No Validation Necessary :Bronx Woman Booted from TEDx Conference Creates Her Own Event

As the world celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, some of the most profound statements he ever made relative to our times today were from the Birmingham jail and when he spoke about why we can not wait for validation or assistance from well meaning White Americans and  his disappointment with White moderates more devoted to order in the preference of a negative peace which is absent of tension than a positive peace which is the presence of justice .

The story of Tanya Fields and TedxManhattan speaks very candidly to Dr. King’s statements and disappointment with the ideology of White moderates of his time and of today in our human collective efforts toward justice and equality. From Africa to America and all points in between, we have all been conditioned in our conditioning and it effects every part of our lives and interaction with one another. Most White and Black alike would not associate the Bronx and Hunt’s Point in particular with the global green movement, which for something that is supposed to be so organic literally and metaphorically has become some sort of elitist movement ripe with high prices and the type of exclusiveness that often keep those who can benefit from it the most on the outside looking in. I am so proud of women like Tanya Fields- our homegrown earth mother rightfully named Fields and brave no nonsense righteous souls like Karen Washington who refuse to sit back and benefit  from the usual “you are an exception and different from them”  mentality in acceptance in the world of elitism and racism that constantly goes unchecked until those like Ms.Washington and Fields break the status quo for change by taking a stand and shedding the spotlight on covered up wrongs in saying – I will happily work with you on a human level, but you do not validate my existence, persistence, knowledge, self love nor being in anyway by agreeing to work with me on a human level. If you are about justice and that green life -support Tanya Fields and her Hunt’s Point green movement  event : Not Just Talk: Food in the South Bronx,” to be held at The Point from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 16.

Last August, the organizer of TEDxManhattan, a conference about the food movement that draws top thinkers and thousands of viewers, called Tanya Fields and invited her to speak.

She was elated.

An urban farmer and a single mother of four living in the South Bronx, Fields was eager to discuss food-access issues — like unhealthy options that lead to weight gain and illness, or feeding a family with food stamps — that she had personally experienced.

But four months later, after she had shared the news with friends and colleagues and started to prepare her multimedia talk, she received an email informing her that she was disinvited.

The organizer, Diane Hatz of the Glynwood Institute, said she decided Fields “wasn’t quite ready” for the event.

“The rug [has] been ripped out from under me,” Fields would soon write in an open letter about the experience that she posted on her blog this month.

At first Fields was outraged, viewing the move as a perfect illustration of the privilege and elitism she claims are rampant in certain sectors of the food movement.

But soon she decided that if she couldn’t speak at their food conference, she would create her own.

Now, on Feb. 16 — the same day hundreds of foodies will pay $135 a pop to attend the Manhattan event, and thousands more will watch online — Fields will host an alternative conference in Hunts Point with its own presenters, organic eats and entertainment.

And, in a savory twist, the president of Glynwood will appear at Fields’ event to apologize for the snub and discuss some of the issues it raised…

“For all the craziness that’s swirled around, that’s a very good resolution to me,” Fields said this week from her office in Hunts Point.

“Every day,” she added, “Bronx activists make lemonade out of lemons.”…

TEDxManhattan, now in its third year, focuses on the sustainable food movement and is titled, “Changing the Way We Eat.”

Last year, 370 people were chosen out of hundreds of applicants to pay to attend the event, while 9,000 computers connected remotely to a live broadcast.

Fields founded a group in 2007 called The BLK ProjeK, through which she hosted yoga classes for Bronx moms, helped cultivate urban farms and set up a local farm share.

When she applied last summer for one of about 15 speaker spots at the 2013 TEDxManhattan event, she was selected….

On a group email list in which Fields’ open letter about the situation was forwarded, Hatz wrote a message last week explaining why she rescinded Fields’ invitation.

“After re-evaluation, the organizers felt she wasn’t quite ready for this particular type of event but were more than willing to hold a spot open for her in the future,” Hatz wrote.

Fields found the explanation about insufficient experience unconvincing — she pointed out that an 11-year-old boy spoke at last year’s event — and claimed in her open letter that the organizers may have questioned her qualifications partly because she is a black woman from the inner city.

“I cannot help but believe had I been an Ivy League graduate with the SAME accomplishments,” she wrote. “I would have been treated differently.”

The letter drew many sympathetic responses both online and off.

Last week, NYC Community Garden Coalition president Karen Washington declined her invitation to speak at this year’s TEDxManhattan out of solidarity with Fields.

“I stand by Tanya in her effort to tell it like it is,” Washington, another Bronx-based urban farmer, wrote in a Facebook post, speaking about broader issues of race and representation. “Why must we be asked to sugarcoat the evils of racism…?”

In her email list message, Hatz wrote that the organizers “are sorry that [Washington] has chosen to silence herself.”

The conversation Fields hoped her situation would spark — about power and exclusion in the food movement and beyond — could have ended there.

But Hatz and Frith agreed to meet with Fields, through the aid of a mediator.

After several conversations, the organizers eventually re-invited Fields to TEDxManhattan, though she passed on the offer in order to focus on her own event.

They also agreed to reevaluate their speaker and attendee selection process and to form a task force on diversity, Frith said.

“I feel very grateful to have had this experience, as uncomfortable as it was,” Frith said. “We remain deeply apologetic for uninviting Tanya.” READ MORE