Nourishing Social Justice 

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 14, 2020) — A class of UAlbany students met at a community location in Albany on March 10 to consider colonialism and neocolonialism and promote social justice through the process of decolonialization.

The result? A stew. A cake. A dip. And a legume-dairy side dish.

The enterprise was an inventive workshop for the Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latino Studies (LACS) course "Food and Social Justice in America," devised by course instructor Cassie Andrusz- Ho Ching, a LACS lecturer, and held in the Honest Weight Food Co-Op on Watervliet Avenue in Albany on March 10. (Days before such gatherings would be discontinued in Albany due to COVID-19.)

Colonization, according to Andrusz- Ho Ching, directly impacted natural environments disrupting animal habitats, crops and food chains supporting indigenous life and culture. The workshop, aided by the coop, which lent its kitchens out to the students after they'd obtained necessary menu ingredients in the store proper, was an act of decolonization — "the unending, ever changing and imperfect process of delinking from colonial knowledge, practices and culture," according to Andrusz- Ho Ching.

Undoing colonization requires, she said, a "practice of everyday acts of resurgence and reclamation of indigenous knowledge, culture and ways of life." The workshop, she said, thereby promoted social justice through the students’:

  • Sharing knowledge of decolonizing food
  • Challenging oppression by identifying structural violence in the food system from colonization till the present
  • Shift as a class from thinking and talking about equity to an action-orientated agenda, where they  selected recipes, led small teams of cooks and taught other students/peers
  • Learning, through this experience, to communicate with each other, problem solve, and build trust and empathy as well as a deeper class community
"Each student had the opportunity to show and contribute their talents and skills or learn and develop new ones with support from their peers," said Andrusz- Ho Ching.

The result was a profound example of educating in a community-sharing experiential way. As for the culinary verdict? Most satisfying, Andrusz- Ho Ching said, going by the reviews of some 35 students from her class and that of clinical professor and LACS undergraduate studies Director Christine Vassallo-Oby, the latter group coming along to observe decolonization in action.
Photos by Patrick Dodson

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.