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Qiana Mickie Transcript

Qiana Mickie of Just Food

Tiffani Rozier: Welcome back to The Afros + Knives Podcast mini-series on Radio Cherry Bombe. I am your host, Tiffani Rozier, and today's conversation is with Qiana Mickie, a thought leader and speaker using food as a driver of enterprise, innovation, and equity. Her work focuses on fostering a food system that increases farm viability, healthy food access, and leadership opportunities within Black and brown communities. She recently transitioned out of the executive director role at Just Food in New York City and is currently consulting on multiple food enterprise projects, researching local food supply chains, and influencing changes in urban agriculture policy. Thank you to the folks at Traeger Grills for supporting this week's conversation. We appreciate your support so much.

And we'll be right back with Qiana Mickie after this word from Traeger Grills. There's still plenty of summer left, and it's officially too hot to fire up the stove. I am sure your quarantine diet could benefit from a bit of a shake up, and since in person cooking classes are not an option, get in on the classes on Traeger Kitchen Live. Chefs and pitmasters teach you how to use your Traeger for everything from brisket to baked goods. Their next class goes live on July 23rd, and is hosted by pitmaster Clarence Joseph. He is showing us how to do whole hog barbecue from start to finish. And he's thrown in his recipe for coleslaw to serve on the side. It all goes down at 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time live on Traeger's Facebook page and their YouTube channel.

Not only is Traeger Wood Fire Grills the sponsor for this Afros + Knives miniseries, they are making a special donation to support Kia Feeds the People, a program founded by Chef Kia Damon to fight hunger and food apartheid in Brooklyn. Kia Feeds the People aims to empower and encourage self-sustainability and focuses on getting quality produce and pantry items to the black and QTPOC communities. To learn more about Kia Feeds the People, visit And to join the Traeger-hood, follow Traeger on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Now here's my conversation with the amazing Qiana Mickie.

All right. Well, Qiana, thank you for being with me today. I appreciate you taking out some time. So why don't you introduce yourself and tell the people a little bit about your journey and how you ended up where you are now?

Qiana Mickie: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I'm so excited, maybe a little nervous. My name is Qiana Mickie. I'm working as a special projects consultant, a few different projects or organizations. A lot of folks know me from Just Food. I've worked in Just Food, and it's really the beginning of my food journey. And before I worked there, I actually was interested in volunteering and learning around healthy food and why healthy food wasn't in my neighborhood of Harlem, or it was hard to get to. And I was volunteering with a group called Harlem for Change, and then Harlem for Food. They had those two names. And there was a community advocacy training that Just Food offered. And they asked me to go as a representative, and I didn't know it then, but it really kind of opened my mind to gaining new skills around grassroots organizing. It was the first place that I learned about food policy.

And after the training, I realized that I wanted to get involved more. And it really kind of started from there. Where was the intersection between food, food justice? And how does policy interplay with it? And how can folks on the ground, like myself, being a mom, my son was in middle school at time, how do I have a say and get my voice and my action out there? And it really had the impact that I wanted to see. And that really became the start for me, was volunteering at first and learning more about food and farm policy, and trying to make connections so I could engage with other community members, just kind of get us all riled up and galvanized and understand it more.

And the more I did it, the more training I was able to get. I got some anti-racist training as well. And then I started to see that it wasn't just about healthy food, or just finding food and supporting farmers, but I actually had a part in it. And being a single Black woman, had a part in it, and food became more and more of a revolutionary tool, as opposed to just what I put in my body. And that really kind of started to make me want to have more impact, and not just in my community, but in work. And it became the thing I started to do for a living, or at least wanted to do. And throughout my journey, I kind of always have been connected to Just Food.

I joined a CSA. Then I became a CSA manager and became on staff. And over the course of a couple years, I really started connecting and understanding, doing research around how historically racist food and farm policy has been, and how that still interplays in our food today, and wanting to be a part of dismantling that. And that started to really root in my work. Another thing I started to be interested in is enterprise. How do we make sure that Black and brown and Indigenous folks are not just consumers, or just seen as folks to donate food to? But can we use food to start food based businesses? And what were different models that could be? And I think kind of connecting the policy to the enterprise into actual equity really started to become, when I became the ED or had the opportunity to become to the ED, what I wanted the focus to be.

