By Tiffany C. Ginyard, Special to the Afro

“We are concerned about the constant use of federal funds to support this most notorious expression of segregation. Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death. I see no alternative to direct action and creative nonviolence to raise the conscience of the nation.”  — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Cheatham organizes residents to bring Supermarket to Sandtown-Winchester

Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, one of Baltimore’s dedicated civil rights activists and community organizers, is among the one in three city residents who resides in a food desert.

Fortunately he has a car to drive to supermarkets in other parts of the city that offer fresh produce and healthy food options. Additionally, having a car also makes bargain shopping a more realistic goal to meet.  But for so many other residents in the Sandtown-Winchester community, navigating a food desert without reasonable access to transportation and raising families in low-income households, healthy foods are neither an affordable nor an option.

The former chapter president of the Baltimore NAACP, who insists the term “food desert,” a term referring to an area qualified by its residents’ lack of access and sufficient resources to purchase healthy food is too loose a word to describe what residents in the city’s low-income communities are experiencing. He suggests “food apartheid” as a more definitive term.

Dominic Nell aka Farmer Nel (Courtesy Photo)

“It’s no accident that you have a large number of poor people, especially African-American or Hispanic, living in food deserts,” said Cheatham. “Food Apartheid is a relentless social construct that devalues human beings and assumes that people are unworthy of having access to nutritious foods. We have 14 liquor stores in our community. And the City just unfortunately has not made a food market a priority,” said Cheatham. “So, we have our work cut out for us.”

As president of the Matthew A Henson Neighborhood Association, Cheatham is circulating a petition to have the city consider a space in Eastwood that members in the community have identified for a potential grocery store. According to Cheatham, Eastwood is an area the radius of 20 blocks bordered by Fulton and North avenues, Bentalou and Presstman streets, that’s been neglected for at least 30 years.

“Now we only have five more houses to be torn down in the 1500 block of Monroe Street on the odd side which will give us ample space for a food market,” he said. “We’ll see what explanation the city will give us next about holding up the process

Marvin “Doc” Cheatham is still an active member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization formed in 1957 to coordinate peaceful protest throughout the south, and for which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. served as the first president. 

Be More Green
City Weeds Offers Youth a New Hustle

Dominic Nell sells nickel bags on The Avenue (Pennsylvania). A nickel bag of grass on the streets of Baltimore usually refers to .5 grams of marijuana, which is still an illegal substance. But times have changed, and a nickel bag from Farmer Nell is indeed grass, but 100 percent legit.

“This is legal grass. I sell microgreens. I have kale. I have leeks. I have carrots,” said Farmer Nell, an urban farmer and Baltimore native in an interview with The New Cool, a channel for urban men on Youtube. “And the way microgreens grow, they grow in a patch of grass. So I chop them up in sections and sell them to my people for $5. Hence, nickels of grass.”

Dominic Nell aka Farmer Nel (Courtesy Photo)

Farmer Nell learned to grow microgreens while on his day job as a photographer for School of Food, a local business training program for food and beverage entrepreneurs, and sold them on weekends at Farmer’s markets throughout the city, making not merely a handsome profit but making himself an attractive candidate for the 2017 Red Bull Ampaphiko Academy, a global platform for social entrepreneurs looking to create innovative and sustainable change in their communities.

“Now is the time,” Farmer Nell said of his social footprint on the food sovereignty movement in low-income communities of color. “Now is better than never. We’re waiting too long for resources to come falling out of the sky or in the form of an envelope.”

Nell is the owner of City Weeds, an agricultural business established to make healthy food options available in communities impacted by food deserts and to empower youth to dismantle systemic constructs of food apartheid and poverty by learning to cultivate farm-to-table produce to make a living.

“I teach the youth, as well as brothers on the corner that are out here in the game hustling and want an alternative way to being an entrepreneur that is legal. Selling legal green. Pounds of kale, turnip and mustard greens…peppers. It’s different flavors in all styles. So it’s the same hustle, we’re just changing the product. And changing the narrative and ultimately controlling the narrative, in zone seventeen Baltimore.

“This process of growing food, transforms an individual’s process of thinking, and this process of thinking creates space for self empowerment, and ultimately having food sovereignty.