Black History x Me and White Supremacy

Melissa Raybon is a teacher, artist and mentor who served as an Americorps Leader in Empower Place. She currently serves on the Anti-Racism Task Force at MFB&CC. As a woman who identifies as half Black and half Xicana, she authored this piece to bring awareness not only to Black History Month and the experiences of the past, but to foster education around the daily lives of BIPOC folks as it relates to the crucial moments we find ourselves in today, and as we strive to create a better future.

For a person of color, a place like Montana can feel daunting and uninviting. However, the Missoula Food Bank & Community Center strives to be a haven for equity and the much needed change that entails…

Why is Black History important?

Black History is important because often within our own communities, communities across this country and beyond, the voices of people of color are set aside or forgotten. It is important to educate youth and families in our community on how to make this world a safer and more inclusive space for all. By sharing information on historical black figures like Bessie Coleman, Langston Huges, and Zora Neale Hurston (to name very few) through unique and engaging activities for youth and families in EmPower Place; we remind ourselves that there is an endless amount of culture and history that makes the United States of America such a rich place to live. We are reminded that early settlers and many in our own communities today did not take into account the importance of treating all people with dignity. And, we are especially reminded that it is our job to work towards the healing of the historical trauma towards our BIPOC community in Missoula, and worldwide.

Every day, as various individuals from all walks of life enter the food bank, we are reminded that we have an opportunity to address the ways that the system we are currently under is failing. Failing to feed those who are most vulnerable and failing to address the diverse history and at times, grotesque trauma that this nation was founded on. We are reminded that the voices and stories of people of color are so very important, now and always, as we move toward the language and ACTION of equity.

Why is the food bank committed to anti-racism work?

As a team of individuals, we have chosen to be a leader within our local community and beyond. Beginning the month of February (formally acknowledged in celebration of Black History), we began the intense, and at times, extremely uncomfortable emotional labor to make our space more inclusive. This work involves being honest and vulnerable in order to uncover the ways that white or white adjacent (white-passing)  people, consciously or subconsciously, re-traumatize or perpetuate systems of inequity and violence in their day-to-day interactions with BIPOC. Often in these spaces, we find that racism does not typically present itself in the outrageous hate crimes we see constantly in our various media outlets, it happens when white people fail to acknowledge that they benefit from a system of deeply ingrained false beliefs surrounding their superiority as a people. In today’s society, if you are a white person that has not committed to this type of deep self-reflection, then you remain complicit in the actions of the most extreme white supremacist groups.

How can we learn to extend love to all of our neighbors, regardless of race, class, gender, etc?

We can commit our lives to anti-racism work. We can read and experience the work of prominent black activists and writers, such as Layla F.Saad and her interactive reading journal Me and White Supremacy that prompts those with the most privilege to encounter how a system of oppression and white supremacy continues to haunt and re-traumatize people of color every day. Especially here in Montana, where the BIPOC population only contributes a staggering amount, how can we offer more than just *optical allyship? The conversation on racism must not stop as we continue  asking ourselves the toughest questions, such as,  how have we remained silent when someone in our presence made a racist remark? It is in these very subtle ways that racism persists.

How can we be an example of change and forethought?

We can do the work and not look to BIPOC for acknowledgement and congratulation when we decide to truly live in accordance with our values for an equitable society, by doing what isn’t always easy and rewarding, but what is necessary.


*Optical Allyship is a term coined by Latham Thomas, founder of Mama Glow and author of Own Your Glow. In an Instagram post from May 1, Thomas defines optical allyship as “allyship that only serves at the surface level to platform the ‘ally,’ it makes a statement but doesn’t go beneath the surface and is not aimed at breaking away from the systems of power that oppress.” Essentially, it is performative allyship. Instead of standing up, building trust, and doing the groundwork to disassemble white supremacy, optical allyship does the bare minimum

We are hiring!

Missoula Food Bank & Community Center is hiring for the positions listed below. Missoula Food Bank & Community Center is an inclusive anti-racist, LGBTQ2S+ ally organization. Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and gender diverse applicants are encouraged to apply.

