Malik Yakini is passionate about good food. So much so that he is spearheading a drive in Detroit to combat, what he says, are many areas of the city being food deserts.
He is the co-founder and executive director of theDetroit Black Community Food Security Network, a coalition of organizations and individuals working together to build food security in the city’s urban community.
“In Detroit there is a serious lack of access to fresh and healthy food,” says 57-year-old Yakini, a former principle of an Afrocentric charter school. “As of 2007 all the major supermarkets were gone.”
“There are smaller independent grocery stores but the food is inferior and the selection is not as robust. In some cases the food is outdated and the stores are not even clean.”
In response, the Food Security Network operates the D-Town Farm, a seven-acre farm on Detroit’s west side that grows 37 organic crops. “The food from the farm is sold to local restaurants, farmers markets, individuals who visit the farm and the only black-owned grocery store in Detroit,” says Yakini.
“In addition, the coalition has a number of objectives such as promoting health eating, influencing public policy, encouraging co-operative buying and encouraging youth to pursue careers in agriculture or other food related careers.”
Yakini is just one of a growing network of black men committed to making their communities stronger by mentoring kids, starting businesses and engaging neighborhoods to make a difference.
What brings the men together is a groundbreaking initiative called BMe, or Black Male Engagement, pronounced “Be me.” The effort, which operates in Baltimore, Detroit and Philadelphia, has more than 2,000 men engaged and hundreds more are expected to join the network.
The program, the brainchild of the Knight Foundation, oversees a web portal that gives like-minded men a platform to share their stories in writing or upload a 1 to 4-minute video testimonial of what they do to make their community stronger.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.