Baltimore’s Food Apartheid: A pre-workshop preparation session

This year seven members of the international Memefest network from Slovenia, Australia, USA and Canada will meet in Baltimore (Nov 4.- 22.), invited by Goucher College, to collaborate with Black Yield Institute, Goucher students, academics and members of the community.

Memefest has in its 17 years history a rich experience of implementing its methodology in various contexts, cultural settings and geographic locations. Our events have so far taken place in Ljubljana, Nijmegen, Brisbane, Belgrade, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Sao Paulo, Havana, Manizales, and Dubai.

Our event in Baltimore is much anticipated for many reasons. The very topic – Food Apartheid, the racial structuring of the growing, distribution, and sale of food, leading to a lack of healthy food alternatives in Baltimore’s black neighborhoods, is closely related to Memefest’s work on Food Democracy.

To illustrate the situation we are going to engage with: Cherry Hill, the Baltimore neighborhood where Black Yield Institute mainly operates, has not had a grocery store in the last 15 years. At the same time Cherry Hill is home to some of the largest public housing in the whole of the USA. As a city with a large African American population, Baltimore is an example of how systemic oppression, since the very days of slavery, works today. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (2017), of the estimated 623,000 residents living in Baltimore City, 25 percent face food insecurity and 86 percent of them are African American. No food, bad fast food, unhealthy food together with a lot of illegal and legal drugs in predominantly black and poor neighborhoods create immense social problems, while capitalism is still profiting. Most of the food that can be bought is designed as a drug and creates addiction too. This deprivation is sometimes called “food deserts,” which effectively erases the presence of the people living in these communities, and obscures the racist structuring of food resources. The more appropriate term is “food apartheid,” to indicate the racial structures in play, that has its historical roots in Baltimore in the imposed deprivation of investment in Baltimore’s primarily-black neighborhoods.

But the city has, besides the negative representations, a history of strong dissent, political action and incredible resilience through community action. Many residents lovingly call Baltimore “Charm City” and the historical resistance to capitalism’s and white supremacy’s predatory structuring, exploitation, racism and general assault on humanity makes Baltimore a symbol of the struggle for a better world.

Food is a key medium for social design. It is at the core of any political struggle and this is especially evident in Baltimore.

In their own words, Black Yield Institute is a Pan African power institution serving as a think tank and collective action network that addresses food apartheid. Black Yield Institute explains is mission here: https://tinyurl.com/y2xnruhz

The aim of this blog post is to open up a dialogue about Baltimore’s Food Apartheid, Interventions into food Politics with Memefest and Black Yield Institute. Concretely the discussion should provide some framing of the methods, strategies and exchange ideas and thoughts that will help provide a common ground for our exciting upcoming work. We are inviting all collaborators and participants in the event to share your thoughts in the comments section: students, educators, researchers, practitioners, activists and community members. We are also inviting the members of the broader Memefest and activist international community.

How can our collaboration and interventions contribute to the mission of Black Yield Institute? What are the most effective methods, strategies, and formats of communication for these themes? In what ways would you want to be involved in the process?


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4 years, 8 months

Hi to everyone in Baltimore and to Memefest community around the globe. I am one of the members of Memefest collective to come and collaborate with students at Goucher College and the community of Black Yield Institute. My name is Vida. I am a critical pedagogue and what I would like to bring to the table is knowledge and experience on how Memefest engages in creating spaces and experiences of freedom and equity - these are the first values that guide our work. An important part of Memefest methodology is our form of public pedagogy that we developed collaborating with communities around the world. For us, this means first and foremost the way we come together in our human diversity to interrupt that which is taking someones freedom away. In Baltimore, we hope to put our minds, hearts and hands together to interrupt the conditions that make food apartheid reality for black communities. We hope to meet each other in dialogue first, this will allow us to imagine what we may achieve together in collaboration. What I look forward to is making friends as we go about interrupting the injustice and have some fun together. So much looking forward to hearing from you and read your questions or ideas!! This is just a short introduction from me, and I will be responding with more practical and concrete ideas as our discussion unfolds. Cheers!

