Food Deserts, Oral History, and the Pursuit of Self-reliance: Black Food Geographies

Growing up in a food desert myself, this food really hit home for different reasons; to see an issue I was faced with throughout my childhood put in a completely different context is an amazing experience of solidarity of experience. Not to imply a white person from the rural south faces the same issues as the African American community of Deanwood in DC. Seeing the ways local food issues are related to the big national problems of systemic racism and poverty; Reese shows how corporations dominate our lives and truly do not care about the people unless they can turn a profit. The historiography of Reese’s work is also a structural example of the self-reliance that is advocated for within these pages. Since coming to NOVA I have been to DC many times; this book has reshaped the way I view the city; I now am reminded of the stories of Caylon and the other strong people of Deanwood. Chapter Two ‘There ain’t nothing in Deanwood’ really hit home for me; to Caylon put into perspective how there isn’t anything from a gas station to the Maryland state line really contextualized how similar my upbringing was in many ways. The issues that are presented in this book did not happen overnight and the oral histories reflect that the fact Deanwood has nothing is due to racism and residential segregation that is further backed up by Reese with maps and figures. Truly I love the way this book is written, it’s really accessible and gripping while also being a topic of grave importance without over-dramatizing the event and giving power to a community that deserves to be respected for their resilience. Deanwood is an example of how Black life unfolds within the context of unequal food access and systemic racism in the capital. I know I will be recommending this book to people in my daily lives.

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