21-Week Racial Equity in the Food System Challenge

July 5, 2020 - November 29, 2020

Recent events have forced all of us to reevaluate our understanding of race and the role of structural and institutional racism in our society. Here in Montana, these issues can feel distant and unrelated to our work and daily lives. AERO is working to recognize our own oversights, and acknowledge the day to day realities faced by our peers, neighbors and colleagues of color.

 We feel strongly that all of us must step up to act in support of efforts led by Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Simultaneously, we must do our own work to listen, reflect, and learn.

AERO empowers communities to nurture and promote a more sustainable Montana; work that emphasizes resilient communities and food systems. But resilient communities cannot truly exist if inequality and racism persist unchallenged or ignored.

Black, Indigenous and people of color deserve transformational change. Four hundred year old inequities in our society require anti-racist actions from White folks. And in response, we are offering our community a tool to expand our understanding of the deeply-embedded racism within our food systems and ourselves. We hope you will take this opportunity to dive in.

We respectfully invite you to join us on a personal learning journey: the 21-Week Challenge.

Food Solutions New England initiated this Challenge six years ago, and we thank them for allowing us to adapt this tool – including their language explaining this effort – for use in Montana.

The Challenge, originally designed and hosted by Food Solutions New England 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge, is shared with organizations and individuals in a 21-Day framework. We have chosen to adapt the original Challenge into a 21-WEEK Learning Journey to allow participants to dive more deeply.

The Challenge is designed to raise awareness and shift understanding by going beyond individual or interpersonal racism to demystify structural and institutional racism. It invites us to dive more deeply into the realities behind terms that make us uncomfortable, like ‘white supremacy’ and ‘white privilege’. Finally, the Challenge inspires us to act – on our own or with others in our organization, business, institution, or personal circles – to change racist systems.

Be prepared to feel uncomfortable and to sit with the complexity of it all. We encourage you to be honest with yourself, to be humbled, and to be inspired. We will be doing the work alongside you.


How It Works

Every Sunday morning beginning July 5th, you’ll receive an email “prompt” with a short message and a link to the original “21-day challenge” reading, video or audio files. Extra resources are offered if you want to dig further into the topic. 

That’s it. The rest is up to you: make time to read, to explore, to reflect. Find ways to act. Accept that this is a long, complex, evolving journey. These weekly prompts can serve as an opportunity to begin building consistent habits surrounding our education and participation in this work. The work does not end after 21 weeks.

We recognize the power of conversation, and the importance of learning together.  

AERO does not have capacity to offer experienced facilitation at this time, yet we want to offer this as a personal learning tool now, while the unacceptable violence and denial of racism are top-of-mind, even for those who don’t recognize racism as part of their day-to-day lives. Toward that end, we encourage the following:

  • If you are moved to bring together a small group of friends, family or colleagues for discussion, please do! 
  • In conversation, remember to listen deeply. Do not expect closure. Be patient. Explore why you hear or see a term or situation differently. Speak your truth. Then listen again, deeply.
  • To help create safe spaces for discussion and learning, Food Solutions New England has created a Discussion Guide and Tools for Groups. These are professional, well designed and thoughtful tools.

AERO will be relying on these tools for internal meetings throughout this 21-Week Learning Journey.  

At the end of 21 weeks, on November 29th, we will send a follow up note.

A Final Thought

Encouraged by those consulted prior to sharing this invitation, we are honored to offer this tool in a structured way to Montanans. We are eager to hear your thoughts and experiences during this 21-Week Learning Journey. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, to share your insights or questions or thoughts regarding this challenge and how we may walk forward together toward an inclusive, equitable, anti-racist society.

Alternative Energy Resources Organization

Mailing address: PO Box 1558, Helena MT 59624

Physical address: 32 S Ewing St #333, Helena MT 59601