“It is the end of a family – when they begin to sell the land… Out of the land we came and into it we must go – and if you will hold your land you can live … if you sell the land, it is the end.” - The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
February’s coming to a close. I’m starting to look at the plant containers in the tiny garden on my deck, their soil still covered in snow and ice, and my mind is calculating. As it forms a lists of seeds and a schedule for the staggered planting of romaine lettuce, Swiss chard, collards, kale, and arugula, it also paints a picture of seedlings happily plucked from the shelves at Lowes.
I can feel the shift. There were times in the past when I was so bogged down, so mentally disoriented that I could not align with and enjoy this change. But now that I’ve dedicated myself to that alignment, the change is delightful, and I flow with it even when I’m not trying. I’ve learned to stop and observe, to meditate in the open air and remember from whence I came.
I’m thawing. I may be groggy from the still long stretches of night, drained by recent storms and all that comes with them, and dazed by the happenings in yet another year of seemingly nonstop work, but my mental hibernation is waning. I’m becoming more social again. My mental freeze – the deep need for silence and the strong desire to be alone, to rest – is giving way to planning, and I am hopeful again of the prospect of living a sane life at a sane pace on my terms. I’m getting closer.
“Take what you need, and leave our land the way you found it.” - African Proverb
Putting feet to ground and hands to soil is a critical habit for me in maintaining that kind of life – a life of freedom. I shudder to think that many of my Black peers will not enter cruise ships because our ancestors were carried into a legacy of bondage and torture on ships; will not even consider living abroad because they feel shackled to this land where rivers of the blood of our direct ancestors flow; will not think of bending under the blazing sun to tend a row of plants because our forebears had no choice but to do so.
Their minds are still in chains. They don’t realize that our ancestors endured so that we could have the liberty to move throughout the world at our leisure, as we see fit, enjoying the sights and sounds, meeting the people, dancing a dance with air, sea and land that keeps us nourished, joy-strong, and free.
“If two brothers fight over their father's land, it is a stranger who will enjoy their sweat and labour.” - African Proverb
They don’t value the land. Maybe they don’t know what it’s worth. They don’t understand that the deep dark soil – like the darkness of our skin, like the darkness of the seemingly endless universe – is Infinite Potential itself. It is a womb of vitamins, minerals and possibilities.
Land is the vault, the original storehouse. It brings life itself into being and offers us a final embrace in death. It forms and stores our diamonds, gold, gems, precious metals, food, and secrets. The land doesn’t just hold our treasure, it is our treasure. It is truly “where the money resides”.
When lack of knowledge, poor planning, lack of unity, lack of initiative, and small thinking all result in the dilapidation of our homes and neighborhoods, and someone else swoops in to “improve” what we refused to maintain, we call it a crying shame. I say shame on us, because we don’t know the value of that blood-bought land, and we of all people should know it by now.
In the Information Age, gentrification and heirs property issues are old news. We should be our own gentrifiers. Like the late Francis Cress Welsing said, there’s a reason they call it RACE. It is a game that we should be fully aware of by now.
We should understand the land, and we should never forget that we are the land.
Happy Black History Month.
“Take your spear and shield and I will take my hatchets and axe and protect our land from the intruder…” - Excerpt from an Eritrean proverb
For a deeper look at the issues around land ownership and the ways in which some are working to preserve land and profit from land investment, check out this (not at all comprehensive) list of resources:
I. LEGAL EDUCATION AND SERVICES FOR LAND PRESERVATION
A. Center for Heirs Property Preservation
“We help families protect and keep their family land…build generational wealth and…grow “working” landscapes…. We offer legal education and direct legal services to help families reach agreement, clear title to family land and probate estates… We offer forestry education and services to help landowners understand the value of managing their forestland for greater income.”
