Re: [vegetarian-515] some thoughts on the healing center.

From: Melissa B.
Sent on: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 9:22 PM
Regarding the co-op being "co-opted", all I can tell you based on what I have seen with my own two eyes is that, well, it's not.  Perhaps this man, who I'm sure no one here particularly likes (and I would guess many of us strongly dislike), is making himself feel better with it or adding another little badge to his sleeve.  But he doesn't have anything to do with what the co-op is doing, and we certainly aren't sitting around talking about what a saint he is.  We, in fact, aren't talking about him at all.  Personally, I don't think it matters if someone gives him an award, even if I think it's ridiculous or unwarranted.

What does matter?  That we're bringing much-needed and wanted resources to a community that is SO EXCITED to have them.  In the past two weeks I have spoken with no less than a dozen people who have lived their whole lives within blocks of the Healing Center, and they can't wait for all of the businesses to be open.  I have yet to speak to anyone, anywhere in the city, that isn't thrilled that the co-op will be bringing fresh, healthy food to St. Claude Avenue.  And contrary to what some impressions may be, we are very focused on affordability for all.  I believe that to be true of all of the businesses in the Healing Center - it is not, as has been asserted, just more gentrification or something for wealthier residents.

I will once again encourage you, Derek, and any others who have similar concerns, to come on down and be a part of what's happening.  See it with your own eyes and be your own judge.  The Grand Opening on Sunday (all day long) is the perfect opportunity.  There's no reason for any of you to take my word on this - come and make up your own minds.

<3
mb


On Tue, Aug 23, 2011 at 8:45 PM, 30 Days for Laboratory Animals <[address removed]> wrote:
Melissa and others --

Like I said, I'm not calling into question the motives of the Co-op. I tried to tread carefully to make clear I was challenging the encompassing Healing Center (as in Pres Kabacoff, Inc.), and not the Co-op specifically, which I otherwise support. I mostly wanted to simply get the temperature of the room in regards to a man whom I would consider an adversary to social justice in New Orleans.

Lots of us have shitty scumbag landlords. That's not the tenants' fault. It's primarily problematic in this instance, however, because the New Orleans Food Co-op is operating under the banner of a center that is capitalizing off of the groovy "green" consumer craze happening right now in the U.S. and purports itself to be aligned with the goals of the Co-op to a certain extent. What I'm saying is, this otherwise worthy project to provide people with healthy groceries is being co-opted, if you'll excuse the pun, by a rich developer who has shown himself to care very little for those in the community. I have been told Pres is an honorable man whom has been given awards by black people and is being so kind as to provide the Food Co-Op and other local businesses with a space to flourish. But he is not anywhere near honorable -- he's not even a philanthropist. As a millionaire developer, he is concerned with making money, and whether by directly abetting mega-corporations or riding the wave of "eco" capitalism, profit is what concerns him. No one concerned with sustainability would provide WalMart with a contract to encroach upon a historic neighborhood. No one who cares about the community and residents of New Orleans would see thousands evicted from their homes so posh rentals could be constructed, or give the murderous NOPD and ridiculous vigilante group the Guardian Angels a space to proliferate their attacks upon New Orleans' most vulnerable residents -- the poor and people of color.

This issue seems to be the elephant in the room. Or maybe folks just don't have an opinion...? Obviously if Pres Kabacoff owned a massive factory farm in rural Louisiana while also paying lip service to "sustainability" the connection might be easier to make, but I believe a congruent hypocrisy exists in the above stated facts. Let's not fall into single-issue politics here, guys. I definitely would like to hear from the dozens of people from whom I receive emails on this Meetup list on a daily basis.

thanks,
Derek


On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 10:23 AM, Melissa Bastian <[address removed]> wrote:
I have personally been heavily involved with the co-op for the past three months.  And I'll just say this: whatever the motives of the property owner may be, that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the businesses within.  It's wrong to pass judgment on the multiple businesses there and make these broad generalizations.  The co-op chose this location (within the healing center) because there is nowhere else in that community for people to buy groceries.  It's not some hidden agenda.  I can't speak for the other businesses, but I can say that everyone I've spoken to at the Center is community-focused.  For anyone who doubts this, you should come to the Center this Sunday.  It's the grand opening and will be going on all day; you can come see everything that's opening there and decide for yourself.

Zack, the co-op carrying meat is a response to the demand from the immediate community in the St. Claude area.  It will be a very limited section.  You know I'm vegan and I also would prefer that it not be there, but to eliminate it would be alienating to the community that the co-op is trying to serve.  That's the truth of it, regardless of how we personally feel / what we personally believe and know.