Just Food, by that time, we're talking about a couple of years, maybe a course of 10 years or so, I became the ED about three years ago. And it was a stagnant organization. It had been historically white led. The organization did food justice work in the community, but I just really felt by that point in the landscape, I just saw just a lack of genuine equity work that was rooted in food, led by folks on the front lines, and led by folks like myself who worked our way up into this. And I took the opportunity to be the ED, which is a challenge in itself. But what I posed to myself was let's... I say this often. Black women don't get cruise ships, we get Titanics. And so I want to be really clear that I understood that I was taking an organization that was in flux, and more than likely going to close, or people expected it too. And that was why I was getting the chance to be an ED.

But that's not why I took the opportunity. I felt at this point, it was an opportunity to run and see. Can we really make equity a core component of our work and put it in practice? So not just in what we saw we write grants for, but can folks of color be leaders in the work? Can they run the projects? And can we build and cultivate wealth within our community? And could this be an organization for that? And also, could this be a safe and constructive workplace for folks of color, especially women of color? There are very few places, especially in food, that folks feel safe, constructive, and supported and paid fairly, do work that they believe in and actually have a real life. And those were kind of the things that I wanted to challenge myself to step into leadership to kind of do.

And I kind of think I did a pretty good job, more or less, for three years. I kept the organization going. The organization's still here. We brought in some new projects. I think the other thing that I found the hard way is that people always challenge folks of color, but again, women of color in leadership, around your proofs of concept. And what are you actually getting done? And being somebody who doesn't come from wealth, being somebody who's coming from an organization that had really didn't have... We had the reputation, but we didn't have the resources as it once did. I had to essentially kind of work with our partners to build that up again. And so I kind of use or try to leverage opportunities around funding that I knew would speak to the work that was happening on the ground with our partners already, so that was our Just Food conference, work with youth, work around cultivation, urban agriculture, policy and advocacy, and being able to bring in folks that could do that work and have been doing that work, and give them an opportunity to really step into leadership.

Same with our board, we've gone through a few evolutions of the board. But what has always been important to me is that there are opportunities for folks on the ground to get genuine ways to disseminate power in leadership, and learn what it takes to run a business from the ground up, and start. And we just don't always get those decision making options. So it's been a journey for myself of not just my job. But what do I offer to the landscape that is different than what wasn't there? And could I create a space and bring in resources to give folks that are as talented, or even more brilliant than myself, a chance to really run and show what they can do? And that folks can see that you can be collectively run, you can be folks of color, you can be mixed income and a collaboration of that, and still be able to infiltrate existing systems and dismantle the inequities that still face us in our work and our food.

Part of doing that was, we talk about stepping up and stepping back. And what I realized in three years was if I was really doing that, I've got to be about it too. I can't just talk it. I have to show that as well. And there's probably other things that I could do and should be doing. So stepping up was like me taking the leadership role. And I think stepping back has been now that I feel like I built some infrastructure, and that's my strength, into this organization, bringing new leadership, new project leads, new funding, and new opportunities for leadership for that to be taken. And the only real way for that to be is for me to step out of the role, so that's why I left Just Food. I know a lot of folks, they wonder about it, or they question it. Or they think it's nonprofit matrix usual BS. And it wasn't that. It really was just I wanted to build an equity driven organization, pivot it from failure to success. And part of that success is other folks of color being able to run with it, just like I did.

Tiffani Rozier: And for me, that's the only way to really build a legacy, is to kind of remember that the role is bigger than yourself. And so there's got to be... At some point, you go, "Okay, I can either slide to the side or slide back and just go, 'Okay. Somebody has another way of moving this forward. I've moved it forward this far. Let me pass the baton and allow somebody else to come in.'" Now I wanted to unpack a little bit about the leadership style that you guys are using now, or that you started to lean into, and that kind of collective leading, everybody leading across and not necessarily leading up and down. What did you see as far as how that was going to add more value, and opposed to the kind of traditional hierarchy of leadership?

Qiana Mickie: What I realized in the nonprofit matrix, and this probably happens in for profit business too, is that hierarchy. You'll see that there'll be a lot of folks of color doing the frontline work, or on the ground work, but never really being decision makers of what the operations are, or what the funding is, or be so disconnected from what the board decisions are around budget. So you're supposed to make magic happen, but never see how this money actually comes down the pike, or get management positions where you're the decider of those budgets, or even how the organization should run. What's the direction?

