To begin our Women’s Month Spotlights, we introduce to you, food justice organizer Ashleigh Eubanks!
Ashleigh Eubanks is a queer Black femme with a tender heart and big smile. Named as one of Brooklyn Magazine’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2018, she currently resides in Brooklyn, NY (originally from Hartford, CT). Ashleigh’s been involved in social change work for over 10 years now. She has a deep love for people and believes that liberation is possible. Ashleigh has organized around youth homelessness, safety for queer, trans and gender-non conforming people of color and food justice. In her spare time, you can find Ashleigh practicing yoga, drinking tea with friends or learning a new skill.
Watch Ashleigh’s interview with Brooklyn Mag HERE.
What does the phrase “food justice” mean to you?
Food justice is taking the power of the food system out of the hands of corporations and putting it back in the hands of the people. It’s about dismantling the control of capitalism over the food system and how it affects food availability, labor, and everything to do with it.
How would you describe the Black LGBTQ+ community in Brooklyn?
There’s definitely a strong presence of Black queer folks in Brooklyn. While we are all Black, there are so many subgroups within that. Most of my Black queer friends I have met through organizing and other political work. So you have got the political Black queers, the super talented artsy Black queers, the neighborhood LGBTQ+ folks, the spiritualists and healer queers. These groups do not exist separately they just represent the various spaces we have to connect with one another. I also think about how many Black queer folks there are who live in BK but don’t necessarily have access to community.
What is something you want to achieve in the next year concerning your own project work?
I organize at my job and in my personal time, I also am committed to my wellness practice (yoga and meditation). For me, it’s about achieving balance and doing my work with integrity. I struggle with taking on too much sometimes, so I am working on balance in my life and building bridges between all of my passions and communities. Over the next year I would like to strengthen my skills as an organizer and build more healing practices into the spaces I organize in.
If you could encompass your journey to self-love in one word, what would it be & why?
“Ritual.” The journey is about building a practice and making it sacred. We live in a world where to be Black, queer and femme means to be beaten down, erased, challenged, feared, assaulted etc, daily. So, self-love is indeed a ritual that we must constantly engage in to counteract that.
What is your advice to Black queer youth out there?
Build community. Find each other. There is power in numbers. We experience so many things and it is crucial to find our own families and to invest in these networks with each other. Don’t tear each other down. We need each other, work through your pain together.
Can you elaborate more on the Safe OUTside The System Collective and the work you’ve done with them to promote anti-violence community based strategies?
The Safe Outside the System Collective is a group of queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people of color that are committed to creating community-based solutions to addressing violence in our communities. We are abolitionist in our politic and we believe that we know what is best for us and our own safety. As queer, trans and gnc people of color we experience some of the most violence. On a personal level, within our communities, and at the hands of the state. Our organizing is about shifting the culture in our neighborhoods so that people are looking out for each other more. We do this by offering safety trainings in de-escalation, bystander intervention to individuals, folks in movement, businesses etc. We are neighborhood based and this is important to us because we strive to build a network of people that takes care of one another. All of our work is rooted in transformative justice and the belief that no one is disposable and that hurt people, hurt people so we must heal the trauma within our communities.
How can Black queer and trans folx get active in their own communities?
The best place to start is by building relationships, get to know other Black queer folks, know your neighbors, build with the people in your surroundings and check in on one another. Then genuinely check in and offer what you can. A lot of these practices are cultural for us as Black folks so its nothing new. I would also say challenge yourselves to stay up to date on what changes and shifts are impacting your community and plugging into local groups doing the work to address that. If there aren’t any then mobilize.
What is something you want to see change within the next year for queer people of color?
I want more of us to live. The number of Black trans women, Black lesbians, and Black queer folks murdered to decrease.
How has your work with the Audre Lorde Project impacted your life and your personal journey?
It has been such a life changing journey, it’s gifted me with a beautiful chosen family. I have so many loves in this work. It inspires me. It challenges me. It exhausts me, but, ultimately, it humbles me.
To learn more about Ashleigh’s work or find out how you can get involved, contact her at [email protected].