4 years, 8 months

Hi everybody. There are a lot of intersecting ideas and possibilities we can play with in November. One way to think about it:
Our workshops can encompass a number of formats - photography, e-publications, audio, mixed media, video. There are a number of themes that BYI highlights in its work - land sovereignty, community building, skills building, anti-racism action, nutrition education, etc. How do formats match up with themes? For instance, what can photography contribute to each theme? Is it more suitable for some more than others? Is there another format that works better with a particular theme? Or can we combine formats to make the best approach to a theme - using photos with text, for instance, or photos with audio? And with each format, how can we communicate the themes while being true to them, and not falling into commercial practices that are based on ideologies, systems of representation, and social structures that have been entwined with the causes of the problems in the first place? How can our work point to solving the problems of how to represent these themes and values?
Lastly, as Eric Jackson said at the first event last Wednesday, a screening and discussion of two documentaries on the subject: how do we build into the workshops the pathways to continued work and relationships once they are over? Memefest has always emphasized finishing the projects within the workshops, which is very wise. But once they are done, can we identify the next steps to continue the relationships and work among participants? This has happened at previous Memefest workshops. Let's think about this as we move forward and the experience evolves. Thanks! -- Dan

4 years, 8 months

Hi everybody! Very much looking forward to it all. I will write more later but for now here are some additional important and useful resources for out workshops:

Food Security, Food Justice , or Food Sovereignity by Eric Holt-Gimenez


Baltimore's Strange Fruit documentary by Black Yield Institute, here: https://www.bmorestrangefruit.com/trailer

Much recommended!

Baltimore City's Food environment: 2018 Report


The Elusive Inclusive: Black Food Geographies and Racialized Food Spaces by Margaret Marietta Ramirez. This is open access, just click on the "open access" link:


More soon...Oliver


4 years, 8 months

And hi again...so, we are very excited and looking forward to come and join you in Baltimore to investigate Food Apartheid, strategize and design interventionist tools, processes and other things. I am also especially happy to be working with Goucher colleagues and students from different disciplines. More so, what is exciting to me is that we can work in an extradisciplinary manner, connecting academia, social movements, community and more.

As Vida already wrote, dialogue is at the center of how we like to operate and we plan to use different supportive tactics to enable a deep dialogue between us. Pleasure being one of them.

The topic Food Apartheid is complex, so we are looking forward to learn from the Black Yield Institute who is doing all this amazing work on the topic.

Part of the workshops are going to be happening in the classes, which will for the time of the three weeks event have an alternative curriculum. Part of the workshops are going to happen outside of the classes and in different locations, at Goucher in Cherry Hill and elsewhere.

At the moment I am thinking on how can we see food as a medium and how this could be used as a principle, or one of the principles of our workshops. In my opinion food is the ultimate social medium and I'd like to investigate this further. Photography is one of the tools that are important especially in food representation and documentation- we will need both.
We will aim to deepen our knowledge on Food Apartheid, in design, media, communication and few other things in relation to it and also we aim to develop our pedagogic/ research process further.

While based at Goucher this is by no means a typical academic session, our process is designed to include and foster different cultures of knowledge production.

One of the aims, as Daniel mentioned that I personally think is important is to find a way to continue our collaboration also after the end of the event.

Besides engaging with the preparation readings and viewings am super interested to learn from from everyone in Baltimore about the local situation upon my arrival. One of the exciting things will be to utilize this local knowledge and connect it with international perspectives and experiences that we will bring with us.

As for methodologies, besides the extradisciplinarity, personally I am interested in autonomous design and how to apply it in Baltimore. Cheers!


4 years, 8 months

Hi everyone, Kevin here from Montreal. Very excited to join you all in Baltimore. I run a small design and communications studio that works at the intersection of graphic design and social change/social justice.

I also do a lot of on the ground grassroots organizing, and food has come to play an important role in this. As I've gotten older, I've realised how much of the organizing and activism we do is really rooted in affective bonds, and how crucial food is to this. So with this in mind, I want to think about:

• Food's central relationship to identity. As a diasporic individual, often working with other racialised and displaced peoples, food is a way that we reconnect, or maintain connection with our "homelands", imagined and real.

