Video: New Roots in the Texas Soil Congolese Refugees, Plant It Forward Farm and Sustainable Urban Farming

(Tim Chan Speaks)

All right, and we are live. Please unmute your mic.

(Nikkia Carter Speaks)

Thank you. The morning, everyone. This is Nikkia Carter and we want to welcome you to this breakout session as part of the sustainability summit. For those of you who have never participated in WebEx before, please use the Q and A option to ask your questions. These will be collected and answer towards the end of the presentation. Captioning is available as needed in the chat function. Use the navigation bar that pops at the bottom of your screen to access these functions. At the end of the webinar, you'll be asked to fill out any valuation. Please fill it out when it pops up on your screen, your feedback will help us improve future events. This webinar will be recorded and will be available on our website after it has been transcript date, and caption to comply with ADA Accessibility Guidelines. Our guest speaker today is Roy Vu, son of, Vietnamese refugees parents, Roy, Vu was raised, born and raised in Houston. He earned his PhD in 2006 in history at the University of Houston. He is currently a history professor at the Dallas college Northlake campus Irving. Professor Vu's selected publications include co-editing Feasted Landscapes, Sustainability in American topics Kendall Hunt Second addition in 2018. Our Finite Bounty an Anthology of Sustainability Topics, Kendall Hunt 2017 and Natives of a Gulf Country, the Vietnamese in Houston and their Construction of a post-war community in Asian-Americans in Dixie, Race in the migration in the south. It edited by Kai Tai, Wy Josey in day Tsai University of Illinois Press 2013. Professor Vu is currently writing a book titled Forms of Freedom, Vietnamese Americans in their home gardens. The manuscript is under contract for publication with Texas A&M University Press 2021. Now we have Professor Vu and Professor Vu, please unmute your mic. These times of Covid right? So thank you everyone for being here.

(Roy Vu Speaks)

Good morning and thank you Nikkia for moderating this session. I appreciated all the assistance and Tim. Thank you for the tech support. So I appreciate all that. Otherwise, doing well. And can you hear me clearly? Nikkia, just want to makes sure. Yes. Okay. Great. Thank you. Increase the volume to live more. In regards to my presentation for today, the title of my presentation is New Roots in a Texas Soil: Congolese refugees plant for forms and sustainable urban farming. Now let me go ahead and share my PowerPoint presentation. Let's see. Should I go ahead and share my content? So let me go ahead and show you my presentation. And I'm going to go to the presentation screen. So my gateway interest to the topics stems from a couple of reasons. One, my parents left Vietnam, in 1975 as refugees, as Nikkia mentioned. I'm a child of refugee parents and my parents eventually resettled in Houston, Texas. And the second reason why I became invested in this topic is, as Nikkia mentioned earlier, I'm currently writing a book about Vietnamese refugees and their home gardens. So upon conducting my research in Houston, I stumbled upon the Planet Forward farms non-profit organization through mutual acquaintance. It's food journalists and freelance writer, David Leopard, who introduced me to Liz who is currently the president, of Plant It Forward forms. So I became drawn to their remarkable work with Congolese refugees, particularly refugees who had a farming background, living in laboring in Houston.

My original field of study was the Vietnam War and US diplomatic history. But over the years, my research interests have shifted over to Asian American studies that Refugee Studies and now critical food studies. I'm clearly no expert on African history or the colonies diaspora, even agricultural history. And in fact, I know, I have colleagues who know more about the topics of Congolese histories in West African cuisine and farming in general. Not a farmer, I'm not even a gardener. Okay, so I brought them. My pants are definitely gardeners and they do love gardening. And a lot of Vietnamese refugees have a farming background as well. But my interest lies in the whys and what's behind issues such as food labour production and consumption, particularly by marginalized of racialize communities. I'm interested in making the invisible become more visible to the general public. After our history never ends until every story is told. I always tell my students at. So let us hear a little bit about Congolese refugee farmers and Plant it Forward farms I apologize in advance should I mispronounce any names any errors here or of my own doing? Alright, let me go ahead and go to the next slide. So here's a rundown of what I'll be presenting today. I'll provide a brief introduction ofl Congolese refugees. I'll talk briefly about Plant it Forward Farms. And then I'll move on to the stable urban farming practices. And I'll share three stories of Congolese refugees in Houston. And then I'll talk a bit more about emancipatory footways and its classical form of freedom. And you have three major tenants of emancipatory foodways. Food sovereignty, culinary citizenship and homeland duality. and finally I'll conclude the presentation and provide some further materials in case you wish to read more about diasporic communities and their foodways. And finally, I do want to give a shout out to Plant It Forward Farms. And also in Dallas Bonton Farms and how, if you wish, could support urban farmers in Houston as well as in Dallas.

