America, I farm

By Atieno Nyar Kasagam.
Queue for this reading:

[Beast of No Nation refers to the vile cult of personalities that rule the world. Those who engaged in enslaving masses of people around the world .He specifically referred to those who preach human rights and are the chief violators of human rights through their proxy regimes around the world-quoted from a youtube user, avig rett ]

I have never felt as pressed to reexamine my motivations for farming until now, after a semesters worth of a class at Wayne State with Dr. Kami Pothukuchi, that examined urban food systems, in relation to food access, security, sovereignty and justice.

The class was flaming. My most overwhelming emotions have been distress and fatigue. My consciousness has been raised to the ticking time bomb that is conventional, industrial agriculture, but my soul has been so overwhelmed with the burden of work that needs doing, that I have sunk down further in despondency and exhaustion.

I am coming into greater understanding about the convergence of the food movement, the land ownership/anti foreclosure/ anti gentrification movement, and the water movement in Detroit. I am seeing it, and I am seeing the language of Grace Lee Boggs, Charity Hicks, and Malik Yakini and recognizing the urgency of the times, the closing window of opportunity to tip the trajectory of this city into an alternative future, beyond capitalism, beyond impoverishment and exploitation, beyond the racial violence against black people, beyond the violence among impoverished and traumatized black communities, beyond white gentrification and salvation, beyond policies that are clearly imagining a new feudalism, more white massas with black folk at their service, fully dependent on them for survival.

Will the cycle break?

Why do you farm?

I farm because I am a human being estranged from my homeland. I farm because nothing else can deliver my mother to Detroit but a pot of black eyed peas greens cooked over days in buttermilk. Nothing is as delicious as osuga, or ododo or apoth, served with a big lump of ugali, and stewed backyard chicken. Nothing can take me back home as fast, and nothing can ground my daughter in our heritage as easily and as pleasurably. No one will gather these greens, bring them to market, or even serve it at a restaurant, even though they are growing with a vengeance on urban farms in this city. No one seems to see them as anything other than a menace, occupying valuable and scarce real estate, which is more profitable/ desirable under a choir of lettuces and mixed salad greens.

I farm because I accidentally stumbled on the idea that even though I am an immigrant, I am still a sovereign being, a human being. That I don’t have tone myself down, blunt my edges, deny my needs and concede to assimilation.

I don’t have to forget.

I don’t have to conform.

I have a right to demand, that America should see me. That America should make space for me. For us. That if you can acknowledge that we exist, and that we have a right to exist in our diversity, America ought to open channels to allow us, to access resources like land, homes to own, restaurants that TRULY represent the breadth of African culinary culture.

The liberation and re-invigoration of African American culture, and especially culinary culture must occur in tandem with African culture, here in the diaspora and back home.

I farm on indigenous land.
Powerful land,
Rich land,
Kissed by mighty waters,
Enriched by one of the worlds largest water sheds.

I farm on grieving, howling, haunted land.
I farm on the graves and the glorious shrines of indigenous people who were forced out for white occupation. For white plantations and white owned industries that have built white wealth on black bodies and exhausted toxic chemicals and industrial wastes that have devastated a vibrant ecology and poisoned holy waters .
I farm on the graves and the glorious shrines of black people, who are being forced out for white occupation. For white plantations and white owned industries that will build white wealth on black bodies and estrange, erase, and devastate a vibrant community and roll back black sovereignty.

I farm on the land that was a lighthouse for my ancestors who reclaimed their freedom under the stewardship of the indomitable mama Harriet Tubman.
I farm on the land that affirmed African humanity.
I farm on the land that affirms African American humanity and sovereignty.
A land that is now held hostage by mikeduggan,
under the cover of the landbank,
like our bodies,
to the highest bidder,
ashes to ashes.

I farm on land that I bleed on.
I farm on land that I weep on.
I farm on land that I make love and magic on.
I farm on land that has held me in my girlhood and in my womanhood.
I farm on a land that birthed my child.

With love,
and a hoe,
and a kanga wrapped around my hips,
Like  my mother ,
Plucking at leaves,
Humming with the bees and the wind,

I farm,
I farm.
I farm because I am a human being,

In a distant land,
I must farm,
For sanity,
I must farm,
For freedom from,
salad bars and pasta,
french fries and burgers,
I must farm,

To breathe.
To eat.
To live.

In this land,
that regulates me,
that criminalizes me,
that minimizes me,

In this land,
Indigenous land,
Kissed by mighty waters,
putrified by white plantations and industrial wastes,
where I bleed,
where I shed my tears,
where I was transformed from a child into a mother,
where I must fight,
where I must survive,

I must farm,


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