<3
mb


On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 11:57 AM, Erin L. <[address removed]> wrote:
Derek,

I, for one, appreciate that you've started this conversation! Your e-mail was very informative and thought-provoking. I was actually already well into it before I realized I had just blogged about my excitement over the "Food Co-op" a few days ago. (Now that I have more in-depth information on it, consider my excitement officially dampened...)

Thank you for being a mover/shaker for justice and equality.

Anyone else have thoughts on the subject?
Erin





On Mon, Aug 22, 2011 at 12:40 AM, 30 Days for Laboratory Animals <[address removed]> wrote:
Hi everyone --

The other day at the Hollygrove Market, I found myself in the midst of a debate with a woman about the implications of the Healing Center and its notorious co-chair Pres Kabacoff. Before I go any further, let me say that I don't wish to cause infighting within the NOLA veg community, or diss on the Food Co-Op or anyone working toward the accessibility of organic/raw/veg food alternatives. I simply wish to air a concern that gives me pause in extending support for what I'd say is the very dubious and insidious "mission" of The Healing Center.

As many are probably aware, Pres Kabacoff is one of the wealthiest developers in the city. Pre-Katrina, he was one of the main movers and shakers on the "restoration" of the St. Thomas projects, where the thousands of people who formerly lived there were essentially pushed out to make way for the "mixed income" (and what I must call horrid) apartment units now known as the "River Gardens." Additionally, he provided WalMart, no "sustainable" or ethical business by any stretch, with the contract to set up shop in that neighborhood. This redevelopment of low-income public housing essentially laid the groundwork for what post Katrina (you know, cause it's much easier to evict poor residents from public housing when they're displaced) would be the destruction of the "Big Four" public housing complexes -- an orchestrated urban development plan to basically ethnically cleanse the French Quarter-bordering "ghettos" of all poor black people whom tourists might not want to interact with.

I'm not here to mask any underlying premises, so I would like to let you know where I am coming from. I have been an active volunteer with the Iron Rail Book Collective since age 16; I am involved with a collective living space seeking to establish itself as a Land Trust to keep rent affordable for low-income Midcity residents; last year I undertook a month-long campaign to raise awareness about vivisection happening at Tulane; and I continuously try to lend my efforts to worthy grassroots organizing around town. Ideologically I support the mission to bring healthy food to New Orleans residents. We need that. New Orleans is a bit of a grocery void (well, anywhere not Uptown, anyway), and Co-Ops are obviously preferable to chain supermarkets. However, I'm torn as to whether to support what I see as something that will benefit the interests of rich developers like Pres Kabacoff and is destined to primarily serve, unfortunately, the more well-off residents of the neighborhood -- as the Healing Center, the planned vision of a kind of "French Market" on St. Claude (yuck!), and Pres's "Bywater Art" lofts will only further displace the poor with the continued gentrification of that area. I believe Pres Kabacoff's "greenwashing" of his image, using a noble enterprise like the Food Co-Op under his auspices, to be disingenuous at best. I am disgusted that Pres has invited the vigilante group the Guardian Angels to provide security for his building and given the corrupt NOPD their former headquarters back, encouraging even more of a police-state atmosphere in an area where the poor residents are struggling to not be dispossessed by gentrification. (Glad to see we can solve our problems holistically, you know...)

Obviously, this is a much bigger conversation. But I definitely think we need to begin having conversations about the role that people like Pres play in the disparate class divisions that exist in our city, how crime is a symptom of this poverty and economic racism, and our responsibility as conscious individuals in a predominantly white consumer movement to question what we're doing. Many of us have a coherent analysis of the ways in which corporate America forces a harmful paradigm upon our bodies and our earth; so why can't we also acknowledge privilege and class structures and begin to redefine our relationship to the developers, police, and politicians? My immersion into "food politics"  6 years ago was not simply a lifestyle choice so I could feel better; it was a process by which I began to examine all social conditioning -- how it's all part of a larger system of colonialism that is destroying lives and perpetuating an unjust world. I understand we all as individuals pick our battles. But I just hope that we don't overlook the egregious crimes of a man like Pres Kabacoff despite his ostensible support for worthy community initiatives, and I hope we can begin to question who are allies are...

 I'd also like to begin a dialogue, so if you feel you need correct or clarify points you think I may be missing or misconstruing, please do so!

Thank you for reading.

sincerely,
Derek

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30 Days for Laboratory Animals | an ongoing project to remember the lives of animals inside research labs






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