Alright, so introduction of Congolese refugees. In recent decades, hundreds of thousands of Congolese refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo starts referred to as Congo Kinshasa. So right over here, ok. And refugees from the Republic Congo otherwise known as Congo Brazzaville right over here. Ok. And the map of the continent of Africa we can see the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yellow stare here formely Zaire. And then you have the Republic of Congo green country here with the red star. So their neighboring countries. So for Congolese refugees in those two respective Congos, They have experienced traumas and difficulties at war, displacement, refugee camp life, resettlement, and marginalization. For the more fortunate some Congolese refugees were eventually granted asylum to resettle in Houston, Texas. Now, regards to debrief resettlement history in Houston that will work tirelessly to earn a living wage while residing in working class neighborhoods of Southwest Houston as they adjust to living in America. Nevertheless, despite the overwhelming challenges and odds to Congolese to ask, but you still continue to persevere and demonstrate resilience in agency as they develop their own community a retain their food heritage. So now you've returned to urban farming and home gardening. Constructing their own homeland duality via Cantonese foodways. Plant it Forward Farms, a non-profit organization in Houston assists Congolese refugees farmers, established not only sustainable small-scale urban farms. That sell fresh, locally grown produce. But the organization also provides farmers the opportunity to earn a modest living. Today as I mentioned earlier, I will briefly share three stories when Congolese diaspora in Houston, their personal stories are just a few significant examples of thousands that allow us to correctly contextualized and historicize refugees, as well as immigrants in the United States who attempt to cultivate sustainable, small-scale urban farms toward achieving the three tenets of emancipatory food ways, food sovereignty, culinary citizenship, and homeland duality. Alright. So just quickly, a few facts about Congolese diaspora, Houston, and how it fits with resilience tracks over the Congolese refugees are, making attempts to not only adapt to the new livelihoods here in Houston or here in Texas. And again, focusing on Houston, Texas. But also some would even thrive after surviving the crisis, that they had to endure and these crisis would include dealing with traumas of war, refugee resettlement and racialization. And there were resettled in Houston as well as throughout the United States.

Now, I don't have exact population figures. Nick Hundred Das when Houston, but I do know is that according to a Rice University study, Rice University in Houston, the African immigrant population in Houston numbers practically 60 thousand today. And the Nigerian community has the largest diaspora with roughly 23,500 a Nigerians. No other group would have more than 5 thousand. The Ghanian population would be the second largest of the African immigrant population in Houston. And for the Congolese population it's definitely less than 5 thousand can apply, these aren't exact figures. So it's, a small community but it's a, growing community. It's a community that is, again, thriving thanks to organizations like Plant it Forward and thanks to their resilience. Okay. Alright. So moving on to Plant it Forward Farms. So let's talk a little about Plant it Forward Farms and then share with you three personal stories. So we start with Liz Vallete as the President as I mentioned earlier, but she's a West Point graduate and Iraqi war veteran. Liz assesses Plant it Forward's collaboration with local refugees. And during my interview with her before the pandemic. She mentioned some of the positive gains, but also discuss some of the charges as well. For instance, quote, it takes awhile to get formed up and running. And to me, the farmers, when they first start with us, they're still learning English and they're still learning to navigate the culture here. So there's definitely an uphill struggle. It does require a lot of work. As a growing organization, we're still going through some growing pains and trying to make sure that we are able to support the training and enterprise programs fully. But ultimately, I do find a farmers seam at peace and see my joy. Seemed to enjoy, excuse me very much enjoy what they do for a living. Particular pride in the farms and what to grow and what they produce. So I think in that sense, their content, it is challenging. There are challenges sometimes it takes awhile to get your income up to a modest living. We did have one farmer who just bought a house. And so there is after three or four years of farming and saving money, we think that farmers would get to a place of being able to take away a little bit of money and I should get a little piece of the American dream. End of quote. Why did the successes, what are farmers and what lives most proud of? She asserts quote, I was trying to think of mostly individual successes for the farmers. I guess that's sort of a success when you see the farmers being able to buy a home. Or you hate that their kids are graduated top of their class from high school and getting on to go to college. So, so the second, third order effects are what the farmers are achieving through this income they're able to get. I think one of the most rewarding things to see for me is how confident they are in their abilities.