• Food as commoning. It seems obvious that growing, making and eating food brings us together. Within highly individualised and alienated society, it's one of the few truly collective activities that we do regularly, that opens space for dialogue and common pleasure. The potential here is huge.

• Food in (activist) organizing contexts. A sub-point of the above, after so many years, it's obvious to me that I organize best with the people with the people I've shared meals with. This pleasureable activity is often overlooked in organizing circles, and in my mind relates to the high levels of activist burnout and dropping out. Furthermore, having food in public contexts is central to the accessibility of activist events, and often creates the space for people that might not normally participate.

• Food as material solidarity/not charity. How can we divorce food from commodity relationships, have it operate on a different value system than money, and then how can we offer this in solidarity with others.

Just a few ideas! Hope it sparks some thoughts!


4 years, 8 months

Hi to all of you!
I am Rok from Slovenia and I am an active member of Memefest already from 2006. My profession is Visual communication and I am surfing in between various aspects of it. I am an employee in a digital agency building digital products, this is where most of my income comes ... but in between ... mainly through Memefest, I work on a socially engaged project.

I am really excited to join you in Baltimore - working on a topic that is really intriguing and from what I could learn from the distance - a painful issue, especially for black communities. I hope my knowledge and experience and also my provenance (with specific culture, habits, values...) will be helpful but at the same time, I am really excited to learn from all of you - Goucher students, activists from Black Yield Institute and other participating organizations.

I totally agree with what Vida wrote at the beginning of this thread "... we hope to put our minds, hearts, and hands together to interrupt the conditions that make food apartheid reality for black communities. We hope to meet each other in dialogue first, this will allow us to imagine what we may achieve together in collaboration.

A bit of trivia: I actually grow some vegetables in my own small garden ... and I like to cook too.

Looking forward to hearing from you! Cheers!

4 years, 8 months

Hello folks,
Students in my class Socially engaged art practice: Environmental Justice have three options for their final semester project.

Option #3. Design a culture jamming visual tactic for an environmental justice issue. This could be presented in print form such as a poster, a short video or photographs to post on social media, or proposal for a billboard. *

This is a good project for which you can take the opportunity to work with Memefest and the local Baltimore organization, Black Yield, an activist group working with food apartheid which could be the focus of your project!

* Please do not harm or endanger people or property if you select this project. If you have doubt as to whether there are legal limits to your project discuss it with me.

Understanding Culture Jamming and How it Can Create Social Change
Why Shaking Up Everyday Life is a Useful Protest Tactic

Culture jamming (sometimes called Guerilla communication)

“Culture jamming refers to the creation of images or practices that force viewers to question the status quo. Culture jamming disrupts social norms and is often used as a tool for social change. Activists have used culture jamming to raise awareness of issues including sweatshop labor, sexual assault on college campuses, and police brutality.”

“While culture jamming usually focuses on subverting or critiquing political and advertising messages, some proponents focus on a more positive (often musically inspired) form which brings together artists, scholars, and activists to create new types of cultural production that transcend – rather than merely criticize – the status quo.”

4 years, 8 months

I Love Kevin's take on food and its relation to community, commoning and the potentials, which are inherent to food. From a media perspective, it is interesting that food is one of the most popular images on social media, as image it is immensely "liked" and "shared". Why is that, why food (as image)? We have done quite some work on this in the past, and would like to develop this further. If images of food are so popular, can this be used to our advantage, can food images be used as media to carry radical messages far and wide?

Anther thing is cooking, eating together- both rituals, which as Kevin says are connecting us in everyday life, which is otherwise largely defined by individualism, competition, bureaucratic management etc. How can we think of cooking and eating together as autonomous practices. A crucial work here is pleasure. What role does pleasure play in all this? Is pleasure only good, can it be steered can it be liberated from being enforced pleasure via media, social media, advertising, branding?

