A Sustainable Call and Response
By Caroline Randall Williams
But what happened to black landowners in the South, and particularly in the Delta, is distinct, and was propelled not only by economic change but also by white racism and local white power. A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98 percent of black agricultural landowners in America. They have lost 12 million acres over the past century. But even that statement falsely consigns the losses to long-ago history. In fact, the losses mostly occurred within living memory, from the 1950s onward. Today, except for a handful of farmers like the Scotts who have been able to keep or get back some land, black people in this most productive corner of the Deep South own almost nothing of the bounty under their feet.
— from “The Great Land Robbery” by Vann R. Newkirk II
What are you asking us to want —
What are you expecting our bodies
will remember —
Let me put it another way.
You say Farm to —
I say Field hand.
You say Fresh produce —
I say strange fruit.
You say Back to the basics. Back to the l —
I say Return.
Return unto us our stolen acres. Give us our land
back again. How shall we
revisit a stolen thing?
What harvest invites us home,
And our hands’ blood still soaked
to every now decorative plough,
our pastures with a penstroke turned
to someone else’s flock? I say No.
We have left your notyours farms
for seats at tables.
to sustain ourselves—
is our sustenance. Your sustainables
and too often
at our expense —
and, well —
as priority does —
Call me a resource, sugar.
Put me on your list