So there's a lot of self-confidence that I think is nice to see, particularly for folks having to start over. And maybe some steps down the rung of the ladder then they were back at home, end of quote. Okay, so in regards to Plant it Forward Farms. Here's a brief history from their website. So as you can see here, we have in regards to their brief history. Plant it Forward was found in 2011 by a family and philanthropic entrepreneurs, the O'Donnells, wanted to enable the similarly entrepreneurial ambitions are refugees being resettled in Houston. Refugees without agricultural backgrounds or resettled here with few options for find meaningful, dignified work that utilizes their crucial skill sets. In collaboration Catholic Charities' local refugee resettlement office and Urban Harvest, the family worked with a group of skilled Congolese refugees to deliberately crafted urban market farming project. By 2012, the first round Plant it Forward urban farming training began, lasting in one year. By 2015, there were nine farmers, each earning a living by managing their own farming enterprise on approximately 1.5 acre each. In 2016, were honored to be feature on Anthony Bourdain's show. Parts Unknown: Houston I do have a video clip which I'll show you that I share with you that in the chat room so that you can have access to a video on YouTube. And there's the second clip that would like to show as well. But unfortunately, there will be some technical issues with WebEx, so I apologize for that. So are supposed to second video clip in the chat so that way they have access to view it later. So today, we have 13 farmers operating at eight farms within the Plant it Forward network and two additional Plant it Forward alumni farmers own an independent farming partnership. We're actively working to increase farming opportunities for new Americans in the coming years. So that's the brief history from their website. And check it out if you wish to know more about Plant it Forward and particularly wish to support Plant it Forward either through volunteering your time or donating or purchasing some of their produce and merchandise. Okay. So let's move on and see.

All right. So a few basic facts. Plant it Forward Farms avareges approximately 60 thousand per acre this year, 2020. It took 3 to 5 years before Plant it Forward farmers are earning our benchmark gross income of 30 thousand dollars per farm. Plant it Forward invested $10 thousand dollars plus staffing upfront into each 2018 farm and provides 10 thousand dollars plus per year in support to each of the eight farms. Farmers themselves prefer to collaborate with one another share equipment and technical expertise and grow into larger farms. Here's a map of the city of Houston, or the southwest portion of the city of Houston. And the green circles with an X inside represent the four separate sites where you have a total of six acres in eight farms, you have 13 farmers working in farming on those eight farms, The blue star is their warehouse where they would wash and pack and freeze the produce so make sure that the produce is produce clean and fresh for their farm shares. And then you have the red circles that is the office of Plant it Forward Farms. So as you can see, they're located southwest Houston near development area in working class neighborhoods. And you have regards to their farms, these are photos I took from Westbury committee farm site in southwest Houston. Beautiful farms. Just very green. and very productive farms as well. Now, of course, there were numerous challenges. For instance, hurricane Harvey in 2017, right? Causing flooding issues, distroying some of their crops so it can be very heartbreaking. But again, for these Congolese refugees, they're tough, they're courageous they're resilient. And they're hard workers who are willing to try to make a modest living here in the United States. And also in addition, they are retaining part of their food culture and reclaiming part of food culture. So they are also in other words seeking and gaining emancipatory food ways, which I delve more into deep, delve more deeply into.

So here's another photo of their Westbury site. So again, nice, beautiful farm. And it's a sunny day. One of the Plant it Forward farmers. And as regards to, again, the Congolese refugee farmers, you have men and women. You have family members who would help farm the land and try to make a living together. And so you do have in other words family labor. and it is quite common among refugee families to see both spouses and also their adult children working together to make a decent living and survive and adjust. And thrive. Okay. All right. So moving on to sustainable urban farming practices. So we look at some of these sustainable practices of small-scale urban farming with Plant it Forward Farms. Here you have a select number of practices assisting refugees with training, provide the sources and support for the Congolese refugee farmers. Create sustainable small scale urban farms in southwest Houston. Provide fresh, organic and accessible produce at farmers markets and also the weekly farm shares provide refugees and opportunity to maintain culturally, cultural sustainability. In regards to coaches the sustainability as parts of societal sustainability again goes back to Congolese refugees having the ability to have some control over their own food production, consumption and cultivate crops that are familiar to them back home to Congo, Congo Bronzeville and Congo Kinshasa. In addition, be able to make Congolese meals and dishes that are familiar to any introduce such Congolese no only Congolese produce but also Congolese dishes to Houstonians, right? So they are expanding their food-base, right? For what's going down the list here. Provide refugees an opportunity to make a modest income. Give refugees an opportunity to maintain cultural sustainability As I mentioned earlier, Sorry I repeated that. Food insecurity enables lack of healthy food options particularly Southwest Houston, particularly on the Westbury side, you have surrounding apartment buildings, working class neighborhoods that may not have access to healthy food options or lack access to healthy food options. And so this would help avert some food insecurity. And of course beautify and green the urban areas. These farms are beautiful, they're lush, they're green. Much more. Of course, pleasing to see then then say as urban waste and where you have tons of billboards, particular Houston's a twist for billboards, having too manybillboards. So this is more pleasant view, right? Of course, enhance Houston's cultural and culinary diversity.

