Hello Anti-racist friends!
This month, I’ve been enjoying the delicious local VT harvest- strawberries, raspberries, corn etc. etc.. I’ve also been helping my white friends who have houses with their gardens. It’s made me so abundantly grateful that we have access to local fresh produce and that our state is teeming with so many successful small organic farms. And I’m so grateful that our state has such incredibly gorgeous and nutrient-rich farm land! It is truly a privilege. Access to farm land is a privilege. Access to fresh produce is a privilege. Access to a yard to have garden on is a privilege. And it got me thinking about Black farmers and the relationship between Black people and land.
Black property ownership in the country remains low (from USA Today) –
“Among Black families, 44% owned their own home as of the first quarter of this year compared to 73.7% of white families, according to the U.S. Census. And that disparity is even greater depending on the city, according to an analysis of census data by the national real estate brokerage Redfin. Homeownership is critical to the accumulation of wealth and a factor in the stark difference between the net worth of white families, which was $171,000 in 2016, versus Black families who had a net worth of $17,150 according to Brookings Institution.”
There is a similar story when it comes to Black-owned farm land (from the Equal Justice Initiative) –
“Today, the vast majority of Black farmland in America is owned by white people or corporations. From a million Black farmers in 1914, there were 18,000 in 1992. … The large wealth gap between white and Black families today exists in part because of this historic loss.”
In this country, land ownership means capital and sovereignty. We all know that Black people in this country have been denied housing through red-lining policies for decades, but they have also been disenfranchised by white racist systems that hurt black farmers and food producers.
An incredible podcast “1619” , from the New York Times, does a two-part episode about the loss of black-owned farm land and its devastating effects on Black families- Listen and Learn Here
Taken from Mistinguette Smith of the Black/Land Project, from “By Land, Made Kin”
“People seek to return to ancestral lands, to locate the one place on which they know their people set foot. This seeking is more than just compensation for the conditions of constant displacement that create the condition of blackness. Black Americans—whether they are the descendants of slaves or first-generation Nigerian-Americans—define their connection to land as caring not only for the land but also for the stories of the people who have shared it. Shared tenure begets kinship; the land itself becomes kindred. A place becomes your home because your people are on the land…But there is something in blackness that knows property is a temporary agreement with the government, one easily revoked by the stroke of a pen or a calculating mob of white men with guns. Land, however, is something else. Land is something you know, and it knows you. Centuries of caring for land can bind people together with something stronger than shackles and deeper than freedom. Land, like blood, makes ties that cannot be unbound.”
So–We all know that property and farm land in VT are prohibitively expensive, even for white families. How can we support Black Vermonters in obtaining property and land in this amazing state? I’ve been thinking about supporting Black Vermonters in FOOD SOVEREIGNTY. It’s different than food security. What is Food Sovereignty? “Food Sovereignty”, a “term coined by members of Via Campesina in 1996, asserts that the people who produce, distribute, and consume food should control the mechanisms and policies of food production and distribution.” Aka, how can we support Black Farmers and chefs in Vermont? How can we help them secure land and property such that they can produce food on their own terms for their own communities?
There are two local (Burlington-area) causes I ask us to donate to THIS MONTH, and tell your white friends to donate to as well-
Cafe Mamajuana in Burlington is a Black-woman owned Dominican, African, Spanish and Sicilian fusion restaurant and needs funds to secure a brick-and-mortar location. It would be the first Afro-Latinx restaurant in VT – Donate to Cafe Mamajuana
Candace Taylor (Black herbalist, yoga instructor, chef and all-around amazing human) of Conscious Homestead needs some funding to start an BIPOC Urban Farm and Wholeness Center in Winooski. As many of you may know, Winooski is one of the most diverse and poorest towns in the state. This Urban farm would include a learning kitchen, classes, farm stand and mentorship programs. s