And so I felt like what I learned in leadership was pushing back on that. I think also in terms of what are leaders, I think we need more of a leader full movement, and what that looks like within an organization is truly disseminating power in a way that's feasible and realistic for folks, where it meets them where they're at, but also builds a learning curve in. Sometimes we see other organizations, they again either decide that there's a few tokens that will always be comfortable and sit at the top. And even if those are folks of color, they are so colonized, literally, that they're just so rooted, that you can't see the organization beyond them. The work has to be them, and they're synonymous with it. And you never hear or see the actual folks doing the work. And those folks actually don't get to understand how to make the decisions, or what it takes to make the decisions for an organization, what grants to write, how to say yes or no to funding, how to decide on partnerships, how to write that grant well.

And I realize I could do that in different ways. I can build and bring in staff, where they helped, we work collectively to define roles. I changed some roles, where even I kind of let go staff positions that were normal positions in order to create space for actual community leaders and folks on the ground to be able to work within the organization. We knew how to hustle and how to work, but also how to build realistic boundaries for our work and for ourselves. They got to shine because they were doing work that they were passionate and believed in.

And even though I think that's a staff structure I would always want in any organization, when Just Food was going through a pivot, we were going through a real lean time. And what I realized was I need to actually take those staff positions down first in order to create project lead opportunities, proven leaders in the work that are maybe too busy to do it, and are doing other projects, so they're not doing this job full-time. But maybe there's a way that it makes sense. And at the same time, they're leads on projects, so they're getting an opportunity to manage, see a budget, manage with me, collaborate with me, in a way that they probably wouldn't in other roles, say like coordinators or other roles in other organizations.

And what that meant was, again, with full transparency, was working with the staff, understanding what the evolution point was for the organization, and why we needed to have the resources, the limited resources we have, go to project leads, and giving those jobs to folks on the ground already, rather than staff positions that would hopefully come back, or the roles would come back. Whether they would come back, they may not need to come back because they might be already that much further on in their career. And I hope that was the opportunity that Just Food offered. And so it was at that kind of level. Are we giving folks a chance to get paid to do work they're probably doing already to some degree? But to bring that insight and expertise into a way that can take this project or this organization that much forward. And does this give you the capacity to learn a little bit more about what it takes to run a project, manage a project, fund a project at board level?

I kind of touched on that before. So many of us, like folks of color, I think the numbers nationally are less than 10%, I could be quoting that wrong, are folks of color. Forward positions are so influential in organizations, and particularly nonprofits. And when you look around, you might have one or two tokens and one or two roles, but they're not really getting the chance to make real decisions about the direction and operations of the organization. They're really kind of there to make it seem like they are. And what I realized was I wanted not just an advisory committee, that's something we had and built, but I wanted community leaders to be able to have real practical ways to step into board roles. I then, as a consultant, was able to offer more time to them to support them, to understand. What are financials? What are budgets? How do you keep your nonprofit up and running? How do you deal with challenges around reporting, or prudence, and guidance and governance? Things that we typically don't give folks a chance to learn, that they can do that.

And whether they do that in their grass roots organization work, like CSAs, most of our board right now are folks that are in the work. They're community chefs. They're farmers. They're CSA core managers. What are you learning here in an actual nonprofit entity that in a leadership role, you can take back to your grassroots work, or your personal work, or start your own business? Those are the kind of things I wanted to say was not just we have a diverse board. Look at us, we got some Black folks. But it was like our board is diverse inter generationally, by skillset, and by resources. Because it is a nonprofit, you still need to make a budget and you do need to find some balance between roles that folks maybe are able to bring in money and folks that know the work and know what to do with that money. That's for that part. I guess what I didn't mention is my role. It's kind of hard talking about myself sometimes.

Tiffani Rozier: You know what I have found over the course of the last year doing a podcast, is specifically with Black women, is that it is a very common thing for us to be encouraged to talk about ourselves and to stand in our own work. And so things like, "Oh, tell me about yourself, or give me a bio," and I think most people struggle initially with, "Oh, I've got to write a bio for myself. What is this?" But eventually, you are, people don't understand part of systemic racism, being a part of the education process, and in a couple other places, you aren't going to always get the encouragement to kind of stand in your own accomplishments, to celebrate your wins, to talk about yourself authoritatively and respectfully even. The people who have lot of practice doing it, it comes out really naturally because they've had to do it. But for the most part, a large percentage of Black women just are never encouraged to celebrate themselves in this way. It's always painted as arrogant.

