Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement
By Monica M. White
I share these book recommendations on a schedule, I’ve been told, that no one is possibly following except for me. I read really fast. Thank you, grad school. So, you may see this title as you are scrolling through the gallery of other titles I’ve read, or months from now in a quiet moment. I’ll let you in on the secret that I plan the timing of when I share books with intention. Our author, Monica M. White, is an activist and urban ethnographer of the food justice-urban agriculture movement in Detroit since 2007, where she has worked with others to transform and rebuild a financially devastated city. She described this book as a love letter. She said it “feels like love--never easy, but worth it.” February can get a lot of hype around a certain kind of love, and I wanted to add her labor of love into the mix.
In January, I took a class called Land, Food, and the Black Church with Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III. Freedom Farmers was one of our textbooks. As I approached the text this month to write this blurb, I had the joy of hearing some of the sections in his charismatic voice. These are not just words on a page anymore. They’re connected to conversations and stories that I hold with reverence from that zoom room. Here’s a few of the central concepts for you to sample:
“Collective agency, a concept that I coined based upon the data for this project, involves social actors’ ability to create and enact behavioral options necessary to affect their political future.”
“Community resilience, a subcategory within the burgeoning field of resilience science, refers to the various structural aspects and components of human adaptation to extreme adversity, using ‘community’ as the unit of analysis.”
“Prefigurative politics begins with the awareness that members of a group have been excluded from the political process.”
The book itself is full of rich stories. As the author puts it, “This book is an effort to recover, tell, and honor the stories of collective agency and community resilience of the black rural poor, a group the civil rights movement left behind.” It is also intended to “connect contemporary urban farmer-activists to an earlier time when African Americans turned to agriculture as a strategy for building sustainable communities.”
I’d recommend this read to anyone with an interest in food justice, especially if you’re not sure where to start. I’d also recommend it to seasoned practitioners who are looking for a source of wisdom to fill their cup and reinvigorate their efforts. So, really, when it comes down to it, I’m recommending this book to everyone yet again. Because it’s fantastic and should be shared!
Quote: “If pain was all there was, how can we explain the indigenous roots of the current urban farming movement--spearheaded by black people? If pain was all there was, why should black people voluntarily return to a form of work that produced exploitation and oppression--so much so that it forced people to flee from the South?”
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