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Daily News Blog

01
Mar

Support National Reckoning to Bridge Racial Divides with Meaningful Action

(Beyond Pesticides, March 1, 2021) The greatest impediment to entering organic farming is access to land. Since organic farming requires a long-term commitment to avoiding prohibited substances, building soil, and conserving biodiversity, it is difficult to manage on rented land or land farmed on “shares.” Black, Indigenous, and other people of color are especially disadvantaged because of institutionalized racism embodied in U.S. policies, which has either prevented access or has undermined land ownership. With deep reflection into the injustice associated with past policies, from pioneers to slaveholders, members of Congress are elevating the national discussion of policy changes and reparations to address a past of racial injustice. This discussion has taken on greater general public understanding since the killing of George Floyd, as there is more national awareness of systemic racial injustice and the deep adverse impact that it has on all aspects of life. One of those institutional effects to Indigenous, Black, and other people of color is the taking away or denying access to land ownership.

Tell your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative to support for increased equity for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in farming.

Holistic systemic change is needed to restore relationships between members of society and with the Earth. The greatest source of wisdom about living sustainably (with decisions based on their impacts on seven generations to come) on this continent—Turtle Island (as named by some Native Americans and First Nations People)—has been all but eradicated through past policies of land theft and genocide. From the birth of our country to today, the United States government seized 1.5 billion acres of native land. The loss of tribal lands and mixed ownership patterns within reservation boundaries pose serious challenges to the sovereignty and self-determination of Native American nations. The three pieces of legislation in this action relate to disenfranchisement of African Americans and other people of color as the struggle continues for Native American and tribal rights to land taken from them by the U.S. government. There are several bills in Congress, which are not included in this action, to put certain lands into trust or transfer land for the benefit of various Native American tribes.

The undermining of land ownership in the Black community has not been widely recognized by the general public. In 1910, one in seven farmers were African Americans, who held titles to approximately 16 to 19 million acres of farmland. Over the next century, 98% of Black farmers were dispossessed through discriminatory practices at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and various federal programs.

The current existential threats arise from continued policies of colonization, including “resource extraction,” “economic development,” and agriculture. But large-scale logging, mining, petroleum extraction, and dispersal of poisons is opposed by efforts to restore lands and waters to Indigenous guardianship and/or Indigenous stewardship—to begin the process of reparations, healing, and recovery. As the Anishinaabe activist and author Winona LaDuke says, “The only compensation for land is land.” Land-care practices based on specific land-based cultural practices are as diverse as the more than 500 tribal nations of Turtle Island.

Two bills have been introduced in the Senate (but do not have numbers as of this writing) aimed at boosting the growing push for equity and diversity within food and agriculture policy and politics. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the Justice for Black Farmers Act to address a history of USDA discrimination and injustice to Black farmers. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) introduced the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act that would provide $5 billion to farmers of color. Sen. Warnock said he is urging that the bill be included in the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package moving through Congress.

The Justice for Black Farmers Act will fund agriculture programs at historically Black colleges and universities and create new training programs for new farmers of color. It will also create a civil rights oversight board at USDA to investigate reports of discrimination both within the department and its Farm Service Agency county committees. Most notably, the bill includes a provision that would provide up to 160 acres to existing and aspiring Black farmers and provides debt forgiveness for those who filed claims under the landmark 1999 Pigford v. Glickman class action discrimination suit that Black farmers filed against USDA.

Sen. Warnock’s bill provides $5 billion to Black, Indigenous, Hispanic and other farmers of color, including $4 billion in direct relief payments to help farmers of color pay outstanding USDA farm loan debts and related taxes, and help them respond to the economic impacts of the pandemic; and $1 billion to support activities at USDA to “root out systemic racism, provide technical and legal assistance to agricultural communities of color and fund under-resourced programs that will shape the future for farmers and communities of color.”

Missing from this package is a provision to return land to Indigenous nations. The authors of these bills should include provisions that return ownership of public and trust lands to the tribes from whom they were taken. As the Anishinaabe activist and author Winona LaDuke says, “The only compensation for land is land.”

