by The People’s Minister of Information JR
Looking good, feeling good and making good decisions has a lot to do with what you put into your body. Health and green activist and musician AshEl Seasunz has been on the frontline of educating Black, Brown and low income neighborhoods in the Bay Area about the benefits of healthy eating, with SOS non-profit, which sells freshly squeezed organic juices and offers presentations from leading experts nationally.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk about a little bit about the history of SOS? Who are some of the people you have featured? What does S.O.S stand for?
AshEl Seasunz: Just days after the Oakland PD made downtown Oakland look like a war zone during Occupy Oakland, Michael Moore made a guest appearance. After listening to his inspiring talk, I joined a conversation with Bay Area activist and emcee Sellassie, you, JR from KPFA, the Block Report and the SF Bay View and others about the current status of the Occupy Movement and if and how it could serve people of color. Over the course of our discussion, a few of us became increasingly committed to offer direct services for the wellbeing of our communities ourselves – versus expecting the government to do the right thing.
We took inspiration from the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast Program. It is the perfect example of the community taking power into their own hands. The Panthers pointed out the failure of a society who could pay for bombs but not breakfast for children. It is clear why the Panthers and their community program were such a threat. If you nourish the people, you grow the movement.
A secondary threat was that similar community programs that were proliferating across the country were also nurturing the next generation of youth committed to self-determination. Furthermore, as long as people are addicted and undernourished, they cannot effectively lead a nation to sustainability and justice.
We have all heard the statistics regarding health impacts in low income, Black and Brown communities: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure etc. are all symptoms of poverty and lack of access to healthy food choices and nutritional education. We owe this awareness to a powerful and growing food justice movement.
We occupy to decolonize. In order to effectively decolonize our minds, we must detox our bodies and restore our souls. We must get “the system out of our system,” which is what S.O.S Juice stands for.
SOS Juice is also inspired by the principles of landmark education, indigenous wisdom and medicines, documentaries such as “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” “Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days” and the resilience of Oakland’s youth. We created a live juice, nutritional education and urban healing series to create health in our communities.
We have featured Davey D from Hard Knock Radio, Stic.Man from Dead Prez, Cynthia McKinney and many more community healers, food justice advocates and artists.
Today, SOS Juice is a revenue-generating nonprofit that sells organic raw vegan juice, smoothies, tonics and elixers at farmers markets, pop-up juice bar locations, and via deliveries and pick-up locations. We also do community food justice, health equity, and spiritual liberation events every last Thursday at United Roots Oakland.
We promote health and support sustainable agriculture, small organic farmers and green career paths. SOS Juice is for everyone. We give you the opportunity to boost your health while supporting underserved communities receive nutritional education, discount juice cleanses and urban agriculture training.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about the SOS’s response to the horrific Trayvon Martin murder? Can you address your ideas around a Truth and Reconciliation Commission?
AshEl Seasunz: We recently hosted one of our most potent monthly SOS Juice events, which was the second in a series on Trauma and Ancestral Healing, called “Trayvon, Trauma and Reconciliation.” We responded to the community’s pain after hearing the Zimmerman verdict by serving our “Beet the System” juice dosed with flower essences that help to erase negative subconscious belief patterns and physical and emotional trauma.
A Yoruban priestess opened up the night, strengthening our ancestral connections. Another facilitator led us through some movement exercises then put us into small groups to address the wounds of racism and injustice that we all experience in this country regardless of our race. Amber Lewis, a nutritionist and cancer survivor based on her raw, vegan diet, gave a short talk on the connection between food, behavior and emotions.
Next we created an opportunity to organize a community of healers to build resiliency in the face of traumatic events. There was even a conversation entertaining the possibilities of the United States creating a Truth and Reconciliation Council like South Africa after Apartheid. Finally, we ended the night with a soulful performance, affirming our freedom and strength.
M.O.I. JR: What is SOS planning for Thursday, Aug. 29?
AshEl Seasunz: This is our third event of the Trauma and Ancestral Healing series: Ancient Medicine for Future Youth at United Roots Oakland. This is also a kick-off to the Regeneration Festival Oakland that is beginning the next day, Aug. 30, across Oakland. More info at www.regenfest-oak.com.
We will have Soka Gakkai International – USA introduce us to their organization and the power chant of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Atava Garcia Swiecicki, Ancestral Apothecary, will educate about and offer samples of local and native herbal and flower medicines. Amber Lewis, from Nutritional Awakening and SOS Juice, will share about her research on the connection between food, behaviors, and emotion followed by a quick healing juice demo.
NLP and Change Work Practitioner Leslie Nipps will introduce and exhibit a Family Constellations session for the youth of Oakland. A. Breeze Harper, PhD, will discuss the links between racism, classism, trauma and food. Lisita Abregu Arroyo will speak about her organization, Saphichay, which means “putting our roots” in Quechua, and the power of connecting to our own individual ancestral roots.
M.O.I. JR: What is the Keystone Pipeline? Can you talk a little bit about your work against the Keystone Pipeline and why you are against it?
AshEl Seasunz: The Keystone Pipeline System is a pipeline system to transport oil sands bitumen from Canada and the northern United States primarily to refineries in the Gulf Coast of Texas. The main issues are the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly sensitive terrain, and 12-17 percent higher greenhouse gas emissions from the extraction of oil sands compared to extraction of conventional oil.
A concern is that a pipeline spill would pollute air and critical water supplies and harm migratory birds and other wildlife. Its original route plan crossed the Sandhills, the large wetland ecosystem in Nebraska, and the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest reserves of fresh water in the world. The Ogallala Aquifer spans eight states, provides drinking water for 2 million people, and supports $20 billion in agriculture. Critics say that a major leak could ruin drinking water and devastate the mid-western U.S. economy.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk about the Keystone event that is also on Aug. 29?
AshEl Seasunz: The event on the 29th is simply a gathering of eco-artivistas who will share their perspective on the matter.
M.O.I. JR: How can people stay up with you and SOS? The Keystone people?
The People’s Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, atwww.blockreportradio.com. He also hosts two weekly shows on KPFA 94.1 FM and kpfa.org: The Morning Mix every Wednesday, 8-9 a.m., and The Block Report every other Friday night-Saturday morning, midnight-2 a.m. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.