Jaya N. Touma-Kajatt Shoatz (They/She), one of ShiftMeals BIPOC Food Sovereignty Program Co-Managers and the BIPOC Growteam Art Coordinator, is a local student and artist. They designed hoodies for the 2021 ShiftMeals’ BIPOC GrowTeam with the Growteams principles at heart: Interdependence, Abundance, Knowledge, Wisdom, and Harmony. Using Adinkra symbols of the Akan culture to reflect the heritage inherent in the practices offered in the program, Jaya connects land sovereignty with indigenous land practices. They reflect the ancestral traditions and beliefs of West Africa that have survived in African American culture and how they will aid us in the fight for food and land justice and Afro-liberation.

ANANSE NTONTAN“spider’s web”
symbol of wisdom, creativity and the complexities of life 
Ananse, the spider, is a well-known character in African folktales.
“sack of cola nuts” 
symbol of affluence, power, abundance, plenty, togetherness and unit
The cola nut played an important role in the economic life of Ghana.
A widely-used cash crop, it is closely associated with affluence and abundance. 
This symbol also represents the role of agriculture and trade in bringing people together.
BI NKA BI“No one should bite the other” This symbol cautions against provocation and strife. 
“No one should bite the other” 
symbol of peace and harmony
The image is based on two fish biting each other’s tails.
BOA ME NA ME MMOA WO“Help me and let me help you”symbol of cooperation and interdependence
NEA ONNIM NO SUA A, OHU“He who does not know can know from learning”symbol of knowledge, life-long education and continued quest for knowledge

Their use of the Winooski onion reflects the connections between the trauma that descendants of Chattel Slavery have experienced on stolen land and acknowledging the indispensable space for Afro-Indigenous solidarity. They also use this to pay homage to Afro-Indigenous (specifically Abenaki) people, culture, and ways of being with the land, guiding the BIPOC GrowTeam.

It is crucial to recognize the immense struggle and labor of love behind them when wearing these symbols. They represent not only 400 years of oppression, struggle, and white supremacy but also the joy, survival, and strength we have pulled from ancient knowledge and our communities under the harshest of conditions. 

White folks who intend to purchase this hoodie must wear them with respect, honor, reverence, gratitude, and understanding of the people and land they come from. The struggles that they survived continue to be embodied in our communities and how we care for each other. This is an integral part of distinguishing between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation.

A significant aspect of appreciation is putting money behind the creators, storykeepers, and the descendants of the people from whom the symbols and art come. Regrettably, white supremacy and capitalism are responsible for a long, sordid history of oppressing and stealing BIPOC culture for profit and personal gain. Therefore, it is imperative to return that money in excess when invited to participate in BIPOC culture. 

All proceeds from the hoodies support the BIPOC GrowTeam co-hosted by ShiftMeals and Conscious Homestead

If you would like to continue to support Jaya N. Touma-Kajatt Shoatz you can find their information below:

Commissions: [email protected]

Instagram: @tlazolteotlartpage

Cashapp: $tlazolteotl

Venmo: @jaya-toumashoatz