B. What is heirs property, and why is it a problem?
C. The Benefits of Land Trusts
“A land trust is a legal entity that takes ownership of, or authority over, a piece of property at the behest of the property owner. Like other types of trust, each land trust’s terms are unique… Title-holding land trusts, also known as Illinois land trusts, protect landowner anonymity and keep property out of probate. Conservation land trusts are tasked with the management of undeveloped land to maintain natural resources, historical sites, and public recreational areas for future generations.”
“Community land trusts are nonprofit, community-based organizations designed to ensure community stewardship of land. Community land trusts can be used for many types of development (including commercial and retail), but are primarily used to ensure long-term housing affordability. To do so, the trust acquires land and maintains ownership of it permanently. With prospective homeowners, it enters into a long-term, renewable lease instead of a traditional sale. When the homeowner sells, the family earns only a portion of the increased property value. The remainder is kept by the trust, preserving the affordability for future low- to moderate-income families.”
II. FARMING AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY
A. Ancestral Case Study: FANNIE LOU HAMER founds Freedom Farm Cooperative
“In 1969, Mrs. Hamer founded the Freedom Farm Cooperative with a $10,000 donation from Measure for Measure, a charitable organization based in Wisconsin. The former sharecropper purchased 40 acres of prime Delta land. It was her attempt to empower poor Black farmers and sharecroppers, who, for generations, had been at the mercy of the local white landowners...
However, the Freedom Farm was unable to sustain itself. It never received the institutional backing that was necessary to make it a viable organization. And it was not a commercial venture, thus without continuing resources at the federal level, it made it almost impossible to survive.”
"If you give a hungry man food, he will eat it. [But] if you give him land, he will grow his own food.” - Fannie Lou Hamer
B. Soul Fire Farm, Founded, Co-Directed and Managed by Leah Penniman
“Soul Fire Farm is an Afro-indigenous centered community farm committed to uprooting racism and seeding sovereignty 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.”
“UJIMA: Food Sovereignty, Fannie Lou Hamer, & How to make Kraut!”
C. Freight Farms
“…at Freight Farms, we believe that healthy food is a right, not a luxury. For this reason, we are dedicated to making fresh food accessible to anyone, anywhere, any time with a complete platform of products and services.”
III. SUSTAINABILITY, GLOBAL URBAN AND LAND PLANNING
A. United Nations Global Land Outlook
“The premise of the Global Land Outlook (GLO) is that land, and its associated resources such as soil, water, and biodiversity, comprise a relatively fixed stock of natural capital… The GLO publications focus on a positive narrative and provide a clear set of responses to optimize land use, management, and planning, and thereby create synergies among different sectors in the provision of land-based goods and services.”
B. Urban Green-Blue Grids for sustainable and resilient cities
“The quality of our future, the quality of urban life and the functioning of the city thus depends on the quality with which we shape our cities, restructuring and transforming toward a sustainable city… Green-blue urban planning can offer more room for the development of biodiversity and a healthier, more attractive living environment.”
IV. LAND AS AN INVESTMENT AND A HERITAGE
When it comes to investing, y’all can miss me with the get rich quick schemes, investing “secrets”, and big ticket classes run by fast-talking bro coaches. It may not sound sexy, but for the levelheaded investor who’s interested in stability and long-term growth, land is an option that shouldn’t be overlooked.
“10 Reasons Why LAND is the BEST Future Proof Investment”
“How Property Law is Used to Appropriate Black Land” (and how to flip the script)
V. MEDIA BONUS
They share some very compelling stories about gentrification in Philadelphia on WURD radio, but there’s also much more.
“WURD is the only African-American owned and operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania, and one of few in the country. WURD serves as the heartbeat and pulse of Philadelphia’s African-American community by providing information and solutions that educate, uplift and inspire.”
https://wurdradio.com/ Click play to listen live.
As always, any link that I share is for your learning pleasure. It is not an endorsement of any particular source or organization and does not mean that I agree with every idea that they espouse. Explore. Study to show thyself approved, and find the answers that are right for you.