As I mentioned earlier with cultural sustainability for Congolese refugrees. Alright, so now let's go ahead and talk about individual refugee stories of resilience. Yeah, I apologize. I mispronounce their names. Starting with a story about Constant Ngouala, born in Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville. As you can see he's family fled from home country in February 1999 and settled and Gabon as refugees and arrived in Houston in March 2009. So let me provide some details of Constant's story. One of our Plant it Forward successful farmers, particularly with the local farmers market audience is Constant Ngouala a refugee from the Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzavillel in February 1999 Constant and. his wife and their children fled from the civil war, that ravaged their native country. They may refuge to the country of Gabon. And we resettled in to Tchibanga, the nation's capital, capital They may refuge to the neighboring country of Gabon. and resettle in Tchibanga After making it safely to Tchibanga, Constant decide to turn to farming and start make a living once more. It is sufficient to return to some level of normalcy reflexes ten years as a refugee, farmer in Gabon, quote, at Gabon where I get to to Tchibanga where I was living, I saw nobody was planning vegetables. Then start to plant vegetables and make my life over there. I love it because when I had my own farm in Tchibanga, there was around four hectares. And in very dry season was taken maybe 12 to 15 citizens to work with me. It really sees it. Maybe three or four people who work with me. And of course, So another thing about, another interesting fact about a lot of these Congolese refugee farmers. They come from farming background in the respective home countries. And while in refuge, right, reselling the refugee Canada UNHCR refugee camp, they would make tempt to cultivate crops on refugee camps. Despite the dire conditions by the sub-par refugee camp conditions, they would try to continue on with a former traditions in these refugee camps. And you see this with Vietnamese refugees as well back in the 1970s 1980s at refugee camps in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and so on during the late 1970s and 1980s. So this is not uncommon for refugees, again, for refugees in this case, Congolese refugees are showing a great deal. of resourcefulness courage and resilience.

Alright, so go back to Constant. Meanwhile, Constant and his family, continue to work with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR officials, US, NBC and other foreign embassies in hopes to be assigned to another nation. After ten years of farming in Gabon, Constant and his family received approval through a US refugee program to resettle in the United States. March 14th, 2009, they left Tchibanga, Gabon. to America, arriving in Houston, Texas the very next day. Constant recalls their first few months adjusting to live in Houston, quote, When I got here, it was that easy to start. It was very hard. I didn't know that it has a friends here. So it's not easy when I get here, maybe two months. I didn't find any Congolese. But in the same apartmentst that we were living Southwest Houston. There was there were many Congolese form my country. I didn't know that and he laughed at the end of this statement. So Constant recalls his start with urban Houston and Plant it Forward For maybe one year after arriving in Houston, I see there was a Westbury farm. I go to ask them their need to farm again comes from farming background. They sent me to urban harvest. When I go to urban harvests around April 2011, I was working with them. Almost a year later. They started Plant it Forward. They told me about that. I came to Plant it Forward and started my training, after maybe two months they would take me and took me to work with them. At the time I was taking my training. I was like a farm manager after maybe one more year. After that it's my small land to start for me by myself, and of quote, So Ngouala states that there are many benefits to working with Plant it Forward particularly when it comes to handling the piles of paperwork that are required. For non-native English, as a third language speaker. Fourth language speaker because a lot of Congolese speak two or three other languages. To labor on am urban farm in Houston, To labor on an urban farm in Houston, in Houston he provides some examples. I plant a lot yeah I plant. when I go to market, some may, come to ask me a vegetable that I never plant as what is this give me the benefit of doubt. I'll see what I can get with seeds. So some people bring the seeds, I plant all everything every kind of seed like Roselle. Now many people want you to bring Roselle when finished, and many farmers now start to plant it and sell to market as well. I n my country, plant it and sell to market as well. In my country, End of quote. Ngouala also raises Mr. Ngouala also raised me other vegetables, herbs, fruits, or familiar, unfamiliar.

