#BHM: A Brief Look At The Importance of Black Food Sovereignty

To round out Black History Month, our U.S. Programs Directors, Suzanne BabbLorrie Clevenger, took a brief moment to share their thoughts on Black Food Sovereignty, what it means and why it matters so much to food justice and the social and economic landscape of our society to this day. Suzanne is a member of Black Urban Growers, an organization of volunteers committed to building community support for urban and rural growers and nurturing collective Black leadership, and an urban farmer at La Finca del Sur Urban Farm, a Black and Latina women led farm, in the South Bronx. Lorrie is a co-founder of Black Urban Growers (BUGS) and a co-founder and owner of Rise & Root Farm located in the black dirt region of Orange County, NY.


What is Black food sovereignty to you?

Black Food Sovereignty is about controlling our own destiny and determining our own future as self-determining Black Communities. It’s about reconnecting and deepening our relationship to the land and our traditional foodways. Owning our labor and using it in service to the nourishment of our own bodies and the thriving of our families and our communities. It’s about building our own institutions that have our best interests at the core of their purpose and are led by and for Black people.


Why is Black food sovereignty so important?

From the moment our ancestors were kidnapped from West Africa and brought to the western hemisphere, our health and well-being have not been a concern of the Europeans colonialists. We were brought here to work the land until we died and were regarded as property. At the same time, from that first moment we have been resisting this subjugation often in ways that revolve around food because it is an important part of many of our cultures. So, the struggle for Black food sovereignty is continuing this legacy of resistance and self-determination that strives to put  Black health at the center. Institutional and structural racism throughout the centuries has denied Black people access to opportunities and resources.

The current food system is harmful to the Black community – most communities of color actually – in many ways. We have been terrorized and murdered for our land and businesses. Black farmers have been denied the same access to capital afforded to white farmers. We receive some of the lowest wages in the food system, an industry that already pays all of its workers poorly. Access continues to be an issue as greater amounts of junk food gets put into our neighborhood grocery stores and fast food retailers set up shop in Black neighborhoods at a higher rate than in white neighborhoods. Junk food advertising intentionally targets our children at a higher rate. Corporations make a lot of money from our communities at the expense of our health and without our input as to what gets put in our neighborhoods. So it is imperative that we create institutions and structures to support our health and our liberation from the systems that oppress us.


Who are some organizations that work towards and uphold Black food sovereignty?

To get a true view of what Black food sovereignty looks like in action, it’s important to look at who is currently working towards it and how; whether that’s training families & youth on how to connect with the land or how to prevent land loss, building Black leadership in rural & urban collectives or educating youth on sustainable, renewable energy methods, there are organizations laying the rich foundation for Black food sovereignty to thrive.

By Suzanne’s & Lorrie’s recommendation, please check out the following organizations to learn more about the struggle for Black food sovereignty in the U.S.:

Black Urban Growers | https://www.blackurbangrowers.org

National Black Food and Justice Alliance | http://www.blackfoodjustice.org

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network | https://www.dbcfsn.org

Acta Non Verba | https://anvfarm.org

Land Loss Prevention project | https://www.landloss.org

Black Dirt Farm Collective | https://www.facebook.com/blackdirtfarmcollective/

Black Family Land Trust | http://www.bflt.org

Soul Fire Farm | http://www.soulfirefarm.org

Rid All Green Partnership | https://www.greennghetto.org

Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network | http://www.saafon.org

Truly Living Well | https://www.trulylivingwell.com

Cooperation Jackson Freedom Farms | https://cooperationjackson.org

Federation of Southern Cooperatives | http://www.federationsoutherncoop.com

The Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Energy |  http://www.blackoakscenter.org/

Colin Lawton