And, on the issue of reparations, H.R.40, Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, was introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and 116 co-sponsors. The legislation, which the ACLU has called “restorative justice,” had been introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) for three decades. According to Rep. Jackson Lee, “Though many thought it a lost cause, he believed that a day would come when our nation would need to account for the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the enduring structural racism endemic to our society.” The bill is H.R. 40 for a reason: “The designation of this legislation as H.R. 40 is intended to memorialize the promise made by Gen. William T. Sherman, in his 1865 Special Field Order No. 15, to redistribute 400,000 acres of formerly Confederate-owned coastal land in South Carolina and Florida, subdivided into 40-acre plots.” With broad support in Congress and the private sector, Rep. Jackson Lee said, “By passing H.R. 40, Congress can start a movement toward the national reckoning we need to bridge racial divides. Reparations are ultimately about respect and reconciliation — and the hope that one day, all Americans can walk together toward a more just future. The bill establishes a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans to research the issues involved and make reparation recommendations.

Tell your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative to support for increased equity for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in farming.

Letter to U.S. Senators

I am writing to ask your support for increased equity for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in farming. To that end, I ask you to co-sponsor two bills (which have been introduced but do not have numbers as of this writing) in the Senate aimed at boosting the growing push for equity and diversity within food and agriculture policy and politics. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) reintroduced the Justice for Black Farmers Act to address a history of USDA discrimination and injustice to Black farmers. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) introduced the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act that would provide $5 billion to farmers of color. Sen. Warnock said he is urging that the bill be included in the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package moving through Congress.

The greatest impediment to entering organic farming is access to land. Since organic farming requires a long-term commitment to avoiding prohibited substances, building soil, and conserving biodiversity, it is difficult to manage on rented land or land farmed on “shares.” Black, Indigenous and other people of color are especially disadvantaged because of institutionalized racism embodied in U.S. policies, which has either prevented access or has undermined land ownership. With deep reflection into the injustice associated with past policies, from pioneers to slaveholders, members of Congress are elevating the national discussion of policy changes and reparations to address a past of racial injustice. One of those institutional effects to Indigenous, Black, and other people of color is the taking away or denying access to land ownership.

Two pieces of legislation relate to disenfranchisement of African Americans as the struggle continues for Native American and tribal rights to land taken from them by the U.S. government. There are several additional bills in Congress to put certain lands into trust or transfer land for the benefit of various Native American tribes.

The undermining of land ownership in the Black community has not be widely recognized by the general public. In 1910, one in seven farmers were African Americans, and African Americans held titles to approximately 16 to 19 million acres of farmland. Over the next century, 98% of Black farmers were dispossessed through discriminatory practices at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and various federal programs.

Missing from this package is a provision to return land to Indigenous nations. The authors of these bills should include provisions that return ownership of public and trust lands to the tribes from whom they were taken. Holistic systemic change is needed to restore relationships between members of society and with the Earth. The greatest source of wisdom about living sustainably (with decisions based on their impacts on seven generations to come) on this continent—Turtle Island (as named by some Native Americans and First Nations People)—has been all but eradicated through past policies of land theft and genocide. From the birth of our country to today, the United States government seized 1.5 billion acres of native land. The loss of tribal lands and mixed ownership patterns within reservation boundaries pose serious challenges to the sovereignty and self-determination of Native American nations. As the Anishinaabe activist and author Winona LaDuke says, “The only compensation for land is land.”

Thank you for your support.

Letter to U.S. Representative

I am writing to ask your support for increased equity for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in farming. The greatest impediment to entering organic farming is access to land. Since organic farming requires a long-term commitment to avoiding prohibited substances, building soil, and conserving biodiversity, it is difficult to manage on rented land or land farmed on “shares.” Black, Indigenous, and other people of color are especially disadvantaged because of institutionalized racism embodied in U.S. policies, which has either prevented access or has undermined land ownership. With deep reflection into the injustice associated with past policies, from pioneers to slaveholders, members of Congress are elevating the national discussion of policy changes and reparations to address a past of racial injustice. One of those institutional effects to Indigenous, Black, and other people of color is the taking away or denying access to land ownership.