So a lot of these Congolese refugees will also grow produce that are more familiar to Houstonians and particularly in regards to southern food ways? So you have crops like for instance, like okra for example, that also no time in West Africa but also common throughout the US South in in Texas. the US South and in Texas. And For Constant. he would cultivate Amarise as well and spinach and grasp a plant after eggplants, well and spinach and okra a plant after eggplants, phenol, cilantro, dill, rosemary, and so on.His favorite is arugula. He likes arugula a lot. Alright, so let's move on to sorry, Toto Alimasi strands come Alimasi and of course, photos taken before the pandemic and had impacted unless what air. So another refugee farmer who raised uncultivated urban farm with a Plant it Forward Is Toto Alimasi He goes by Alamasi so we'll refer to him as Alamasi who was born and raised in Democratic Republic of Congo or Congo. Kinshasa in 1960. Growing up, he had learn farming from his mother while his father operated restaurant business. Alimasi recalls my mother was a farmer all her life, From my mom we mainly learn how to grow and how to prepare in order to do something that was done for business, only for eating for the family. He goes on to describe his family's farm. There was a big farm. Quote. It was big farm. We plant corn, cassava, sweet potatoes, black peas, peanuts after eggplant black peas, peanuts African eggplant Unfortunately, Alimasi's father passed away when he was young at the age of 21. Alimasi met Fatuma and became a teacher, became, He also became a pastor and women's rights activist at home he cultivated garden crops for his family, not for business. As outspoken pastor, It was his advocate for women's rights, as well as coming to the defense of one's fellow villagers over property that his life was threatened by the local authorities. In fact, Alimasi's secretary was shot and killed. Alimasi himself was arrested spending two nights in jail. After his release, he gathered his family and preparation to leave their home country and contacted UNHCR officials to seek political asylum in Uganda. In 2008, Pastor Alimasi, his wife Fatuma and their children, and also some nieces and nephews, 17 people altogether fled from their home country and trekked to South Uganda where they eventually arrived at the Nikkei bell refugee camp managed by UNHCR officials and Machiavell. They spent nearly four years at your Uganda refugee camp. But after seems unnecessary, monthly provisions of beans, cooking oil, UNHCR officials gave him some land for it sustained a family of 17 members where Alimasi amazingly managed to cultivate a farm and plants and crops such as corn, cassava and sweet potatoes, going more than enough food for everyone and his extended family. Unfortunately, Alimasi's health began to deteriorate at the refugee camp. A lot of these refugee camps are unfortunately under funded or not will fall enough. And so they have subpart living conditions. After three years and nine months at Inaki bell, his case was why approved for re-refugee resettlement by UNHCR officials. Alimasi and his family began their journey to the United States arriving in Houston on September 20th, 2011. And knew nothing about Houston quote. What means Houston? The weather here is like the weather in my country in a locket. And of course, you know, Eastern sweltering, hot and humid. And this for months afterward, if you are middle wage jobs such as a night guard, night security guard, Alamasi came in contact with Plant it Forward in 2014. And thanks to his contact person with Houston's associated Catholic Charities. And so after months of training with Plant it Forward personnel in the farming entrepreneurial programs. He began working at his urban farm at the Westbury community garden there he will cultivate crops going through seasons. Bok choy, collared greens, cauliflower, and okra. Alimasi also raises herbs and vegetables or fruits like amaranth African eggplant, sweet potatoes, and sugar cane. Reminding him of his homelands,Alimasi asserts, quote, when we, and this is in regard to the produce mentioned. Alimasi asserts, when we eat this, we feel like home end of quote, and a small farm. He walks guys between banana trees.Very proud of his banana trees. As you see in this photo. With one banana trees behind us? Because I have several budget small bananas, but each bunch carrying a dozen or more. He proudly and joyfully declares quote, I grow these banana trees here. When we eat bananas, we remember Africa end of quote.

