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275-4: Black Gold, Black Power

Composting is the managed biological process that optimizes the conditions for microbes to break down organic waste in the presence of oxygen, transforming the organic waste into a versatile soil amendment primarily used to improve soil quality.

Composting, a stream of organics recycling, is location-specific, which physically ties the process to a limited circumference.  This differs from other recycling processes, where materials are shipped across oceans to be used or discarded.  The enforced circumference of organics recycling has people at its center and calls for greater stewardship and communal responsibility over the management of food waste.

The result of this process is compost also known as Black Gold. As communities of colour work towards self-determination, I believe that Compost can be a useful aid in reclaiming agency over oppressive living situations. The discipline of composting and the product that it yields can serve as a testament for communities to acknowledge their potential involvement in the food cycle.  Labelled as consumers, black communities if they so choose can identify themselves as producers, as agriculturalists  and in so doing, access more decision-making power  as to how their neighbourhoods flourish.

However, there is much work to be done to insure that organics recycling brings power to the people, and not get co-opted and green-washed by removed, capitalist interests.  This is hard.  Large-scale compost facilities tend to be built in struggling neighbourhoods often without consent from residents therein.  Traffic increases, pollution skyrockets all at the expense of the peoples’ health.

I do believe that organics recycling can be an integral step towards Afrikan Self-determination, symbiotically balancing black gold and black power all while resisting climate change and environmental degradation.

275-3: White Paint, Black Hands

The scenario happened as follows : 

In an effort to support the rooftop gardens of Radio Kayira of Mali, Canadians and Malians are working together to create what will hopefully become a model of urban agriculture and food sovereignty in the city of Bamako. Gardening techniques are shared, questions are asked; a Kodak moment of international cooperation. But behind the cheery smiles and sweaty brows, a more disturbing negative is developing. A young African animator decides to wash his hands of white paint in the water reservoir used to water the garden. A cloud of horror hovers over the Canadians.  They stand bewildered as the African casually washes his hands and contaminates the water with hazardous toxins. 

The foreigners (i.e.: the Canadians) look in dismay, some try to explain the situation, some shake their heads in disbelief. Our eyes point fingers at the sheepish culprit, his hands still submerged in the valuable liquid gold. Some of us even have the nerve to say what most of us are thinking. 

“What kind of ignorant person washes their hands and in the process contaminates their own water with toxins?” 

I pondered on the question for a while, trying to come up with a logical answer to the scenario. Miseducation is probably a good reason. Habit could be another. But then another less obvious but more prevalent question pops into my head: 

“What kind of shameless fucker makes toxic paint and puts peoples’ lives at risk just to make a profit?” 

Suddenly, the fingers are no longer pointing at the African. Suddenly, I can relate to the brother trying to clean his hands of the toxic white paint.

(edited from a Journal entry written in August 2009)