AmeriCorp Summer 2021 VISTA

View the full job description and apply online at: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=102734

Advocacy Team AmeriCorp VISTA

We are recruiting for an AmeriCorps VISTA to help address the root causes of hunger!  This team member will work alongside community members to assess upstream issues, connecting directly with individuals through our programs.  Join our Advocacy Team and be part of leading the movement to end hunger through advocacy, volunteerism, and healthy food for all.

View the full job description and apply online at: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=103371 

House Bill 228

Montana House Bill 228 – Paid Family and MEdical Leave Insurance 

  • Could you benefit from Double SNAP Dollars?
  • Do you use your SNAP dollars at the Farmers Market?
  •  We want to hear your story!
  • Montana House Bill 228 or Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance, will provide extra funds for workers that need to take time off to care for themselves and their loved ones.
  • Hearing date 2/1/21

Essential goals of the House Bill 

The Montana Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (the FAMLI Act) would pool small contributions from employees and employers to create a dedicated funding stream for workers when they need time off to care for themselves or a loved one.  From these small contributions, representing less than half of 1 percent of wages, eligible workers would receive a portion of their wages while on leave.

SHARE YOUR STORY

Let us help make sure your voice is heard! We need your help sharing stories of families and individuals in Missoula County that benefit from this change. Help make this change by submitting written testimony or by testifying via Zoom to the committee by Wednesday, February 3, 2021. (date subject to change)

What is a testimony and what would I have to say?

This is an opportunity to tell your story and how the outcome of this bill will affect you and your community.  You will be able to talk directly to the people that make the final decisions concerning the needs of your family and our community.  You can do this in a variety of ways: in person, via ZOOM, and written.

How to testify and share your story

Need equipment to testify?

For support in preparing your testimony, contact Mekenzye (Kenny) Senn-Cadotte at mekenzye.senn-cadotte@umontana.edu or (406) 578-1193.

House Bill 235

Montana House Bill 235 – Double SNAP 

  • Could you benefit from Double SNAP Dollars?
  • Do you use your SNAP dollars at the Farmers Market?
  •  We want to hear your story!
  • Montana House Bill 235 or Double SNAP, will help all our Montana neighbors buy and sell fresh, local fruits and vegetables.
  • Hearing date 2/3/21

Essential goals of the House Bill 

If passed, this bill will allow for people to use their SNAP dollars at farmers’ markets and other local fresh food producers around Montana. This means that both our local farmers and neighbors using SNAP will benefit.  Our neighbors will be able to buy fresh and local fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products. This is currently available in Missoula County, if this bill is passed, this opportunity will be available around the entire state!

SHARE YOUR STORY

Let us help make sure your voice is heard! We need your help sharing stories of families and individuals in Missoula County that benefit from this change. Help make this change by submitting written testimony or by testifying via Zoom to the committee by Wednesday, February 3, 2021. (date subject to change)

What is a testimony and what would I have to say?

This is an opportunity to tell your story and how the outcome of this bill will affect you and your community.  You will be able to talk directly to the people that make the final decisions concerning the needs of your family and our community.  You can do this in a variety of ways: in person, via ZOOM, and written.

How to testify and share your story

Need equipment to testify?

For support in preparing your testimony, contact Mekenzye (Kenny) Senn-Cadotte at mekenzye.senn-cadotte@umontana.edu or (406) 578-1193.

Commitment to Lolo

MFB&CC has supported food distribution in the Lolo community for more than 10 years and this commitment remains a priority for our organization.

As in all our programs, we work to provide services in ways that follow the guidance of our community’s health experts, and that are true to our values of equity, empathy, and dignity for all people. MFB&CC practices all recommendations from Missoula City County Health Department, as well as CDC guidance, regarding masking, social distancing, and other recommendations that help to keep our community more safe.

We invite any questions regarding the comments we provided to the Lolo Community Club board of directors; please contact our Executive Director, Aaron Brock, at 406-549-0543.