The Horn of Africa Crisis and Thanksgiving in America: Tzedakah Saves from Death

It would be morally irresponsible on a site celebrating food and food traditions  not to take this opportunity not to remind you that there is still a famine crisis going on in the Horn of Africa.  From Somalia to the refugee camps south to Kenya there is a serious crisis.  People are skin and bones, mothers are cradling dying children.

Thanks to Al-Shaabaab and other factions in Somalia and an ongoing conflict in the Horn of Africa region, women, children and men are going hungry.  The conflict how now placed extra stress on the famine and drought plagued regions of East Africa to which Somali refugees are retreating.  The situation for Kenyans, Somalians and others is horrific.

Let’s make this clear, very clear.  Every human being of conscience needs to acknowledge the Biblical adage that “(the needy shall) never cease out of the land: therefore I command you, saying, you shall open your hand wide unto your brother, to your poor, and to your
needy, in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15:11)  We have to work ceaselessly to work towards ending hunger, conserving food in our own country so that there is the least possible waste (especially now as it gets colder and darker, faster.)  Conflict resolution is of primary importance, and with it, global, universal education, health care, addressing climate change and the abuse of natural resources, and ending the ability of movements to use the next generation as a shield for their own political and religious extremism.  These issues will not cease, but we can all do our part to inform each other and act…it is not enough to study these issues and lament them, we must act and only then can in good conscience lay our heads to rest at night.  In Jewish tradition, even the poorest man must “give tzedakah,” this is nothing foreign to most of the world’s religious and cultural traditions–where everybody has the potential to increase holiness and blessing in the world–everybody has to do their part, or the world will lose balance.  We are losing balance, so the hungry of America, the hungry of the Horn of Africa and other parts of the world need you.  Now. 

Here in America we are suffering–certainly not in the same way, but in some ways its worse.  We are supposed to be like the people on TV.  We pretend there is food in our refrigerators when there is not.  We pretend that all we need is credit and its all good….we are living false lives of prosperity while others become prosperous off of our debts and misery.  We do not have adequate food systems in communities of color.  We have hidden poor white communities, reservations, barrios, rural Black communities, and mixed depressed areas where third world horrors happen every single day–in AMERICA….there is a lot of talk about the “real America,” well that white kid in eastern Kentucky, that black kid in Anacostia in Washington D.C., that Latino kid in south Texas, the Lakota kid in South Dakota….are hungry, poor, bewildered and angry right now.  For every one of them are parents, teachers, grandparents, social activists, churches, community organizers who are pushed to limit trying to keep their communities together–kid by kid–life for life, measure for measure.

I am not a rich man. (Guffaws and laughs implied.) I’m not even “comfortable,” etc. etc.  Life is pretty tough.  It’s hard for me. Many other young people I know live with the understanding that they will not enjoy the stability their parents or grandparents enjoyed.  We don’t know how we will pay off student loans, get health care, afford a car–or even a bed…We worry about the viability of our degrees and for some of us–keeping food on the table…Yeah it’s that bad out here!  In the African American community, many of us couldn’t tell there was a recession.  Same old …stuff… and its sad that despite the fact many of us are prosperous–the most prosperous community of people of African descent in the world–the new generation is finding more and more company with the poor of the Third World.  However I realize, like my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents before me, that it could always be worse.  We have an obligation to help our people here and everywhere.  For all of the nasty dialogue about our lack of connection to Africa–which is nothing more than drivel meant to discourage Pan-Africanism; we Africans in America have always been active in movements meant to help retain the stability and viability of our Motherland.  We welcomed African leaders into HBCU’s, fought in Ethiopia against Italian colonialism, and marched and got arrested to end apartheid.  Cleaning up the historical mess left after colonization in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the hunger crisis, the HIV/AIDS crisis, and the legalized homophobia and persecution of people for being different need to END in the Motherland, and we have a moral responsibility to help our brothers and sisters and help them to help themselves, just as we do here in our own communities…a little bit at a time.

This is a short preliminary list of 18 organizations that you can approach to begin to heal these issues.  Please don’t think I just mean–give money–that’s cool, but going to a shelter or going to a food distribution center and getting food and supplies packed or bringing in canned goods is as important as a few bucks.  In Hebrew, every word has a numeric value—chai–the word for life (aka l’chayyim!) equals 18, so I’m posting 18 organizations that can address these problems.  As the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament states, “tzedakah tatzil ha mavet—righteous acts/giving will save from death.)

Religious/not religious/political/not political, I really don’t care….we are human beings in a human family and if nothing else we should increase our humanity.  Do what you can, as much as you can, and as my Grammy was known to say, “don’t wait on ceremony.”  If you don’t see anything that fits you—look for role models and start your own efforts for change.  Be an urban farmer, start a CSA that accepts food stamps, look in after your neighbors without being too nosy or embarass them or take away their dignity, educate your children or young people around you about nutrition and food safety, ask for charitable donations instead of gifts for funerals, weddings and other occasions, get together with others and brainstorm….

“Foodies” without a moral conscience leave the world hungry.

http://www.unicef.org/

http://www.bread.org/

www.heifer.org

http://www.antislavery.org/english/

http://www.some.org/

www.foodandfriends.org

http://www.seattleglobaljustice.org/food-justice/

http://www.grandmasgifts.org/Projects.aspx

www.feedingamerica.org

www.redcross.org

http://www.wfp.org/

http://www.volunteermatch.org/

http://www.foodbanknyc.org/

http://www.mannafood.org/

http://www.safoodbank.org/

http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/

www.fbcmich.org

http://www.aidforafrica.org/

About michaelwtwitty

I am a Judaics teacher and Culinary Historian focusing on the foodways of Africa, enslaved African Americans, African America and the African and Jewish diasporas.
This entry was posted in Food Philosophy at Afroculinaria and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s