Erika Allen - Growing Power, Good Food Justice for All Initiative
Erika Allen is Chicago and National Projects Director for Growing Power and is headquartered in Chicago, IL. As the daughter of Will Allen, she has a small farm agricultural background and experience. She spent her formative years involved in all aspects of farm management, from transplanting seedlings to managing farm stands and farmer’s markets. Allen received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and recently received her MA in art therapy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Years of experience working in urban communities with art education and social service have brought her full circle back to her farming roots. Integrating the creative and therapeutic techniques with food security and community development have enabled Allen to establish nine urban agriculture and food system projects in Chicago, IL.
Allen's specialties include project planning, community food systems design and direct marketing training. She has provided technical assistance and planning support for thousands of new and limited resource farmers and local food pioneers to strengthen farm businesses. She actively works to create healthy and diverse food options in inner-urban city and rural communities. Allen was an awardee for the Chicago Tribune’s Good Eating Award in 2006, and was honored by Family Focus in 2007 for her work in community food systems. In 2009, Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI) honored Allen as a Mother of the Environment for Minneapolis/St. Paul. She is also a Post Carbon Institute Fellow. Allen has also served on the Illinois Food, Farms and Jobs Act Council appointed by Illinois Governor Quinn, and most recently served on new Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s transition team – Energy, Environment and Public Space Committee. Erika Allen was appointed as a Board Commissioner for the Chicago Park District in September 2012. She is the proud mother of 4 year old son Ayokunle, a Yoruba name meaning “joy fills the home and world”.
Mistinguette Smith - Black Land Project
When Mistinguette Smith began to notice that black people think and talk about their relationship to land and place quite differently from the ways mainstream institutions do, The Black/Land Project was born. As the founder and director of the Black/Land Project, she has traveled the country gathering black people’s stories about relationship to southern farmland, urban city-scapes, changing neighborhoods, and public green spaces since the fall of 2010. Blending her literary ear as a poet and playwright with her professional knowledge of women’s health, food security, and leadership development for social equity, Smith turns the gift of individual stories into a body of information that engages and heals black communities. Smith is a skilled analyst, trainer and facilitator, and a masterful speaker who captivates both academic and community audiences. A graduate of Smith College, she holds the MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management from New York University. She was the 2011 Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist at the University of Michigan Center for the Education of Women.
Malik Kenyatta Yakini - The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network
Yakini is a founder and the Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), which operates a seven acre farm in Detroit. DBCFSN also spearheaded efforts to establish the Detroit Food Policy Council, which Yakini chaired from December 2009 – May 2012. He served as a member of the Michigan Food Policy Council from 2008 - 2010. He serves on the steering committee of Undoing Racism in the Detroit Food System. From 1990 – 2011 he served as Executive Director of Nsoroma Institute Public School Academy (NISPA), one of Detroit’s leading African-centered schools. In 2006 he was honored as “Administrator of the Year” by the Michigan Association of Public School Academies. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of Timbuktu Academy of Science and Technology from 2004 - 2011. He is C.E.O. of Black Star Educational Management. He is dedicated to working to identify and alleviate the impact of racism and white privilege on the food system.
Yakini has an intense interest in contributing to the development of an international food sovereignty movement that embraces Blacks farmers in the Americas, the Caribbean and Africa. He views the “good food revolution” as part of the larger movement for freedom, justice and equality. Yakini has presented at numerous local community meetings and national conferences on food justice and implementing community food security practices. He is featured in the book Blacks Living Green, and the movie Urban Roots. He is currently an Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy “Food and Community Fellow”. He recently received the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award. He is a vegan and an avid organic grower.