“Strange Fruit”: A documentary on food shortage in Baltimore
"Strange Fruit" calls attention to the issue of food insecurity, specifically as it relates to the residents of Baltimore City. Photo by Brent Bemiller.

“Strange Fruit”: A documentary on food shortage in Baltimore

One of the country’s most impoverished cities, Baltimore City, is often presented in a light not true to reality. Most people think of its restaurants and tourist attractions, but a majority of the citizens of Baltimore City do not get to enjoy such luxuries, specifically the luxury that food security has grown to become.

No Boundaries Coalition and Black Yield Institute presented a documentary co-directed by Eric Jackson and Maddie Hardy called “Strange Fruit” which gives attention to food apartheid in Baltimore City and argues that food insecurity is a product of racism, white supremacy, sexism and Capitalism.

The film’s two goals are to shift a positive change in how people talk about food in Baltimore City and to humanize food apartheid. The documentary presented many relevant and mind-opening facts, but did so in a way that was still personable and relatable to the audience.

The directors did this by mainly building the document out of interviews and narratives. Many people shared their personal stories and confrontations with food apartheid then supported these narratives with historical facts.

The whole documentary was inspired by one single narrative belonging to co-director Eric Jackson’s grandmother. In the film, Jackson describes her as a strong figure who, after being diagnosed with diabetes, became an amputee and was forced to become dependent on others.

The theme behind her story is that her environment created the conditions which weakened her, thus contributing to the idea that humans have the power to shape environments strategically to either hurt or help other members of society.

Most people know food insecurity is a national issue, but they do not understand how deep-rooted the issue is. Jackson dates it back to discrepancies over land ownership.

African Americans were wrongly robbed of their land. A woman in the film explained how they, threatened by lynchings, were feared into leaving their land.

The loss of land directly led to the loss of knowledge regarding how to manage and produce food. They were not given the resources to sustain their own lives.

This brought up the discussion on food deserts. “Food deserts” is a term used to describe areas that do not have reasonable access to grocery stores that carry fresh produce and meats.

However, all interviewees argued that the term food deserts is improper. It implies that these areas are lifeless and hopeless. It also suggests that these areas emerged with misfortune and isolation naturally.

They are not natural. Food deserts are created by social construct which is fueled by the biases towards poverty, race, and class. To believe these areas, consciously made products of an unjust federal system and society, are lifeless is completely foul and false.

In the U.S., there is an area called Death Valley. It is pure desert, and there is no vegetation or plant to be seen. Death Valley is barren, for it receives no rain. However, one year, it rained in Death Valley and out emerged a floor of flowers.

The idea behind this story in relation to “Strange Fruits” is this: in nature, there is no such thing as lifelessness. No environment is barren, only deprived. It is human legacy to help other humans, and so, to help those who suffer in Baltimore City, capable citizens must first equip this environment with the resources that will give people in need a chance to, not just survive, but thrive.