4 years, 8 months

To catch everyone up for Tuesday's introductions at Goucher here is what some CPEA students have studied about the inequities of Baltimore life for their first project. Student teams made hypothetical green space proposals for empty lots in Baltimore’s declining neighborhoods. They selected a lot then researched the adjacent community, its demographics, history, and physical environment. With some familiarity of the community, they worked on healthy landscape ideas with consideration of the limited resources the city would provide these residents. More importantly the students considered what social impact a green space could provide, giving a sense of place and identity for the neighborhood.
As we looked at maps, seeing the data plotted into clusters that showed the disparities across the city, an unforgettable visual pattern emerged. This shape is referred to as the black butterfly and white L, the result of Baltimore’s history of redlining. Most of us would be unable to locate the borderlines of Baltimore city but the shape of the butterfly on either side of Charles Street is imprinted in our memory.

4 years, 8 months

Hi All,

I am Tashi, one of the Goucher students working with you all. I am glad to be apart of this project as learning more about the inequalities and injustices of Baltimore have become of importance to me over the past year.

I really enjoy the idea of bringing in elements that will allow participants to continue work on Food Apartheid beyond this project. I feel the communities we are meant to be supporting need to have their voices included and addressed in this process in order for it to be the most impactful. No one can know what a given community needs more than its residents. This would have to be done within the lines of BYI of course, in order to ensure that this is an influence they think is suitable or beneficial for the cherry hill area and Baltimore in general.

This is also what I feel most attempts to address inequities and disparities within communities lack most, the voices of the community. This is especially important regarding Baltimore, being that its political institutions consistently deprive them of a voice.

Thank you and I look forward to meeting you all soon!

4 years, 8 months

Hello Pamela @mxpjthompson, thanks for sharing about the work you have been doing with your students.Both culture jamming and place interventions- imagining green places, are inspiring examples of subverting food apartheid. We could perhaps continue and together invite the variety of possibilities that a broad understanding of multi- media offers through the work. In relation to BYI, culture jamming could support the process of recoding reality, while connecting with the researched effects that green spaces have for the community. Place making while questioning the symbolic, ideological and physical realities of the "butterfly"? We have been thinking of the butterfly, what a striking image and metaphor it is!! Lets's continue the conversation here and in person...

4 years, 8 months

Hello Oliver, Vida, Dan, Kevin, Tashi and Rok,
Please excuse my somewhat impolite, initial attempt at blogging in my last two entries. This is the first time I have been invited to engage in a "blog style conversation". My entries sound like misplaced emails! Upon reading everyone's contributions I have already learned that blogging is an art. I look forward to meeting folks and brainstorming.

4 years, 8 months

Here the latest on Black Yield Institute, published by Civil Eats:


4 years, 8 months

Hi folks! Looking forward to joining you all as of this Sunday. Like Kevin, I am living in Montreal these days. I've also been involved in Memefest off and on since it's beginnings in 2003. Before that, I was with Adbusters, running their culture jamming campaigns, ex. Buy Nothing Day.

For the last few years though, my work has pivoted from comms and messaging towards organizing and mobilizing, often supported by digital. I believe that this is where a lot of social change energy is going these days as we see from protest movements fighting for social / climate justice and against white supremacy / economic inequality / patriarchy / gun violence, Trump and other fascist leaders around the world, to cite just some examples.

Coming to Baltimore and engaging with food and economic justice issues, I want to spend a lot of time listening, because I have know little about this reality and have a lot to learn. I see BYI doing advocacy and confronting the root causes of poverty and food insecurity. Curious to know if there is a desire for organizing/mobilizing tactics that can be used to recruit more supporters and leverage power at decision makers. If so, would be happy to share case studies I have come across elsewhere.

With more confidence, I want to challenge folks at Goucher studying comms and design to go beyond the persuasive model of communications, ie. 'this poster/photo/film I made will change the world', towards an understanding of how comms can be embedded in mobilizing, which is much more about participation and collective creation. This may shake up some assumptions about the privileged role of the communicator, but that should make for good discussions!


4 years, 8 months

Hello everyone, Oliver and Vida did a great job leading two of my classes today. Students came up with a good comment about consideration for the particular audience for which you intend to communicate. They worked at putting themselves in the positions of the residents of Cherry Hill and what their particular needs are. One thing we need to remember is that there is a digital divide in the educational backgrounds of people in Baltimore. Using digital media may not reach some folks. Of course cell phones are reaching those who do not access computers....so we need to think about that format.

