How many of us will inherit the land of a black father? As our nation and the world become more urbanized we are all looking closely at the food system. Some have focused their attention on the unimaginable consequences of genetically engineered seeds and pests. Some are directing tremendous amounts of currency and influence into farm technology as a means of harvesting and selling ‘data’ on the world market to more accurately gamble with the wealth of investors. Many of us who have decided to feed our communities are learning to balance aggressive, grassroots activism with virtual negotiations on social media between allies and infiltrators. All the while we must honor the primary purpose for the work, which is feeding our families. Why would any black father in this time choose to farm?
We are immersed in the spiral of #foodsovereignty #landrightsnow #blacklivesmatter #standingrock #localfood and #permaculture. It seems like the ideal time in our nation’s history to acknowledge the power, potency, intelligence and transformative impact that black men personify when we grow food. The wealth of this nation is built on the skill and love that we have always demonstrated in the process of tending the Earth, even under the terror of violence and forced labor. When we examine closely some of the most influential urban farms in North America in this present time we are continually faced with the dedication of black men, Will Allen of www.groingpower.org, Rashid Nuri of www.trulylivingwell.org, Malik Yakini www.d-townfarm.com and more. Still as we witness the development of food system ‘alliances’ and social media groups we notice that there is a consistent theme that is reflected in the imaging and there are also very consistent omissions in that imaging.
It is standard practice at this time for local food non-profit organizations to have 4–9 paid positions for non growers while operating in cities where there is a tremendous deficiency in financially stable, land owning urban farmers. In Atlanta we witness the start of new food access organizations whose operating budget comes primarily from private foundations, attempting to represent ‘farmers’ in the community. These same organizations are continuously expanding and hiring for newly created positions that are funded to gather data while farmers and their proposals for solution based partnerships are ignored and even sabotaged. There is plenty of funding available for food access work. There are plenty of resources for local community garden projects that prohibit the sale of produce or development of enterprise. Where are the funds for land acquisition, land trusts, coops, reparations and social enterprise development??
We are in the moment of serious decisions. We are all faced with the daily challenge of providing for our families in an honest way. Some of us are offered the opportunity to wear the mask and play the game. Many of the folks around me are encouraging me to do so. What is often hard for people to believe is that the black fathers who farm in this country at this time truly love our families. Many of us began growing as an act of support for our pregnant mates to demonstrate the action of working tangibly to secure the nutrition our family deserves. Many of us have experienced unemployment, wrongful termination, wrongful imprisonment and brutality from police as well as our own community. Nelson Mandela says of his experience in the prison farm, “In some ways, I saw the garden as a metaphor for certain aspects of my life. A leader must also tend his garden; he, too, plants seeds, and then watches, cultivates, and harvests the results. Like the gardener, a leader must take responsibility for what he cultivates; he must mind his work, try to repel enemies, preserve what can be preserved, and eliminate what cannot succeed.”
There are very clear lessons that come along with where and when we are born and live our life. To be born a black man in Kemet (Egypt) 3000 years ago would likely have been very different than being born as a black man in North America in the 21st century. These are my lessons as I walk as a man. Our Soul is the authentic timeless truth of who we are, and in many indigenous cultures death was an opportunity to move to the next phase of existence. People say that farmers must have hope to plant the seeds. Hope for the energy of creation and germination. Some say the Pharos of ancient times were living on earth to prepare for the after life. As we face the sobering violence and systemic oppression that is cultivated like a contagion in the United States the hope of black fathers who farm points toward a time when the harvest will be precious and valuable. These are the living descendants of those who have always known the truth of #lifeafterdeath.