-oppression training, and to identify and concrete ways to incorporate it into their work and their lives. (There is a big difference between “knowing about” systems of oppression and acting as if it matters.)
- We encourage anyone who finds these recommendations or anti-oppression training confusing to seek support from others, especially white allies, to understand why and how it is important, useful, and relevant.
- We request that as we reconnect with the land through the practice of permaculture, the permaculture community actively seeks out and publicly acknowledges both the history and current reality of the land as it relates to struggles against colonization, conquest, and oppression.
- This means actively seek out the history of the land and the First Nations that lived there.
- This means actively find out about the modern status of First Nations communities that are still there, and other groups like migrant workers who may be struggling for livelihoods on land near you, or urban farmers seeking access to land, communities being forced off of land due to gentrification.
- We request that the permaculture movement acknowledge the historical rights of Indigenous peoples to the land on which we gather. We ask event organizers to make a sincere request to use the land, as well as issue an invitation to the appropriate indigenous peoples to open events and/or bless the space before we gather.
- Acknowledge and affirm the ways in which ‘permaculture design’ is drawn directly from the wisdom of indigenous cultures; (Bill Mollison and David Holmgren the “inventors” of Permaculture codified knowledge drawn largely from observing and learning directly from Aboriginal and indigenous peoples.)
- We request that gatherings be staffed with both American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and language interpreters, as needed.
- We request that inclusive language be affirmed in every aspect of permaculture work – invitations to events, courses, workshops, texts etc.
- Find ways of expressing permaculture concepts that are culturally appropriate for the communities you are working with; focus on the essence of the learning rather than normative jargon/labels.
- Invite participation of local communities
- We request that permaculture gatherings make space for appreciating multiple generations that may be present.
- We request that when doing outreach to communities of color, organizers and leaders in permaculture develop full, rich, symbiotic relationships with communities of color, rather than developing tokenistic relationships or ‘recruitment’ strategies.
- We request that permaculture organizers consider their events opportunities for proactive and fun intercultural exchange and learning; and that they consider seriously how scheduling, food, and music make an event more or less accessible to different groups of people.
- We request that permaculture event designers engage with people of color and other marginalized groups about designing reserved safe spaces at events, or designing for support.
- These are spaces that are available to people to gather where they are more likely to be able experience relief/rest from prevailing expressions of white domination, privilege and supremacy. For example Queer Trans POC space.
- When doing outreach for a program or vetting re: scholarships or assistance, design to have more than one person of an underrepresented group. The experience of being isolated/alone can reproduce or generate new traumas re: oppression and alienation.
- We request that the permaculture community work together, as friends (rather than as saviors or exotifiers), to do the healing work necessary for ourselves, our communities, and our earth.
- We acknowledge that the phrase ‘ally’ positions us in a battle, and pits some of ‘us’ against others of ‘us’. Instead, consider the invitation to be a ‘friend’ – to take opportunities to show care and consideration and to recognize and treat as fully human everyone in ‘our community’.