Okay, so photos of Alimasi's family farm, Westbury. Okay. As a fig tree, left, and some African eggplants on the right. All right, moving on to the third story. The story of Materanya Pierre Ruchinagiza, he goes by Pierre. So Pierre, African refugee farmer collaborated with Plant it Forward. Born in Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo Kinshasa. Pierre's parents cultivated over 200 acres of farm land and a two acre garden. His parents also practiced animal husbandry, raising goats and rabbits. Pierre, recalls his farming years back home describing the rainy season, elicited vegetables, herbs, fruit trees, grow, gam speeds, cassava, peanuts, sweet potatoes, maize, cloves and so on. Both Pierre's parents passed away years before he was forced to flee from his home country. In October 2010 due to the seemingly never ending in Delhi Civil War. Pierre, and his wife and their children, made the decision to leave their home village to a child three days by bus to Kenya, arriving at UNHCR refugee camp. There live alongside thousands of African refugees. Pierre and his family remained in the camp for approximately with two years, which he felt severely ill due to stress, spoiled food and poor camp conditions. Eventually with the help from a friend, Pierre family were transferred to Nairobi, Kenya's capital. They were transferred there May 2012, the stayed in Nairobi for 4.5 years where his health improved. He was able to find steady job, and his children returned to school. His status remained as a refugees as they adjust to life in a big city. Meanwhile Pierre readily made appointments to be in a view with UNHCR officials and hopes of secure refugee resettlement approval for him, his family. Finally, in November 2016 is perseverance paid off. And they gained approval for resettlement in the United States. He and his family were to settle in Houston by January 2017, which be assisted with housing basic necessities. Housing basic necessities by the alliance for multicultural community service, or known locally as the lines and refugee resettlement non-profit organization in Houston That's summer Pierre discovered about Plant it Forward through another Congolese refugee. A culture of Congolese refugees networking together and now select to work together on their farm. And he learned about Plant it forward through Alamasi. His wife, Emilia applied to Plant it Forward's training program to be self-sufficient urban farmer and started training August 2017, Completed the training program in June 2018, where they were rewarded with a part of land to farm in the Westbury Community Garden Southwest Houston, Pierre recalls how he became an urban farmer with Plant it Forward. quote, I was very interested. They make a application for me and my wife. So from August 2017 to June 2018 we were trained here. I was working at Pappas restaurants tile while being trained with while taking training classes with Plant it Forward. I can say I was blessed to be chosen among other 17 trained people, Me and my wife. We worked here to be, to get to this place. This farm was originally for demonstration of Plant it Forward. but they decided to give us this place end of quote, So Pierre's wife continued to work hard and persevere just like their fellow Congolese refugees farmers. Okay. Fortunately, for these video clips, attributed clips I hope to provide, again where some technical issues, but I will provide the links in the chat, in the chat section so that way you could have access to those links. I'll take these fears work. So let's move on to emancipatory foodways. Oops. I said. Okay. So let's move on to farm to freedom, Emancipatory foodways, going back to the three tenants of emancipatory foodways. Starting with food sovereignty food sovereignty is about having control over some of the food sources. If space and resources are available, no matter how limited. Refugees typically cultivate produce to get access to fresh and affordable food, which leads to better overall diet, health, and food security. Immigrants and refugees typically cultivate crops related to their daily food consumption from their home country preserving their food heritage. By preserving the food heritage, they demonstrate food resistance to unhealthy food options that are often ubiquitous in refugee, immigrant, working class neighborhoods. To overcome marginalization of their food heritage. They would be agents of food justice, active agents of food justice using herbs, fruits, and vegetables from their own farms and gardens to make culinary dishes that remind them of home. So this ties in with food sovereignty. Again, wanted to be a sense of investor. Colonization is where refugees as well as emigrates will establish roots and sense of belonging in this case Congolese homeland but cultivate their produce and sharing food heritage to also establish roots in a sense of belonging here and United States, via farming influence allows them to grow their American roots. So through farming and gardening by cultivating crops that are familiar with if and familiar to Houstonians they are being rooted here in the United States, well, they will grow food trees herbs and vegetables to make prepare Congolese culinary dishes, both official ones and new ones. Not legal citizenship per se, but they do have a strong sense of belonging. And so did you have ties to, to homelands, over in two Congo's and here in, the United States, whether they would cultivate land literally here in the United States and Texas figuratively of course, by remembering their Congolese homelands to cultivating their Congolese crops. Established, They also established the right to belong to the land, right? There would belong to the land and the, Established their right to belong to land here. Through years of intense labor and sustainable urban farming. Culinary Citizenship and finally, homeland duality would maintain the Congolese food heritage roots via farming. And they would also establish their American roots through farming and as well as gardening essentially belonging to two homelands, they would also avert double dislocation. So now only dislocation from their homeland but also combating dislocation here in the United States as a marginalized population. And so they would avert a double dislocation via emancipatory foodways and it will diversify Houston's culinary cultural landscapes. And finally Congress refugee farmers will continue to build it as providing food options to urban Americans. Watched the video, urban historians. Funny, in conclusion says, I'm sorry, I'm going too fast. I'm running a little bit out of time here. Marginalized populations have optimists live robustly to their citizenless status and subpar camp conditions by cultivating small farms and gardens. This ostracized populations purposely transform negative spaces, carve out small but not insignificant green places for themselves. So what's weight transfer urban landscapes, changing their marginalization from others, ....... freedom and finding it. And this ties in with the three main tenets, sustainability, environmental sustainability. Where Congolese refugees, would cultivate sustainable small-scale urban farms in Houston and provide fresh organic produce to urban dwellers via weekend farm shares at farmers markets. Economic sustainability in turn to make a modest living through farming and they would help combat city charges with food security issues, as societal culture stability diversifies, Houston's clearly seem Cantonese food and cuisine and contribute the city's rich cultural heritage and demonstrate the daily contributions of refugees in it as well here in the United States. Okay. So hence what the economy is performing group, a growing sense of freedom, freedom from civil war and prevent tyranny, difficult refugee camp conditions that is, small farms and allowed to grow silently but a full view of our consciousness. For the Congolese diaspora that have suffered, survived and succeeded in unearthing their own existence. Planting their future and freedom for current and future generations to remember, record, consumed, share, and rejoice. There perhaps is the constructed emancipated foodways getting food sovereignty, food sovereignty culinary citizenship and homeland duality. They could start basking in their emancipation from the shackles of war, refuge resettlement and racialization. While planting new roots under the Texas sun.