4 years, 8 months

Hi all,

in our first week, we have been working or communicating with five groups of students and their wonderful professors. Thank you, Pamela and Laura, for opening up your curriculum and responding to this fantastic opportunity to collaborate. First encounters are meant to give us time to find a common language and individual anchors in this work. Students are starting to articulate their ideas and its exciting to imagine the process ahead of us. We have full two weeks ahead of us and Tom, Kevin and Rok joining us soon.

Here is a podcast that helped me feel and understand and start to learn more about the black history of USA and especially on the history of ownership of land. I cant recommend this enough. https://www.nytimes.com/column/1619-project


4 years, 8 months

Here are some great links sent to me by Pamela from Goucher, they are very useful resources, so I am posting them here for us to use. Please check them out:

City Lab

Through original reporting, sharp analysis, and visual storytelling, CityLab informs and inspires the people who are creating the cities of the future—and those ...



EPA Environmental Protection Administration
EJSCREEN EPA's Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping Tool (Version 2019)

Forum Cities Schools Neighborhoods Assessments Restaurants Sex Offenders Blog

Department of Planning
The Planning Department provides GIS-based information and analysis to support planning initiatives, as well as other City Agencies, City agencies, City Council, the Mayor’s Office, community organizations, and the general public.

Interactive Map Gallery



Baltimore Green Network Vision Map
Click on map to enlarge and layers in the legend to change map data



Baltimore's Green Registry (access interactive map)

This mapping project was funded through an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station. The Northern Research
Station of the U.S. Forest Service seeks to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery. For more information, visit the Urban Waters Partnership site.

See new interactive Baltimore ‘green spaces’ map from BNIA

Baltimore Biodiversity Toolkit

Connecting People, Saving Rivers- Rivers into Baltimore Harbor Chesapeake Bay

Map: Who Protects Water?
Approximately 250,000 rivers flow through America’s landscape. More than 6,000 groups, indigenous communities, and government agencies work at local, state, and regional levels to protect and restore rivers and drinking water. This map also shows rivers protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act—celebrating 50 years in 2018—including 12,000 miles of 200+ rivers designated in 40 states and Puerto Rico.


Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future
Maryland Food System Map



City Farms in Baltimore
The City Farms Program, operated by the Horticulture Division of the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, began in 1978



4 years, 8 months

Thanks Oliver,
The list of links for maps is quite long but my students used them to research at risk neighborhoods in Baltimore City. They had specific questions about the details of a community so some of the maps provided more in-depth information for east and west Baltimore. Some, you might like to use as a simple introduction to the layout of the city, some are more technical.

My students expressed an interest in getting a "feel" for the Cherry Hill area as most could not travel there. Cherry hill is in the southern section of Baltimore, at the foot of the city. It is an area of 300 acres and is bordered on one side by the Middle Branch waterfront. I will look into specifics about the neighborhood, community buildings, use of land, food markets and subsidized housing today.

I willI do not want to divert folks away from the topic of food apartheid and the mission of Black Yield Institute. Yesterday I had a wonderful time at their garden, helping out with making "hoops" to winterize the plantings. The outdoor cooking was delicious. The tomatoes and chard was plucked from the soil and went straight into the pot. I was surrounded by bits of conversation, often catching phrases like, the "spiritual connection in sharing meals" and how "spices become metaphor for transformation". Who said that? Not sure, but ideologies about food were exchanged, here and there.

I am nursing a cold right now so I won't be able to join the festivities today but have fun and take photos.


4 years, 8 months

Hi All,

I was wondering if anyone had pondered the idea of bring representation to the forefront. I feel no matter the audience we’re addressing it is important for the communities values, ideas and concerns to be flowing through these projects. I know BYI is supposed to come by soon and I feel that would be great for Pamela’s students, but also incorporating community voices from the cherry hill area would be great. Maybe the students can even look over the interviews a goucher student shot as they move forward in their assignments. This seems like a good way for students to get more information about the cherry hill area.

