Championing Black permaculture

Updated: Jan 23

The deeper I dig into this journey, the more I feel connected to my roots. As an African American, I am often reminded of the omission of our history and the denial of our rich cultural inheritance. Though I know our lineage and decent, there is a void. I don't know who I am made of, however I do know what I am made of. My vested interests in permaculture and food sovereignty are an act of rebellion. It is a form of resistance, reclamation and protest centered in Black and Brown resiliency.

As I work in the soil and water, and the life that lay in waiting, I am reminded of the history of my people. On our continent, we understood and embraced nature. We were acutely aware of the delicate balance and our existence within it. Our history as Americans is similar except the balance we maintain is not ours to control. I am reminded of the back breaking labor, blood, sweat and tears of BIPOC people as we built and entire nation. A nation that barely honors our contributions and stripped us of possibility and opportunity. I am reminded of the land we tilled and harvested, and what little of that was or is ours today. We were slaves to people that we fed and clothed in the very communities we weren't allowed to be part of.

That is not to say we haven't come a long way. There is no doubt about it, but we are still left in the dust. In the area of agriculture, Black farmers make up less than 1 percent of an already small industry. While white farming families have passed down their family farms , BIPOC farmers, as well as our general population, struggle to secure generational wealth of any kind. Systemic racism is of course at fault as well as The Homestead act of 1862 that gave white land owners the edge. Our future in the area of agriculture is uncertain with the withering of our elders, the literal death of a wealth of knowledge, as well as the continued lack of legislation to bolster the decline. A quick search will show you that homesteading, permaculture and agriculture are still heavily dominated and influenced by white people. This shouldn't come as much of a shock as clubs like FFA are not typically offered in predominately Black schools. It is also not often considered a pathway in Black culture. As we fled and were pushed into urban epicenters the land was not farm but concrete. Even in rural America, the scarcity of resources and racism have kept us from further growth in the field.

Those that should be allies, such as the USDA, have come under fire for perpetuating the issue. For instance, the USDA's loan programs that supposedly exist to broaden and diversify farming do anything but. Stipulations such as requiring several years of experience, an FFA prerequisite, finding and paying a farming mentor or scout, owning land, etc., are extreme barriers. For folks like me who are rural, brown, & entrepreneurs, we have even less access to qualifying business loans that are otherwise available for urban community members. We are an invisible but steadily increasing demographic.

We are in a battle to dismantle the ideals that have kept us from our full potential, while continuing to forge ahead to success. I have come across many stories of tenacity and courage in growing while Black. I was taught that anything worth having is worth fighting for. For me, our successes have little if anything to do with "pulling ourselves up by our own boot straps." Especially in a system that has all but addressed structural racism. It shouldn't be about survival of the fittest. If I've learned anything from plant life it is that our symbiotic relationship to one another should always be the focus. Greed and a hunger to dominate is responsible for our current standing. Despite the glaring disparities, I remain hopeful and encouraged. We still have a shared responsibility to nurture and care for each other. Healers, protectors of earth, children of The Universe.. we are the future.

We are exactly who our ancestors envisioned. We are joyful. We are proud. We are growing in the non physical sense and in our connection to one another. We are once again feeding and fostering strong, healthy communities.

Black plant joy and permaculture gives me life. Why? Because it is in direct defiance of cultural norms. While we are not always plastered on magazine covers or featurettes, we are here and deserve to be acknowledged. Not for notoriety but for our people. Our existence in this space and the knowledge we are passing down is invaluable, both to our survival and our progress.

I am so ecstatic for my children to see what we we are doing and what can be. We are attempting to build a culture of opportunity and prosperity. To live green and be well isn't just for the crunchy granolas out there. It's for everyone. It is especially for our people in the most honest sense because we have been outpriced and gentrified into poor health and poverty. We are still fighting for clean water and accessibility to food. I hope as I awaken that my story encourages you take on this challenge and be changed by it as well. One day, our collective talent will become our Renaissance.

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