I know I was watching a clip about post-traumatic slave disorders, and how historically, what a mother during slavery, in order to protect her child from being either taken off of a plantation, or punished, or killed is that they would talk down about their child. If someone noticed that this kid's coming along, he's doing great work, she would automatically start to denigrate him just to protect him or protect her from auction. And so over time, that practice became a part of Black culture, and how you might have a child who's doing really well, who's very smart, who's very ambitious, who's really curious, and the first instinct of a parent is to be like, "Oh, this child is just getting on my nerves. They're into everything." And they're not necessarily just kind of celebrating the fact that this child is brilliant and curious and awesome and kindhearted. We look for, we denigrate those kids.

And I think we internalize that, and so at some point, we look at our own work and go, "Well, I mean, it's work we're supposed to do." We're not doing anything special. No, you're supposed to help people. We put it there, and opposed to kind of just accepting the light and the shine. There's a handful of women in the world who have helped us look at it in a new way. For me, I'm one of those people, your Beyoncés of the world, love them or hate them, they have actually started to help us navigate that space, celebrating yourself and celebrating your wins. And I know because of your affinity for pop culture could understand my point.

Qiana Mickie: Oh, yes. But what you're saying is so true because I struggle with that myself, even building a website for myself to show or talk about what I do, or how I do it, or how I want to connect with folks was so hard. And it really kind of took my friend pushing me to do it just to get there. But at the same time, I literally tried to support an organization to create opportunities for other people to do exactly that. Yeah. I can get in the weeds of the work, and if it's framed like the work, I can talk all day. But if it's framed about me... And also coming from a matriarchal family, very smart, very brilliant, but definitely a pack of wolves, it was always a dampening of what was supposed to already be there. You were already supposed to be smart. You were already supposed to be brilliant.

For me, it was like, "I'm just a nerd." I don't know what else to say. But I guess I also learned what else to say, but just not about myself. And so I think for me, it's been a journey of: How do I build opportunities and lift up myself in a way that also connects to other folks? And I think it's exactly kind of what you're articulating is so much about what I was hoping to do at Just Food, was exactly that. The dissemination of power, I thought the challenge was, oh, we just don't have these opportunities or roles, or we just never got the helm. We've never gotten the organization. Once we get this down, once we're the decision makers from board to ED on down, we're gravy. We can just do what we do so well because we are the best, or we're super great, maybe. I want to be humble.

But I like to work with people who are just boss ass people who really know what they're doing and do it. But the problem sometimes is we don't always have, not just the experience of connecting to power and being decision makers, but we haven't worked through our personal struggles with that. And I do, I go to therapy, and I do this on my own and process with friends on terms of working that out. And we kind of even built a session around it, the continuum of people of color leadership. Shout out to Lydia, Marla, Natalie, and Devin because we saw this in all our different phases of work of being elder in the work, being someone like me, a leader in the work of middle age, of being young and emerging in the work.

And what we started to see is it's not just the work, and it's not just I don't know how to build an organizational budget. It's I don't know how to be comfortable with taking the ownership and power of the work that I want and believe needs to be here. I expect somebody else to be the decision maker, to sign their name on that line. One, because power can feel so scary, but also, I think we just aren't... We're so conditioned not to be those people.

Tiffani Rozier: It's interesting to kind of look at the moment we are currently in. And being in a lot of conversations around food, around food leadership, around policies, just all of those things that could move an industry or advance us forward, to recenter Black people in our own work and in the general discourse. The trend I've noticed is people don't mind having the mic passed to them because that's been a very popular thing to do is pass the mic at this point. And people are just, "I'm going to give you my Instagram platform to talk about whatever you want." And it's just like while that seems generous, when you have silenced people for hundreds of years, giving them space to find their voice is kind of the essential first part.

And what I've seen over the last month or so is us having to scramble to figure out our voices, and not just what we want to say, but how we want to say it because when anger has been pent up, and rage and pain, what comes flying out initially is usually not productive. It's kind of destructive, and rightfully so. At the same time, to your point, once you start to offer people the opportunity to take on more responsibility for their own work, or for work that's important to them, the first thing you do is you have to find your voice as a leader. You're used to the work. We're used to the put us out in a field, we'll pick the cotton, we'll put it in the... We know the process of the work. But the minute you put the mic in front of us, or the camera in front of us, or you give us real moments to make serious decisions that affect more than ourselves, that's when we start to go, "Okay. Wait a minute. Do I even want this power?"

