rebirthing 'the commons' for racial justice
Taking Action to Support Black-led Organizations on the Land
How do we engage the energy of this moment? Steeped in historical, legal and social disenfranchisement, the ongoing violence against black lives calls for long term, place-based and collaborative work. What would it look like to be in solidarity with all life? What would it look like to reimagine the commons*?
We need a “commoning” of privilege and wealth, a systemic transformation that counters the great “uncommoning” of schools, land, security, and resources that have shaped America’s historical looting. Let us build equity and make reparations through redesigning the food system and land arrangements whose roots are racist, colonial, and capitalist.
This work can take the form of securing land tenure for black farmers in rural spaces and in urban food apartheid; it can take the form of policies that create healthy, equitable food systems for both farmworkers and the land; it can happen with dismantling the mass incarceration system. Whatever form it takes, success depends on the generosity of those with access to capital and privilege to use their proximity to institutions of power for the rebirth of a new commons.
This calls for great organizational acuity and lots of work - work that is already being done by Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and POC farmers, organizations, and institutions. Below we have highlighted some of the many outstanding organizations doing this work with links to support them directly, along with resources for education and sharing. This list is in no way comprehensive, and we encourage you to comment below with any other organizations that are doing this work.
* “The commons” is a multilayered theoretical concept. Within the boundaries of the commons are physical land and waters, resources, public goods, structures of governance, culture, and knowledge and theory. While the commons can simply be imagined as shared resources, they have also come to represent a framework for thinking about ideologies, community, sustainability, and governance.
P.S. We’re building out a new website with updated blog and resource sections - how can we continue this conversation and make information sharing more useful to you? What do you want to see?
- Southern Foodways Alliance: Fighting for the Promised Land - A Story of Farming & Racism
- Point of Origin - a podcast uplifting the voices of women and people of color
- “Gastronomy and the social justice reality of food": TED talk by Michael Twitty
- The Atlantic: How Black Americans Were Robbed of Their Land
- Vice: The Young Black Farmers Defying A Legacy of Discrimination
- Freedom Farmers, Monica White
- Farming While Black, Leah Penniman
- Black Farmers in America, John Francis Ficara
- Dispossession: Discrimination Against African American Farmers in the Age of Civil Rights, Pete Daniels
- The Cooking Gene: a Journey through African American Culinary History, Michael Twitty
- What's In A Social Justice Diet?, Rav Levy-Uyeda
- Indignant Heart, Charles Denby
- Survival Pending Revolution, Raj Patel
- Verso Books is providing a limited time free download of “The End of Policing”
Black Family Land Trust
The Black Family Land Trust, Inc. (BFLT) incorporated in 2004 and based in North Carolina, is one of the nation’s only conservation land trust dedicated to the preservation and protection of African-American and other historically underserved landowners assets.
Black Farmer Fund
The Black Farmer Fund supports black farmers by increasing access to capital, supporting business ownership, supporting economic democracy, and creating social and cultural changes to support black sovereignty within the food and farm economy.
Earthseed Land Cooperative
Formally established in 2012 by a group of black and brown farmers and social justice organizers. Over the past decade, they have sought to establish a stable land base for their families and an equally grounded, self-sustaining, and welcoming hub for community building, particularly among farmers of color and food justice advocates, in Durham, North Carolina.
Farms to Grow
Farms to Grow, Inc is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to working with Black farmers and underserved sustainable farmers around the country. Farms To Grow, Inc. is committed to sustainable farming and innovative agriculture practices which preserve the cultural and biological diversity, the agroecological balance of the local environment.
Land Loss Prevention Projec
LLPP is a non-profit public interest group that has been working for almost 40 years to curtail the epidemic loss of black-owned land in North Carolina. They provide planning and legal support, succession planning, and fight legal takings of black-owned land. LLPP helps farmers function under the weight of debt and market fluctuations, while supporting sustainable ecological and economic practices.
New Communities Land Trus
New Communities Land Trust is a 501(c)(4) that began as a 5700-acre farm collective, and is widely recognized as the original model for community land trusts in the United States, and has been protecting communities of color in Georgia at a grassroots level for over 40 years, working for the better of human communities, wildlife habitat, and racial justice.
Planting Justice is a grassroots organization with a mission to empower people impacted by mass incarceration and other social inequities with the skills and resources to cultivate food sovereignty, economic justice, and community healing. Since 2009 Planting Justice has built over 450 edible permaculture gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area, worked with five high-schools to develop food justice curricula and created 40 green jobs in the food justice movement for folks transitioning from prison.
Soul Fire Farm
Soul Fire Farm is a BIPOC*-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. We raise and distribute life-giving food as a means to end food apartheid. With deep reverence for the land and wisdom of our ancestors, we work to reclaim our collective right to belong to the earth and to have agency in the food system. We bring diverse communities together on this healing land to share skills on sustainable agriculture, natural building, spiritual activism, health, and environmental justice. We are training the next generation of activist-farmers and strengthening the movements for food sovereignty and community self-determination. Soul Fire’s Founder, Leah Penniman, is also the author of Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land.
Read their Action Steps for Food Sovereignty
Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network
Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON) is a nonprofit based in Atlanta, GA. We are a network of Black farmers in the Southeastern United States who are committed to culturally relevant, ancestrally guided, and ecologically sustainable agricultural-based living. SAAFON’s higher calling is to seek the liberation and empowerment of Black people through agricultural, food, and land-based strategies. We promote agricultural production and land management practices that are rooted in indigenous ways of knowing that span geographies, space and time. We recognize, honor and uplift the ways of our ancestors and ask for their guidance as we show how Black agrarianism offers solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of our communities. The SAAFON network allows our members to connect with like-minded farmers, to build collective power in order to achieve our visions of land-based success, and to model alternative ways of living in the 21st century.