That concludes my presentation. Again here the list, there are some other reading, some books and articles about Plant it forward. If you wish to read them. I highly recommend Donna Gabaccia's We are what we eat: ethnic food and the making of Americans, as well as the other books and artists articles or one foot to read as well. So please, do you have the time to read these articles about Plant it Forward and the Congolese refugees and what they contribute. Ok. So please support Plant it Forward Farms and you can purchase merchandise or produce as well as donate or volunteer to be board member for instance, okay? We need more board members. So if you have the heart and you have the time and the energy to volunteer support Plant It Forward Farms. Please do so. When you want volunteers and addition. Again, as mentioned at the beginning presentation in Dallas. There's great nonprofit organization called Bonton Farms. So I'm interested in supporting down, please buy me support baton farms as well to do a lot for the community South Dallas they're expanding in the Metroplex as well, believe that Lake Highlands region sort of tried to expand. And so a committee, right. So connecting with each other and creating a beautiful community of not only fresh produce, but also before committee of people who congregate together to enjoy fresh organic produce and help each other out. Alright, so that concludes my presentation. Again, unfortunately we don't have the time to show these videos. And again, we had some technical issues but I will provide the video links in the chat room. So then that way you can have access to these links.

((Nikkia Speaks)

Thank you. Perfect and Dr. Vu we have a couple questions that have come in. First, Brandon Morton has asked that you comment more about her background in history and sustainability. And he said he thinks many people might think you have to study agriculture to become an expert on the topic. So can you elaborate?

(Roy Speaks)

Yeah. Again, I said in the beginning of the presentation. I'm no expert on African history or about farming or even gardening. I'm more interested in recording stories as historian, I think it's important to interview as many people as possible. So it's oral history plays a big role in my field of study. And I think it's important to particularly record, stories from so-called Invisible communities, right? Like the Congolese Diaspora, where historians may not communicate or may not see a Congolese refugees or may think that there are no colleagues refugees in Houston. But reality, Congolese refugees grew in Houston and they are contributing to the local economy, as well as providing more green spaces in urban areas that are bereft of such green spaces. And so Congolese refugees play an important role in rebuilding the city's economy, but also diversifying the city's population as well as cuisine. Does that answer his question? But yeah, as far as my, my gotta give it back to us on US history most specifically to be no more ion the Vietnamese diaspora. This is something that I just happened to fall into and became really fascinated, interested about Congolese refugees as well as Syrian refugees in Houston as well, there's so many stories to record, there's so many stories to try to capture. And for Vietnamese, refugees, for instance, I mean, there are some people who still don't know much about Vietnamese refugees, particularly in Houston. So it's very personal to me to record their stories and particularly their farming, gardening ways as they seek their own emancipatory foodways.. And so for the Congolese refugees, there's even less knowledge right, about the Congolese diaspora in Houston. So it's important to get their stories out.

