From the president
Respect Djunga is a junior Reconciliation Studies major at Bethel University. Respect’s understanding of food scarcity shapes his deep empathy for those encountering socio-economic adversity. During the summer of 2022, Respect devoted 40 hours a week to participate in projects supervised by the non-profit organization, Urban Farm and Garden Alliance. The experience of learning from and collaborating with multigenerational and multi-cultural members of the Frogtown/University-Summit community impacted Respect deeply. He saw the value of a community growing vegetables and flowers to share with neighborhood members. He cherished the stories of those who cultivated the land for all. Respect also works alongside a multi-ethnic group of undergraduate students from across the United States, committed to advancing public health equity through initiatives run by the Baltimore Urban Studies program. Respect has thrived in learning about the relationship between public health, reconciliation, and transformational learning. Together, these experiences have strengthened his resolve to partner with others in supplying generous services that honor the human dignity and vital contributions of urban community members from all walks of life.
While I grew up in poverty, I was still somewhat privileged. My mother did everything she could to ensure I went to school, even if it meant missing utilities payments. I was taught in school that the reason so many people experienced poverty was that they were lazy. With no understanding of systemic injustice, I found myself believing such lies. I began to convince myself that had my mother graduated from university or worked even harder to find a better job, we wouldn’t have been in our situation. However, during my second year in college, I got the opportunity to work for the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance, a program combating food apartheid in St. Paul, Minnesota. While working for the program, I was able to engage with communities that had been negatively affected by redlining and learn about the role it played in creating generational poverty within the black community. After this experience, it has been very hard to be satisfied with the way those in power are dealing with this past. Instead of dealing with it in a manner that heals those who were hurt, those in power are attempting to hide and ignore history.