And I think part of that is a way to keep white supremacy circling on itself, is that if you can get the mental acrobats to happen, and you can figure out a way to go, "Well, here's the leadership you wanted. Here's the role. Here's the voice. Here's the podium and the platform that you always wanted. Have at it." And then we turn around and we're just like, "Oh, okay. I wasn't prepared. Or I feel like I was prepared, but now that it's coming out, I don't know if this is what I wanted to say." Then it's like, "See, you weren't ready. And so we'll take it back, and then when you're ready." But the whole thing about getting ready is that we're not going to give you jobs that allow you to get ready. And we're not going to give you roles that teach you the skills you need to get ready.

I tell people the shadows are all the same across all the systems. If you don't give a person the opportunity to own property, they never learn to own property. So when they do finally get property, they lose that property. So it's the same thing with leadership and ownership. Well, I'm going to give you ownership of a concept, of a brand, of a movement. And because you've never done it before, you'll likely lose it. To your point about women, Black women get the Titanic and not cruise ships. Well, it's falling apart anyway, so you can't do any worse. At the same time, Black women are quickly becoming the highest educated group of people in the country, so we have information. We have knowledge. The thing we usually lack is the practice. Put us in the positions. Let us use our education and experience. And we will do exactly what you did. We will make sure that thing doesn't fail. And not only won't it fail, we will find a new way to advance it forward.

So this is the danger about putting Black women in charge of things, is that well, the minute we find our confidence, it's a wrap. I don't need... Hey, I will take my education. It'll make up for the lack of experience until my experience overruns it, and then we're rolling. So for me, I was so intrigued to watch Netflix dismantle a couple of things and make some very hardcore choices over these last few days. They let go of someone in a major position, in a major role. And then they brought on a Black woman. And I'm like, "So then they bring on a Black woman for a major position." And then they're also moving their wealth from the banks they usually are banking in, into Black banks. And I'm like, "That is the move, people." If you have an example of what this really looks like, actual systemic change, you've redistributed some wealth. You've put a Black woman in a position of major power. And you've uprooted someone that was not going to move your vision forward, especially if it's a vision of diversity and inclusion.

So that's the win, so this woman, of course, her resume is insane. And so she has the education and experience, so you already know she's going to hit the ground running in an organization that's already flourishing. So for me, let's look at what you've done with the collective leadership for me is not just allow people to have a bigger voice and a bigger say in what the work is." It's giving them opportunities to gain a skillset that is exclusive right now. And people don't understand part of privilege is being able to gain those skillsets. So when you see a kid who didn't have to pay for college. He gets an internship because his parents know somebody at a corporation and they get a really great internship, even if they don't necessarily deserve it or have earned it. But now they're sitting in the middle of these conversations. They're able to sit at these tables without any experience and a half of an education, and not even a quarter of the ambition.

And because they're able to gain the skillset and develop the relationships, the minute he or she has that college degree, they're off and running. They don't have to have half of the experiences. So when people talk about the conversations we're having right now is just about anti-racism and being pro Black. When people start digging in and they realize there's a such thing called a Black tax and all those other systems that are built in those, and those little micro systems that are built into things, it's going to get upsetting. I think people don't understand it's a maze with a lot of trap doors. And when you think you're making progress, all of a sudden, the door closes. And you're like, "Okay."

So now we need to not only be able to get... So you told us to get a college degree. We have four of those. Now I need an internship or an opportunity to take on some responsibility so I can learn some things. And now I can't get that because I don't know anybody who works in those corporations because my parents generationally did not get an opportunity to work in these spaces, so I don't have connections like that. So unless someone mercifully invites me to a really cool dinner and I meet somebody, the chances of me getting that next opportunity is not there. So collective leadership and collective organization is vital. I think it's vital for Black people to kind of step into more power. So someone taking on a leadership role like an ED and going, "Okay, so we are shifting how we do leadership," just opens up the playing field, so now six or seven people get an opportunity to lead.

Qiana Mickie: Where it makes sense for them and where they want to flourish because, again, some folks want to work full-time. Some folks want to work part-time. A lot of the folks in our community are doing so many different food based or just cultural based work that they can't always work that way. It doesn't mean they can't have job creation, or shouldn't, or have leadership opportunity. No, I totally agree with everything you're saying. And it's very much what I, in this role, as being a leader, I guess folks call me a leader now, even though I'm not running the organization. I wanted to leave the organization better than I left it, exactly to that point. I wanted to create a space where folks had a runway to fail.

