Gunny Sack of Wisdom
Gunny sacks were the bags our Ancestors carried while toiling in the fields of racialized capitalism and bondage. With bent backs and worked fingers, they sweated and labored in the exploitative systems of chattel slavery and sharecropping—picking, then packing cash crops into gunny sacks, intending to make their daily weight and measurement. Though our Ancestors labored in violent systems that violated humanity and the land, they fiercely protected ancient pre-Maafa ways of knowing the land and interbeing with the cosmos. Like the sturdy gunny sacks that carried their daily labor, their bonds to each other and the unborn generations were unbreakable. Through sufferings, they (re)built families and communities and channeled Black joy. They thrived by passing down agrarian teachings—protective amulets—to the children and unborn generations. We honor our Ancestors’ struggle, sacrifices, and resistance by sharing our gunny sack of African Diasporic wisdom. Onward.
Our cooperative is like the railroad station in our community. It will be here, even if the trains don’t come anymore and somebody far away decides to pull up the track, we will still have our cooperative in our community because we built it ourselves, no matter what happens.
-Eldridge Willie “E.W.” Steptoe
Cooperative ownership of land opens the door to many opportunities for group development of economic enterprises which develop the total community rather than create monopolies that monopolize the resources of a community.
-Fannie Lou Hamer
Dayclean, we call this, when the day is new and the world is made fresh again.
-Cornelia Walker Bailey
The cure for apathy is memory.
I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.
-George Washington Carver
As granddaughters of Black agrarian women lightbearers who repurposed sufferings into protective coverings, we carry solutions to restore ecological harmony in our imaginations, hearts, and hands. Collective leadership, spirituality, and ecology are the patchwork pieces left by our grandmothers to create abundant shared destinies.
-Tracy Lloyd McCurty and Dekera Greene Rodriguez
At first many advised against the experiment of having the buildings erected by the labour of the students, but I was determined to stick to it. I told those who doubted the wisdom of the plan that I knew that our first buildings would not be so comfortable or so complete in their finish as buildings erected by the experienced hands of outside workmen, but that in the teaching of civilization, self-help, and self-reliance, the erection of buildings by the students themselves would more than compensate for any lack of comfort or fine finish.
– Booker T. Washington
Two things worry me about the future of humanity: the tendency to think hierarchically, and the tendency to place ourselves higher on the hierarchy than others.
Land is the basis of all economic security. Land is essential to freedom, justice, and equality. Land is essential to true independence.
Black folk are the griots and gods of our shared histories and destinies. We can create abundance and do not need to make a feast of crumbs.
-Tracy Lloyd McCurty
At the very same time that America refused to give the Negro any land, through an act of Congress our government was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest, which meant that it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor. But not only did they give the land, they built land grant colleges with government money to teach them how to farm. Not only that, they provided county agents to further their expertise in farming. Not only that, they provided low interest rates in order that they could mechanize their farms. Not only that, today many of these people are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies not to farm, and they are the very people telling the Black man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps. And this is what we are faced with, and this is the reality. Now, when we come to Washington in this campaign, we are coming to get our check.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
When the culture is strong, you’ve got this consistency where Black people can grow up in these places with this voice just resonating about our specialness in the universe. And I always say you’re in trouble if you get too far away from the core that grounds you.
-Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon
Grab this land! Take it, hold it, my brothers, make it, my brothers, shake it, squeeze it, turn it, twist it, beat it, kick it, whip it, stomp it, dig it, plough it, seed it, reap it, rent it, buy it, sell it, own it, build it, multiply it, and pass it on—Can you hear me? Pass it on!
We will be ourselves and free, or die in the attempt. Harriet Tubman was not our great-grandmother for nothing.
It wasn’t sweet all the time. Just a strong feeling that you could do. You could make a difference. You could make things work. If you got that kind of mind, you will make things work.
Built into these traditions (pre-colonial African spiritual systems) is the goal of ecological harmony.
– Dr. Iyelli Ichile
Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations of and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers and users. Food sovereignty prioritizes local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just incomes to all peoples as well as the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social and economic classes and generations.
-Declaration of Nyéléni
Afroecology: A form of art, movement, practice and process of social and ecological transformation that involves the re-evaluation of our sacred relationships with land, water, air, seeds and food; (re)recognizes humans as co-creators that are an aspect of the planet’s life support systems; values the Afro-Indigenous experience of reality and ways of knowing; cherishes ancestral and communal forms of knowledge, experience and lifeways that began in Africa and continue throughout the Diaspora; and is rooted in the agrarian traditions, legacies and struggles of the Black experience in the Americas.
-Black Dirt Farm Collective
There is indeed a great force in the world, a force spiritual and able to shape the physical universe, but that force is not something cut off, not something separate from ourselves. It is the energy in us, the strongest in our working, breathing, thinking together as one people; weakest when we are scattered, confused, broken into individual, unconnected fragments.
-Ayi Kwei Armah
You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future.
I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.
-Zora Neale Hurston
Love and life interested me so that I dared to knock at the door of the cosmos.
-Sun Ra Arkestra
But breathe this deep because this is the message. We did it. We shifted the paradigm. We rewrote the meaning of life with our living. And this is how we did it. We let go. And then we got scared and held on and then we let go again. Of everything that would shackle us to sameness. Of our deeply held belief that our lives could be measured and disconnected from anything. We let go and re-taught ourselves to breathe the presence of the energy that we are that cannot be destroyed, but only transformed and transforming everything. Breathe deep, beloved young and frightened self, and then let go. And you will hold on. So then let go again.
-Alexis Pauline Gumbs
I’m no longer interested in loans or credit at all. I’m not interested in support programs. We try to do it all on our own.
Nature was the foundation of our counterhegemonic Black sub-culture. Nature was the place of victory. In the natural environment, everything had its place including humans. In that environment everything was likely to be shaped by the reality of mystery.
close your eyes—
make the white
Little people with finite lives love to play games with the infinite.
The Cuban agroecologist Fernando Funes Monzote shared, "you make the path by walking."
Engage with our tribe on social media as we make our path toward collective liberation through the preservation of Black agrarian custodial landownership, ecological stewardship, and food and fiber economies in the South.