Thank you.

4 years, 8 months

Hello Tashi,

I hear your passion. There have been some venues for which Cherry Hill residents have "voiced". A series of meetings lead by The Institute for Urban Research and Morgan State University appears to have been well organized and concerted effort to document the concerns of the community. I do not know how well the report was circulated and to whom.


Having lived in Baltimore almost 20 years, I have witnessed non-profits and educational institutions reinventing the wheel and ever expanding in their efforts to give "public face" to citizens. The problems have already been identified. The restraints are recognized. The non-profits have multiplied.

It is now time to "hunker down" and act upon the questions posed in the introductory essay above. How can our collaboration and interventions contribute to the mission of Black Yield Institute? What are the most effective methods, strategies, and formats of communication for these themes? In what ways would you want to be involved in the process?

4 years, 8 months

....hunker down and keep one's nose to the grindstone.

4 years, 8 months

Hello Tashi, I wanted to email you but I don't know your last name. I wanted to ask you if you would like to come to one or two of my two classes and show us some of the work. We would love to have you. TU/TH 9:30-11:20 then 11:30-1:20 MAC 201

4 years, 8 months

As we are working a lot with photographers here is an article on Afrapix, a radical photo collective operating in South Africa in times of Apartheid:


4 years, 8 months

Hi Tashi, I arrived this week to work with Memefest and shared some of your concerns around representation and community voices guiding the project. What I learned so far is that Oliver, Vida and Daniel have been having regular talks with folks at BYI to get their input. We discussed better ways to transmit these discussions to the classes we meet with at Goucher, since folks at BYI were busy this week and not always able to join us. Yesterday, we had a great long sit down with Raul from BYI and asked for more specifics on what kinds of creative and practical comms outcomes would be helpful to BYI in support of its work. We are coming back today with some clear 'briefs' from them to share with students and are looking for more ways to allow them to interact with student ideas as they emerge. Please let us know if you think of any other ways we can implement this flow between Memefest, BYI and students at Goucher.

4 years, 8 months

Wow. The permaculture farmer (POC) in Montross VA - that I follow on FB gave the second speech at this conference but all the speakers are excellent. https://www.globallandscapesforum.org/video/how-to-fulfill-restoration-promises-glf-new-york-2019/?fbclid=IwAR2Cl_LAQ3mNVu89oIwTQd_vcMFtrrlddSBa3GWMo7aDkuJx2NlTYLxgGek

4 years, 8 months

Oliver, Thanks for the link to "Trigger" on line site/journal. I see that the group collective "Afrapix" has been disbanded since 1991 though if it were not for these photographers we would be without important Apartheid images from the recent past. I had not seen this publisher "Trigger" and it published an article called, The Crisis of the Cliche, has conflict photography become boring", (sorry about the no accent on cliche). I have seen footage on tv of journalists taking photos in combat situations but I am quite shocked seeing the images in this article. Quite sickening actually. To see these photographers documenting human beings in an immediate crisis or for them to be complacent knowing a potential horror is about to unfold is shocking. Especially where it looks as if the photographers are in a feeding frenzy like hungry animals. What mental state are they in to be able to successfully document these things? This is not accidental snapshots.

4 years, 8 months

Tashi, I have been thinking much about your comment about the work being done with BYI. You said "it is important for the communities values, ideas and concerns to be flowing through these projects." The director of the Sankofa Institute working with a community in Houston on a project called "Project Row Houses" had similar concerns as yours. “When we look at a neighborhood without understanding the social structures, values, aesthetics and behaviors behind them, as well as examining our own values, aesthetics and culture, we misdiagnose the root causes of the problem and thus misdirect valuable resources to fix them,” says Assata Nicole Richards.

4 years, 8 months

Very excited to meet you all very soon. Last weekend I participated in an event with the East Bay Permanent real Estate Co-op (EBPREC). I'm not sure if there will be points of connection with what BYI is doing, but it was super inspiring to learn about their long term vision and see all that they have achieved already thus far. https://ebprec.org