Who We Are
Freedom Quilting Bee members, Mandy Pettway and Mary Brown, working at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Sewing Center (1974). Courtesy of Patricia Goudvis.
Acres of Ancestry Initiative/Black Agrarian Fund
Over the decades, numerous Black-led nonprofit institutions have attempted to address the steady erosion of the African American agricultural land base and intergenerational wealth; however, their efforts have been unsustainable due to perpetual over-reliance on governmental and philanthropic support. The Acres of Ancestry Initiative/Black Agrarian Fund is our response to the nonprofit scarcity complex. The Acres of Ancestry Initiative/Black Agrarian Fund is a self-sustaining collaboration to preserve our ancestors’ value paradigm anchored in collective land tenure, spirit-culture reclamation, and ecological harmony.
Channeling the collective spirit of the Freedom Quilting Bee (a textilecraft cooperative founded by Black women agrarian-artisans in Alberta, Alabama in 1966), the Acres of Ancestry Initiative re-centers ecocultural traditions in collaboration with rural communities throughout the Black Belt region through storytelling, communal e-commerce, ecocultural heritage and textile arts production, and traditional knowledge retention programs to support cultural regeneration and establish a sustainable funding stream to seed the Black Agrarian Fund. The Black Agrarian Fund, a community-controlled land and financial cooperative, supports the communal aspirations of securing land for landless returning generation farmers and ecopreneurs; provides non-extractive capital and legal support to land stewards who desire to protect their family lands from partition sales, tax sales, foreclosures, and USDA public auctions; and creates a financial stream to nourish community wealth-building efforts throughout the Black Belt region. The Black Belt Justice Center, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization (Tax ID # 45-4441783), is the fiscal sponsor for the Acres of Ancestry Initiative/Black Agrarian Fund.
PRESERVING AND REIMAGINING THE BLACK FAMILY LAND COMMONS
Many Black farmers that acquired land in the early twentieth century passed land down to their family members without a will resulting in heir property, commonly referred to as family land. Grounded in the African cosmovision of collective land tenure, southern Black agrarians challenged European constructs of private property rights (enclosure), collateralized debt, and land monopolization through the creation of family land. Similar to the cosmovisions of Native Americans, Africans prior to pre-colonization had no concept of the commodification of land and natural resources. This cosmovision has manifested over spans of time, geographies, and government institutions including the 1967 Arusha Declaration articulated by Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere and the more recent 2016 Land Rights Act of Liberia. As a result of the impressive feats of southern Black agrarians, heir property is the most widespread form of land ownership in the Black community, which ensures a more equitable distribution of wealth and power.
The lightbearer Fannie Lou Hamer asserted, “As long as I have a pig and garden, no one can tell me what to do.” Our Ancestors embodied this wisdom through ecological stewardship of the land. The stewardship of the land provided them sustenance, self-determination, and spirit sovereignty. However, once racial hypercapitalism intruded into the communal domain, land loss became a crisis phenomenon. In spite of epidemic land loss in the countryside, Black rural land stewards have held firmly to their non-commodifiable valuations of land: collective land tenure, economic autonomy, self-sufficiency, ancestral homeplaces, and epicenters of cultural and spiritual expressions. Understanding that the U.S. private property rights system stands in conflict with the Black family land commons, the Black community must propagate alternative collective landownership models.
The evolution of resistance as a cultural practice demands a continued dialogue, readily integrating persistent racial discrimination, intra-community disparities, and on-going political disenfranchisement against the backdrop of the economic reality of the erosion of Black wealth. As Harriet Tubman admonished the resistance-wary travelers, we must advance together toward freedom or face certain death. The collective Black community must engage cooperative economic investment to preserve livelihoods, land, and lives. This is the hope of enslaved African ancestors and the promise to be fulfilled for future generations.
– Dãnia C. Davy
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.