Detroit, Michigan 48238
Community organizer, farmer, teacher and change maker are among the hats worn by Kwamena Mensah, agriculture specialist and consultant with Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. As a pioneer in the urban agriculture movement, he has played a huge role in the reform of Detroit’s food system.
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Detroit Black Community Food Security Network Agriculture Specialist/Consultant Kwamena Mensah
: Being a leader entails teaching, mentoring, listening, advising, and providing guidance in producing future leaders. All of my career paths and accumulated education have prepared me for this phase of my life's journey. For example, my work at Detroit City Council, from 2006 to December of 2009, enabled me to assist in getting our licensing agreement through city departments and ultimately approved by the full council. Since then, many policymakers from state and local governments have visited D-Town Farm.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream for kids is to grow to maturity in a safe, healthy, nurturing environment, and for all kids to reach their full potential. Detroit Black Community Food Security Network contributes to a nurturing environment by providing youth summer
Community-led organizing has inspired the urban farming movement that has transformed entire neighborhoods in Detroit.
internships and partnering with area schools in our Food Warriors Program. Youth also participate in our annual D-Town Farm Harvest Festival.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
The one concrete thing that could be done is to direct resources for community-led social sector work; I firmly believe in community solutions and creating an environment to put the power of change into the hands of the people.
Community-led organizing has inspired the urban farming movement that has transformed entire neighborhoods in Detroit. Neighbors, once strangers, have taken the initiative to clean up property and provide security for the gardens. In addition, the health of the citizens in the neighborhoods has been impacted in a positive way.
How do you know you’re making progress?
I know I’m making progress when we are grooming leaders, providing employment, teaching the children, providing fresh produce to the community, influencing public policy, and educating the community on nutrition and food related issues. One progress indicator is our Summer Interns 12-week program where we provide employment and an agriculture and life skills curriculum to 10 members of our community. The Food Warriors program is a partnership between area schools and Detroit Black Community Food Security Network in teaching youth nutrition and creating future leaders in agriculture related careers.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud the creator has enabled me and given me the resources to work for my community. I’m proud of my activism on
What drew me to become involved in Detroit’s food system was observing the high, rampant health-related issues in my community, such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes; the lack of access to fresh produce; and the injustices and disrespect in the food system when it comes to people of color.
behalf of my community throughout the years. I’m also proud of my family role, which entails being a husband, father and grandfather.
I’m proud that I am one of the founding members of Detroit Black Community Food Security Network  and am proud of the work that we have accomplished in continuing to build this organization. We initially started farming four plots of city owned land near the 4H Club on the east side of Detroit. From those beginnings, we have expanded to 7.5 acres, farming organic produce located in Rouge Park. Detroit Black Community Food Security Network researched and created Detroit's food policy document, and we took the lead in the formation of the Detroit Food Policy Council.
What originally drew you to your current profession and was it a conscious choice that you became involved in the reform of Detroit’s food system?
What drew me to become involved in Detroit’s food system was observing the high, rampant health-related issues in my community, such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes; the lack of access to fresh produce; and the injustices and disrespect in the food system when it comes to people of color. All revolutionary work is rewarding, a new worldwide paradigm shift in consciousness is occurring before our eyes. The work continues.