For MLK Day: Reflections on Beloved Community

To honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday this week, I want to share what a beloved community means to me and how it relates to my work with the Fair Farms campaign. The suggestion to write this blog came from a conversation I had with Taffy Gwitira, one of our Farmer Advisory Council members. She’s a farmer and has worked to promote antiracism and food equity for many years. Honestly, I had never heard the term “beloved community” before and am grateful that Taffy urged me to take a closer look at Dr. King’s speeches–everyone should!

Dr. King did not create the term but used it in his speeches to describe the goal of his life’s work. In a speech in 1956, he stated that “the aftermath of non-violence is the creation of the beloved community”. He described a beloved community as “solidarity of the human family” free of racism and discrimination. There will always be differences between people and communities, but our differences should be resolved peacefully.

For me, a beloved community is somewhere I feel safe and free to be myself. Somewhere I don’t have to act differently around people all the time. Speaking for myself, as a cis straight Iranian American, I have a comfortable life in the suburbs of Montgomery County, Maryland, where I feel like I can be myself. It’s diverse and I regularly see people that look like me. I have opportunities to speak Farsi (Iranian language), and interact with people that share my Iranian culture too!

Have I had my share of racist interactions? Of course. But, I like to think they were misguided assumptions. Some people think I’m Arab, which I’m not. Some people have never met an Iranian. They’ve just seen (negative) news stories about Iran on TV…but if you live in MoCo or Fairfax County, VA you probably have and didn’t know it. I’ve been fortunate enough to solve those encounters through dialogue.

I feel it’s different with farming and our local food system. My interest in food comes partly from my culture. If you know the Iranian culture, you know we love food! I have never been hungry and always had access to fresh foods—but I have friends and colleagues who have experienced issues with food access. From working on a farm to selling at farmer’s markets, to advocacy, it becomes clear that there are deep racial inequities and injustices in our food system.

Some of our communities are living in a state of food apartheid – a segregated system that divides people that have access to healthy food and those who don’t. Not a whole lot of love there. Poor, especially Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), don’t have healthy food, and people with money do. I’m not here to give specific examples. BIPOC organizations do a great job of this already! Please check out the links below. Fair Farms Campaign is on a journey to learn and be accountable to BIPOC led groups.

I leave you with these questions to ask yourselves and your family and friends. Do you live in a beloved community? If so, why? And if not, how can you work toward making one? Please read over the resources below first.

You can contact me at humon@fairfarmsnow.org if you want to share your thoughts with me or have any questions.

Helpful resources on “beloved community”:

https://blogs.library.jhu.edu/2019/01/dr-martin-luther-king-jr-s-beloved-community/

https://hcahealthcaretoday.com/2022/01/14/advancing-dr-kings-beloved-community/

https://thekingcenter.org/about-tkc/the-king-philosophy/

https://www.guernicamag.com/karen-washington-its-not-a-food-desert-its-food-apartheid/

Check out these BIPOC organizations to learn more food and racial equity—support them, donate to them, and follow their lead:

List of Black-Owned Farms and Food Businesses in MD, VA and DC

BIPOC Farmer Resources

National Young Farmers Coalition Racial Equity Toolkit