But I knew these were folks we should be comfortable to be able to fail because we can learn and pivot, just like other people do, we just don't get those chances. So it was: Could this be a space in an organization, a place with multiple projects, that changes based on what is needed in our landscape and our community, to fail, to pivot? And can pivots be opportunity? Not just for myself as an individual, but for, like you said, the two, to seven, to 10 other people. And those are just the people in those main roles. What about the people that we're working with, like the other partners, or farmers, or community folks, folks that see you do that?

And I knew that even for me taking it on, it was like if I can be an ED in a food system organization, there aren't that many. And if somebody sees me do it, and do it coming from the start, from the front lines, coming with different perspective, not with a master's, not with four degrees, maybe just one, and a food management certificate, but practical experience and the intersection of that, and a space to show and learn what you can do, and do it better, and do it differently and innovate. If somebody sees that I can be an ED and turn an organization around and do that, then that's a place that they're going to want to work and thrive in. And I think for me, it was like you said, I built that. I turned the lights on, on that, or I built that infrastructure. And I didn't want to leave it when it was still not ... Is a nonprofit ever stable? No. But I didn't want to leave it where it would become the dead end that another Black woman left for me to be it for myself.

And I think that's the other part I want to lift up too. I see a lot of this in the food justice work or food space, is the microcosm of the white supremacy that we're all fighting on the outside. And I don't doubt it. But when we get into this space amongst each other, not everybody shows up the way they say. Not everyone brings their principles to the table. And then if you really take a different lens of it, you can start looking and be like, "Wait. How tokenized are you? And how comfortable are you in it? How comfortable are you in your proximity to whiteness? And are you an agent for white supremacy?"

And that can look different ways. It can look like funders that never leave, executive directors that never turn over, and swear they're leaving, but never do, organizations that will love to show you and talk about their membership and how they're supporting folks, but their programs... You might be able to pay and get a training, which is great, not knocking the hustle. But are you actually building and cultivating the wealth that you say? Because if you're still building on a trickle down economy, if we knew that didn't work with Reagan, why in the hell would it work for Black and brown folks? So if your organization or business is built where you're always front and center, and everyone is funneling their labor up to your platform, when does the regeneration of wealth ever shake down? When does your work connect to them beyond just being a face in the work?

And that was something I wanted to push myself, was those are... I'm not those people. And those people don't really make space for me. But I wanted Just Food and whatever work I move into, so whether I'm doing something in a collaboration, or if I'm doing something as a consultant, but what I used Just Food was the platform for that, that we need folks that do work, have the experience and practice to connect to their brilliance, and be able to show that they can, and for themselves, as well as other folks, and be able to see how that gets resourced, so they can keep doing it and innovate from it. And I always wanted to make sure our leadership opportunities weren't just leadership, but active leadership.

So is this something that you can put into practice right now or in the future? Right now because you're doing something else that is connected to work, or in the future when you become a leader. Do you feel like you have grown in the experience to be able to get that? And would you then turn that project around for somebody else? And I think that we struggle sometimes in this space of food, or food justice, or social justice, to always look up to people, or people look down to you. And we struggle sometimes in how we build that white supremacist energy or keep that energy here. And are those tokens pressuring people to work out? Capitalism ain't great. Black capitalism also ain't great.

So if you're consolidating voices and consolidating work to the point where you're co-opting them, and you're just taking over, and you're shutting down anybody that wants to be independent, or have a different say, or a different voice at that table, then you're just doing the same thing that white supremacy is doing. You're a provocateur, an agent of that in our own space. And then people then feel fearful to speak out against it because, one, they think it won't be them. And it's like I'm just a canary in the coal mine. But two, it's if you let folks co-opt your work, or you become a part of it, but it's not a collective leadership or a collaboration, those resources will never trickle down to the rest of you in your group. Those resources will never trickle down to your working project. It will always be a dynamic where you're supposed to put that other person up, never you get put up too.

And if that's the case, then we're going to always just have one or two Black or brown businesses that we always point on, on a list, or black or brown farmers, or Black and brown restaurants, but we're never going to have enough that we can say we're building a solidarity economy. I know where to get my food because I need to get multiple things. I know what organizations to support because this one does training, this one does chef work, this one does policy. And we need all of us in this. I know where to go, where I want to get good food because there's multiple times, and I don't always want to eat the same food. I want to support my brethren across the board. I want to make sure our dollar circulates. And not every business does that, and that was something I hope to continue to bring in my future work around kind of doing the work around culturally relevant delivery meals.

