UW Students Create ‘Nourish’ to Document Local Organizers’ Histories Through Family Recipes

by Ronnie Estoque

University of Washington (UW) students Josh Williams, Cassidy McGee, Alyssa Kearns, Sandra Li, and Dionica Sy were placed in a project group for their two-quarter Foster School of Business course called “Creating a Company Class,” which began last September. After witnessing a 2020 packed with various social movements sustained by community organizations, they chose to create a book called Nourish, a collection of short stories, photos, and recipes from 10 local Seattle organizers.

“Food is integral to our liberation,” Sy said in a video preview published on Nourish’s Instagram feed last week.

Featured in the book are community organizers Nica Sy, JM Wong, Rogue Pinay (Kalayo Pestaño), Rell Be Free (Jerrell Davis), Jill Mangaliman, Johnny Fikru, Nancy Huizar, Evana Enabulele, Clara Duffy, and Jasmine Fernandez. These organizers have had a positive impact on the local Seattle community through their advocacy work with COVID-19 Mutual Aid, King County Equity Now, Decriminalize Seattle, Queer The Land, BAYAN, Got Green, and No New Washington Prisons.

Proceeds from the 100+ page softcover book will be donated evenly to COVID-19 Mutual Aid, Nurturing Roots, Queer The Land, Got Green, and No New Washington Prisons. The book will also feature photos in color from local artists in the area.

“We decided to donate the proceeds of the book to local organizations because we knew that the business school did not need the money from our product as much as the community would benefit,” UW senior Josh Williams said. “Nourish is a book by the community and for the community.”

Manifesting Nourish was challenging in the sense that it was outside of a typical company model that most of their other classmates had created, but their professor approved the proposal right away. Food was a central focus of the book because of its ability to bring community members together and the culture that exists in various recipes that have been passed down generations.

A big focus of the book is to preserve the history of organizers and the role that food has had in sustaining the work that they do in the community, as well as connecting folks in the community who might be unfamiliar with their work.

“Food not only nourishes the physical body, but it nourishes the soul,” one of the authors said in an email statement from Nourish.Sy played a monumental role in getting the authors for the book. According to Nourish, her organizing experience helped with outreach.

“The creation of this book is so exemplary of the connectedness of organizing … This group was brought together by shared experience, shared struggle, shared work, and shared trust,” Sy said.

According to her, the grassroots movement in Seattle has been building for decades from various organizations and coalitions, and she hopes that Nourish can be a platform for organizers to tell their stories and histories. Sy also believes that food is vital for liberation because it sustains life, so necessary during the past year, when societal issues have intensified. “We have people all over the country, especially in our communities, who aren’t getting their basic needs met,” Sy said. “There are people who are unsafe, who are unhoused, who don’t have food on the table, who don’t have jobs, who don’t have an income.”

Sy’s experience as an organizer in the community has also shaped her own personal vision of what liberation means to her: “A world in which our systems aren’t grounded in carceral punishment, a system in which we don’t rely on locking people up to create safety,” Sy said.

Nourish is available for purchase at its website. According to their site, Nourish expects to have the book delivered by March 1, but some deliveries may be delayed due to COVID-19.

Ronnie Estoque is a Seattle-based storyteller and aspiring documentarian. He is driven to uplift marginalized voices in the South Seattle community through his writing, photography, and videography. You can keep up with his work by following his Twitter and Instagram.

Featured Image: University of Washington seniors and Nourish team members, Josh Williams (left) and Dionica Sy (right), stand at the Jefferson Park viewpoint in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. They plan to donate proceeds from their book to local community organizations that have sustained local social movements over the years. (Photo Credit: Ronnie Estoque).

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