Be Black and Green is a site that networks, supports and promotes Black farmers, gardeners and food activists. It is the “fresh idea” that was proposed by Malik Yakini for the IATP Food and Community Fellowship that he was awarded for 2011-2013. It seeks to foster working relationships between Black rural and urban agriculturalists, food justice advocates and others interested in Black people exerting control over the sources and quality of our food. It strives to raise the profile of the important food-related work being done by Black folk in the United States (and in some cases Canada and the Caribbean).
The site features short videos allowing Black gardeners, farmers and food activists to speak for themselves, explaining what they do, and why they do it. It features articles addressing topics of interest to Black farmers, gardeners, food activists and our allies. The site features original music and photographs. We share links to Black folks doing good works in the food system.
Be Black and Green promotes Black unity as a necessary strategy to assert our views and interests within a racist society where white skin still carries unearned privilege. Be Black and Green advocates for African self-determination. Be Black and Green is helping to build a Black Food Sovereignty movement.
The existence of millions of African people in the “western hemisphere” has everything to do with agriculture. While it is true, that Africans were living in the “ western hemisphere” prior to the arrival of Christobal Colon in what is now called the Dominican Republic, the vast majority of us are the descendants of Africans enslaved to work on large and small agricultural projects. Our expertise in growing rice, indigo and other plants used for food and fiber was one of the factors that caused us to be targeted by European profiteers.
Even after the formal end to chattel slavery, most people of African descent continued to be tied to the land either through tenant farming, sharecropping or in some cases ownership. Millions of Africans migrating from Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana to 20th century industrial cities like Detroit, Chicago, Gary and Cleveland brought their agricultural heritage with them.
A movement for sustainable farming, urban agriculture, local food systems, food justice, food security and food sovereignty is developing traction throughout the United States (and other parts of the world). Far too often the faces of that movement seen by the general public are young whites. Be Black and Green asserts that Africans in America have long been involved, often by necessity, in efforts to create what we now call sustainability and self-reliance. That includes growing our food.
Be Black and Green is a call to reclaim our agricultural heritage. It is a call to embrace our ancestral mandate to recognize the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things and to work always for the greatest good. It implores us to dare to use our own cultural experience as the foundation for forward movement. It situates us within our own historical continuum. It encourages us to exhibit kujichagulia by growing, processing, distributing, selling and preparing the food that we consume.
Elder Tarik Oduno, the Washington D.C.-based Garveyite and agriculturalist teaches us that “there is no culture without agriculture." An elder in a Bobo village in Mali, told a small group of us who stopped to greet him, that we must go greet the farmer across the road tilling a field with two oxen because, “ it is those who work in the sun that make it possible for those who work in the shade.”
Be Black and Green! Cultivate to elevate!
About Malik Yakini
Malik Yakini is the Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, a founding member and former chair of the Detroit Food Policy Council and is an Institute for Agriculture Trade Policy (IATP) Food and Community Fellow. He is a recipient of a 2012 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award. For more than 20 years he served as Executive Director/Principal of Nsoroma Institute, one of Detroit’s leading African-centered schools. Over the past four decades, he has participated in a number of organizations and initiatives that worked for justice and empowerment in local, national and international Black communities. He is the father of three adult children. He is an avid urban gardener/farmer, a longtime vegan and musician.
Malik says, “Be Black and Green is, in-part, a project to bring several of my life’s interests together into a harmonious whole; travel, video production, original music, healthy food and African empowerment. I take it as a sacred trust to utilize the energy that flows through me for African redemption, justice and the common good.”