(Nikki Speaks)

Awesome. Thank you. Another question. Amy has asked, are there any special permissions required to produce slash grow food on this scale in Houston, could anyone began to garden or farm?

(Roy Speaks)

Well, there were as far as Congolese refugees that would work with Plant It Forward Farms plant for files would be the organizations, non-profit organizations that would try to purchase or acquire land in the city of Houston, so that would make attempts to approach them, but also soften times, you have for instance a church may donate some plot of land for Plant it Forward to utilize and farm and provide farm and demonstrations and help train Congolese refugees to get acquainted with the Texas soil and what can grow here in Texas and then give them the land over to the Congolese farmers. And so it's, it's lot of paperwork.

(Roy Speaks)

Yeah, it's, it's you will have to ask Liz about that the president of Plant it Forward, about just the amount of paperwork that you have to go through to ensure that the land they utilized can be use for farming and could be given over to Congolese refugees to farm. So I can't I can't answer that question because I don't know how to paperwork that Plant It Forward has to do to purchase the land or to have the land donated to them and therefore utilize for that.

(Nikki Speaks)

Perfect and Chancellor has asked, what are your suggestions for city planner? Sorry. Our Chancellor has asks, what are your suggestions for city planners to start implementing urban farming? If you are familiar with zoning and community engagement, where action items do you suggest for those parts of planning?

(Roy Speaks)

WOW let's actually question and thank you. Thank you Chancellor May for attending this presentation. I appreciate your time and interest. Well, it has to start off as most movements at the grassroots level, right? So as far as say, as a college professor and along with my fellow faculty and administrative leaders, profession support staff. And along with our students, we have to make these issues more more noticeable, right? And so in Dallas, we had to raise these issues and educate ourselves as well as others about these issues in hopes of getting the attention of say for instance Dallas City Council members to support such farming initiatives like Bonton farms, right? So it's a long, arduous process, but typically we start at the grassroots level and it has to go from the bottom up right to gain the attention of our city leaders and to have them understand the importance of green spaces particularly farming spaces and working class neighborhoods, right? So that way they can avert issues like food insecurity. And that way you can have great access to healthy food options which will improve the community, improved the population's health. And therefore improve city living, right? And so it's imperative that we all try to educate ourselves, and our city leaders about these important issues. Perfect, those were the questions we have and if anyone else wants to ask questions, please feel free to do so at this time. Any other questions? Well, if there are no further questions again, please support Bonton Farms, support Plant It Forward Farms. Be advocates for them. We need more green spaces, particularly urban areas, particularly working class neighborhoods, reach out are to them. And then I myself included, need to continue to research and not only about this topic, but also find ways to help such non-profit organizations. And that way I could help educate my fellow students and colleagues. And that way, these issues will become more prominent, right? In, in the public and public size and therefore gain more public attention. And hopefully we could change some of our city leaders minds, or at least persuade our city leaders to concentrate on these important issues related to sustainable urban farms.

(Nikki Speaks)

Awesome. Thank you so much, Dr. Vu. And for just enlightening on this topic and for just enlightening on the Plant it Forward movement in the Congolese refugees in Houston and sustainable urban farming. I think we're good to go. You want to pop links in the chat so people can view those videos from the presentation, that would be great. And yeah, I think we are done. Okay, appreciate, thank you Nikkia. Let me go ahead and copy the second one here in the chat. So I just added the first one. So here's a second and then the bonus video, along of the first videos is about a minute, 17 seconds the one with Anthony Bourdain. And then the second one is about two minutes 26 seconds, twice six ways, twenty six reasons to joined the farm share. And its third one is about a six minute video. That delves more deeply into Plant It Farms iFarms and Congolese refugees. So let me go ahead and copy that as well and paste it in the chat. Those are the three links. Hope you get a chance to access them and enjoy the videos. And you Nikkia for moderating the session. I appreciate your help. You're so welcome, thank you for everyone or attending I hope you got some great content from this presentation. Make sure you grab those links before we close out the session and you all have a great day. Thanks. I want to kind of stay safe and well.