The Shapes We Mae

Esperanza Pallana Is My Hero

ActivismKate WeinerComment

PHOTO CREDIT: RUSSELL YIP of THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

As the Executive Director of The Oakland Food Policy Council, Esperanza Pallana works hard to build an equitable and sustainable food system—not only in service of a better future, but also in the hopes of creating an ethically and environmentally conscious present. She's a badass activist who is passionate about working within her own community to fight for the earth that nurtures us and for the rights of those who feed us.

What truly inspires me about Pallana is her intersectional approach to food justice. In an interview with Shelby Pope of Bay Area Bites, Pallana notes that: "Since our focus is equity and sustainability, our target is definitely working to transform the food system to be equitable. We need the folks who are living the inequities in that food system to be part of the work, to be informing us–and really at the end of the day–leading us [...]." Um, YES.

Pallana's words beautifully embody the idea that the most effective activist work is rooted in what the community truly needs. This isn't just useful advice for environmental activists; as feminist organizers, we can always bring this spirit of thoughtful consideration and openheartedness to the table (not that a feminist organizer isn't the same as an environmental activist and vice versa; I wholeheartedly believe that feminism and environmentalism are powerfully intertwined). We can—and must—work within our own little corner of the universes to generate positive change. Lucky for us, every act of body love and self-care and garden-growing and story sharing we take is a radical vote for a compassion-driven revolution in how we relate to our bodies, one another, and the land. Again, YES.

I'm inspired, too, by Pallana's creative energy. When a predominantly Black book club was kicked off of the Napa Valley Wine Train last year, Pallana organized the Wine Soul Train in collaboration with The Mexican Bus to provide a tour of Black and Latino-owned vineyards. Writes Pallana in an article for the Earth Island Journal, " Our event was a fun, vibrant, and visceral experience that provided a living story of the inequities in the food system, and most importantly, our power to change it." Pallana makes the hard work of activism accessible by cultivating experiences that engage us on multiple levels. We can always find ways to inject fun into the fight; playfulness can have purpose.

So yeah. Esperanza Pallana is RAD. I'm grateful for people like her—learning about what she does and how and why gives me hope. But I know that it's not enough to be just grateful; it's important to act as well. We are capable, Pallana argues of "creating spaces, experiences, enterprises, and ultimately policies and systems that truly reflect our values." In that spirit, I'm making it a new practice of mine to learn how to better articulate what my values are—and to take on the tangible steps to bring those visions into being.

I hope you'll make the time to do the same—especially because we at SWM are always happy to share in the opportunity to cook up some kind of incredible together.