Are we connecting to folks that do good work and work hard? And are we connecting with each other in a way that can still have impact in our community? If it looks like small base artisanal business and building a product development line that speaks to their business, are we amplifying folks that put that social good in their for profit business in a way that is at the scale that it makes sense for them? But we're supporting them in a way where our hard earned dollar goes to a hard earned ass person, and vice versa. When they have a dollar, or they need support in the ways that we do our work, are they coming back to us? And that's kind of what I want to see and what I want to support, and what I try to fight for, and what I speak out a lot about. And some people love it. Some people fight it.

Tiffani Rozier: What I would love for you to touch on before we wrap up is: What are you doing now? How can we support you? Where should we look for you? And what is the type of work, and you touched on it a little bit, what is the type of work that you are looking to support in the very near future?

Qiana Mickie: People can find me at Twitter and Instagram @ragamickie. And I started, I just launched my personal website, so it's No U in the name, just Qiana with a Q. And so that's the most direct way to find me. But the work that I'm really excited about right now, especially in this pandemic and in this intersection of time, deep transformative change, this is what we need to see and believe in and to support, I'm working on projects that are either social impact projects that are lifting up cultural relevancy through food. So that's working with community chefs and collaboration with partners like Prime Produce and Just Food community chefs to create culturally relevant meals that will get delivered to home bound communities.

Right now, our proof of concept is in Hell's Kitchen. It's a project that I would love to replicate throughout the five boroughs. What we need is funding. We have the partners. We have local farmers that we have relationships with. We have communities chefs and other chefs that are under-employed, that would love to connect to culturally relevant recipes and meals with locally sourced food. We have the space, it's just a matter of the startup costs. The other ways that folks can support, there's still a lot of great exciting work at Just Food. I really encourage folks to check out our policy work. We have an urban ag campaign. We have a CSA promotion campaign.

A lot of the work that we're doing there, and what I'm hoping to continue to help support as I transition out is, again, equity driven work that amplifies racial, economic and environmental equity. And that looks like supporting community chefs in training. That looks like food based community models, bringing local food into communities of color, and project leads that these models are supported and run and managed by folks of the community with this experience connecting to other folks in that space. And these are just the models that I helped to build. But I'm really hoping to bring in funding to bring in the right folks to keep it going.

Tiffani Rozier: Is there a fundraiser, or a crowd fundraiser, or anything like that, that's helping you guys get funded? Or is there someplace people can donate?

Qiana Mickie: I will say the biggest way you can donate is by the donate button. So if you go to, or, you will find your way to a donate button, and you can put it there. And we are building out more language around the different campaigns because some folks want to focus on certain pieces. But I can tell you and guarantee that donations that go to Just Food support not just the livelihoods of the workers, but also the projects that we are currently doing and want to launch.

Tiffani Rozier: Okay. And then for the project, the other projects you're working on, is there any type of fundraising happening there that we can put some dollars at?

Qiana Mickie: If people go to Prime Produce, you can donate,, you can donate there. Similarly, if they go to, they can donate there. And if folks reach out to me either at or by Instagram, Just Food NYC, I will be happily to connect folks to the right place in order to make their donation go to the projects that they want to support.

Tiffani Rozier: Okay. Perfect. And Qiana is Q-I-A-N-A. Thank you again for hopping on. I absolutely appreciate you. I appreciate your work. And like I said, until we all learn how to talk about ourselves in a way that is celebratory, we will be more than happy to gas you up ourselves. Ladies and gentlemen, follow Instagram and the website. Definitely support, put your support not just in your words, but also with your wallet because that's how we move these ideas forward, so thank you again.

Qiana Mickie: Oh, thank you, Tiffani. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Tiffani Rozier: That's it for today's show. If you'd like to know more about Qiana, you can follow her on Instagram @ragamickie. And be sure to connect with Just Food on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Thank you again to the folks at Traeger for supporting our show. This miniseries is brought to you by the folks at Cherry Bombe. It is produced with help from Kerry Diamond and edited by Kat Garelli. Our theme song is called Calling Each Other Friends by Blaeker. Until next time, may you be happy, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you be at peace.