H.R.40, Commission to Study 5 and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act, was introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and 116 co-sponsors. The legislation, which the ACLU has called “restorative justice,” had been introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) for three decades. According to Rep. Jackson Lee, “Though many thought it a lost cause, he believed that a day would come when our nation would need to account for the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the enduring structural racism endemic to our society.” The bill is H.R. 40 for a reason: “The designation of this legislation as H.R. 40 is intended to memorialize the promise made by Gen. William T. Sherman, in his 1865 Special Field Order No. 15, to redistribute 400,000 acres of formerly Confederate-owned coastal land in South Carolina and Florida, subdivided into 40-acre plots.” With broad support in Congress and the private sector, Rep. Jackson Lee said, “By passing H.R. 40, Congress can start a movement toward the national reckoning we need to bridge racial divides. Reparations are ultimately about respect and reconciliation — and the hope that one day, all Americans can walk together toward a more just future. The bill establishes a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans to research the issues involved and make reparation recommendations.

Missing from this bill is a provision to return land to Indigenous nations. We also need provisions that return ownership of public and trust lands to the tribes from whom they were taken. Holistic systemic change is needed to restore relationships between members of society and with the Earth. The greatest source of wisdom about living sustainably (with decisions based on their impacts on seven generations to come) on this continent—Turtle Island (as named by some Native Americans and First Nations People)—has been all but eradicated through past policies of land theft and genocide. From the birth of our country to today, the United States government seized 1.5 billion acres of native land. The loss of tribal lands and mixed ownership patterns within reservation boundaries pose serious challenges to the sovereignty and self-determination of Native American nations. As the Anishinaabe activist and author Winona LaDuke says, “The only compensation for land is land.”

Thank you for your support.

Thank you for Sens. Booker and Warnock

I am writing to thank you for your support for increased equity for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color in farming. To that end, I support your leadership on two bills aimed at boosting the growing push for equity and diversity within food and agriculture policy and politics—Black Farmers Act to address a history of USDA discrimination and injustice to Black farmers, and the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act that would provide $5 billion to farmers of color.

The greatest impediment to entering organic farming is access to land. Since organic farming requires a long-term commitment to avoiding prohibited substances, building soil, and conserving biodiversity, it is difficult to manage on rented land or land farmed on “shares.” People of color are especially disadvantaged because of institutionalized racism embodied in U.S. policies, which has either prevented access or has undermined land ownership. With deep reflection into the injustice associated with past policies, from pioneers to slaveholders, members of Congress are elevating the national discussion of policy changes and reparations to address a past of racial injustice. One of those institutional effects to Indigenous, Black, and other people of color is the taking away or denying access to land ownership.

I appreciate that these two pieces of legislation relate to disenfranchisement of African Americans as the struggle continues for Native American and tribal rights to land taken from them by the U.S. government. There are several additional bills in Congress to put certain lands into trust or transfer land for the benefit of various Native American tribes.

The undermining of land ownership in the Black community has been subtle and hidden from the general public. In 1910, one in seven farmers were African Americans, and African Americans held titles to approximately 16 to 19 million acres of farmland. Over the next century, 98% of Black farmers were dispossessed through discriminatory practices at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and various federal programs.

Missing from this package is a provision to return land to Indigenous nations. I urge that these bills include provisions that return ownership of public and trust lands to the tribes from whom they were taken. Holistic systemic change is needed to restore relationships between members of society and with the Earth. The greatest source of wisdom about living sustainably (with decisions based on their impacts on seven generations to come) on this continent—Turtle Island (as named by some Native Americans and First Nations People)—has been all but eradicated through past policies of land theft and genocide. From the birth of our country to today, the United States government seized 1.5 billion acres of native land. The loss of tribal lands and mixed ownership patterns within reservation boundaries pose serious challenges to the sovereignty and self-determination of Native American nations. As the Anishinaabe activist and author Winona LaDuke says, “The only compensation for land is land.”

Thank you for your leadership.

 

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