I am an activist. In the face of any societal ill, I do not shy away from the challenge. I seek to act. I confront the problem. My problem is finding those who resonate at the same passion level as I do.
When the co-hosts of RVTV’s Tending the Threshold asked me, “Kokayi, would you like to be on our show and what would you want to talk about?”, my response was almost instant. “Yes and child hunger,” I said.
Tuhlar embraced the subject and Wanda Borland, who produces the show, was quick to co-sign.
“We haven’t even thought of that issue,” Borland said in her soft voice.
Rogue Valley TV
Because I am still new to Ashland, I am not yet aware of RVTV or it’s influence in the area. This weekend, I learned the recording studios are on Southern Oregon University campus. There exists a green room and three industry-standard cameras. The crew is completely volunteer becasue RVTV is public access television.
Approximately two months ago, Holly Truhlar (one year resident) and J’aime Powell (three year resident), established a televised talk show. It is a joint venture. Powell operates Transformative Arts Collaborations. Both women have a history of hosting public events in the Rogue Valley. The show is an effort to lean into difficult conversations, that need to happen, but we find are not happening. Otherwise, it is imagined, social interactions would reflect more compassion in alignment with the Rogue Valley’s expressed value system.
Like most persons I know, I do not have television. I have access to the internet. I learned of Tending the Threshold’s efforts to lean into difficult conversations via a YouTube link posted on Facebook. From the beginning I thought, “Ouch, these two warriors aren’t playing.”
For the talk show, Truhlar doesn’t choose to veer too far from her personality. Nor, would anyone who knows Powell say any different. Each woman is speaking from the heart, in a very candid way, about how to remain resislent in the face of societal ills.
Episodes 5 and 6 on environmental collapse are being distributed now. Powell starts episode 6 wearing a mask to protect herself from the smoke of wildfires. Everyone of us in the Rogue Valley can understand right now.
Food Insecurity and Food Apartheid are episodes 7 and 8. We filmed them on Saturday, September 8. In episode 8, the SpeakEasy’s Blaine Lindsey performs one of his poems, which is a must see.
Run the Numbers
If you are new to the anti-hunger world, the numbers that government and nonprofit agencies are able to generate a picture of American society that is not nice to look at.
Are we generous towards each other? Yes, we are. However, the forces creating the deprivation in the first place appear preventable. Yet, the common sense solution goes un-implemented.
The first year of the Obama Administration, I joined the anti-hunger movement by becoming the Food Stamp Outreach Coordinator for the Food Bank of Alaska. For 8 hours, Monday through Friday, it was my job to find mothers and fathers strong enoughh to accept assistance from the Federal government. I regularly visited food pantries during distribution times and experimented with marketing techniques to get the word out and lessen the fear of accepting government dollars earmarked for food.
I had a learning curve. The first three months were hard. Once I got it in my head what I was doing and how to document it, the rest is history. Brendan Joel Kelley wrote a cover story for the Anchorage Press on me. He writes for the Southern Poverty Law Center now, on race awareness watch. That publicity set me up to conduct The Juneau Hunger Strike.
In January 2018, I told the story of what happened at Arctic Entries, inside of the Performing Arts Center in Anchorage, Alaska. (You can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/arctic-entries/kokayi-nosakhere-100-calories-a-day) For 28 days, I fasted like Gandhi to inspire my State legislators to make a $1.9 million contribution to the school nutrition program. I received a tremendous amount of criticism for the tactic I used. However, the $3 million the campaign won for the babies is the only time the State legislature has ever earmarked money for the state-wide school nutrition program in Alaskan history.
When the co-hosts heard this story, they asked for any graphics or video documenting this journey. I provided the video recording which started the entire campaign. (You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0DH_tKlDhE)
Proportionately, there isn’t much difference between Oregon and Alaska. Less than one million people live in Alaska, more like 750,000. According to the national anti-hunger organization, Feeding America, Oregon has 4.1 million resides. One out of 8 Oregonians are food insecure, or outright hungry. That number hovers around 527,000.
Out of the 527,000, almost 1 out of 5 or 174,000 are children.
Those ratios sound about the same for Alaska.
In Oregon, it is estimated almost 3 out of the 10 persons, who are hungry, qualify for food stamps and may, or may not, be accessing said benefit.
The Rogue Valley has 114,347 persons living in it, between all four towns. These are 2016 numbers. I am still searching for the exact documented number of children who are hungry, however, if the numbers hold up, that’s (potentially) 14,293 persons who are hungry. Leaving (potentially) 4,764 children who are hungry.
I say now, like I said in 2010, that is a doable number to address. Between the resources here in the Rogue Valley, we can resolve the hunger of 4,800 children.
The Ashland Community Resource Center states, in their one-sheet about the availability of nonprofit delivered resources, that it serves 650 households impacting 1,700 persons.
If we follow those numbers, all the community has to do is triple the resources flowing through the current system to resolve child hunger.
Of course, I am having this discussion with you after taping the show, so my thoughts are more clear.
For the show, we generated the idea of hosting a feast during the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in January. Blaine came up with the idea. (Poets are filled with ideas. More on him in part two of this series.)
Thank you for enjoying part one of this three part series.
Words by Kokayi Nosakhere, who chooses to spend the majority of his time in search of magnificent minds. If you are one of them, please choose to reach out at royalstar907