by Tareek Leonard
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains”
― Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography
This quote closed out the Black Farmers and Urban Growers Conference in North Carolina and it was extremely fitting of the experience. Each line in Assata’s quote allows us to reflect on the ways in which Black people have, should, and will continue to strive in terms of Land, Food, and Farm Worker Justice.
To “Fight for our freedom” doesn’t always have to mean a direct physical conflict. Fighting for our freedom could mean getting together groups of dedicated individuals to fight off the forces of food apartheid in a major US city; Soul Fire Farms is a space in Grafton, New York that does just that while also empowering Black and Brown folx to become future agricultural leaders who are also on the right side of history.
To “Love and support one another” is to hear and stand with historic farm working communities such as Lake Apopka. Ms. Linda Lee and Cheyanne Swift of the Farmworker Association of Florida, and Robyn Thomas of Hope CommUnity Center, all Apopka residents, allowed us to love and support them as they shared how their community has been ravaged by pesticide poisoning, privatization, and state and municipal neglect. But, they still are able to instill values of autonomy and collectivism through their roots based in agriculture.
To say that we have “Nothing to lose but our chains” speaks to a larger pathology relating to the Black Diaspora and farm work. Too often any Black people, especially our youth, look down upon farming and farm work. This can be due to intergenerational trauma that mediates our relationship to the land as one that only invokes feelings of “other”-ness, oppression, and death.
Overall, the conference itself with its ability to bring together so many people, each full with knowledge to transmit to others, allows us to break those chains in relation to the way we view the land we stand on and the work done to cultivate it. In short, The BUGs Conference was an experience of reinterpretation regarding Black People and Farming/Farmwork. Through the words of Assata and the brilliant workshops put on throughout the weekend one thing becomes clear; now, through the amazing work that people have done, should do, and will continue to do, people will see freedom when they think of land, rather than oppression.
We want to say THANK YOU to the many wonderful supporters who made this trip possible through the NFWM’s Youth & Young Adult Orlando chapter fundraising drive. The YAYAs raised $3,948.54 through bake sales, online fundraising and individual asks. They exceeded their goal! The remaining funds will go toward continuing work for justice for Black farm workers in Central Florida. View their video Thank You message.