New donations to black-led food and land groups aim for real reparations
Last December, the executive director of the association Malik Yakini received an unexpected call. The caller, a woman who resides in California, said she wanted to direct a significant part of her legacy to her organization, the Detroit Black Community Food Safety Network.
This type of windfall is indeed rare, but it was the caller’s motivation, revealed through several conversations with Yakini, that was truly unusual.
She felt that there was “a certain lack of justice in the way the money was acquired” and that she could “contribute to greater justice” by transferring wealth to groups engaged in projects. black people tied to the earth, Yakini remembers. “She sees her work in making these gifts as specifically a type of individual reparation.”
The donor, who asked to remain anonymous, is part of a cohort of white Americans who go beyond verifying their privilege to take the example of blacks on how to transmute their privilege into restorative justice and restorative.
Transferring wealth to groups like DBCFSN, which organizes community activism for agriculture and food systems in Detroit, is a particularly powerful form of reparation with immediate benefits for communities of color and ripple effects on environment, health and philanthropy.
The national discourse on reparations tends to focus narrowly on government payments to individuals, but within black communities reparations have long been overdue. interlaced with the liberation of all blacks through food justice and land sovereignty.
This is because “land is the basis of self-determination,” says Akua Deidre Smith, who is director of land strategies at BlackOUT Collective and coordinator of Summer repairs, a program that helps white donors give to BIPOC-led food and land initiatives without strings attached, in a way that allows organizations to decide for themselves where and how these donations will have the most impact.
“There has never been a major movement or demand for repairs that does not involve land… in order to build the repairs we really deserve,” Smith said. “We need the land, the money, the healing and the transformation now.”
“When we talk about larger scale reparations, I see it as an attempt to redistribute the stolen economic value that has been extracted from black people and benefits white society as a whole.”
Black Americans’ connection to land and food systems is undeniably and naturally strained. Their African ancestors were kidnapped and enslaved precisely because of their sense of agriculture and their ability to cultivate land suitable for white colonizers. Their forced labor – “and their intellectual property,” Yakini notes – have made the United States an economic superpower.
“But because this value was taken from us, we don’t see any benefit,” says Yakini. “When we talk about larger scale reparations, I see it as an attempt to redistribute the stolen economic value that has been extracted from black people and benefits white society as a whole.”
For Dara Cooper, who works closely with Yakini through the National Alliance of Black Food and Justice, issuing or paying reparations is a process. This process, says Cooper, citing N’COBRA, should always begin with the cessation of injury. “I have to stop the evil at some point.”
But as far as food and land are concerned, the evil has only persisted. From the cancellation of reconstruction-era land subsidies to the widespread USDA denial of black farmers’ loan applications until 1997 to ongoing food companies exploitation of immigrant and imprisoned workers, there has been a perpetual loop of injustice and iniquity.
“Historically, we have been self-sufficient people,” Cooper says of Black and Indigenous communities. “This country and these systems have systematically disconnected us from the means to feed ourselves and our own people. This systematically prevents us from recognizing the foods we need. “