What does it really mean to connect or reconnect to the land when it isn’t ours and where we don’t belong? For this blog post, LWA Coordinating Group member and food justice campaigner Dee Woods reflects on the post-ORFC caucus for People of Colour.
On a cold sunny day in January, the day after OFRC2020, about 50 people of colour of different ages, cultural backgrounds and genders from across the UK gathered at Willowbrook Farm in Kidlington, the UK’s first Halal and Tayyib farm founded on Islamic principles by the Radwan family 17 years ago. The caucus was organised by Land in Our Names (LION)* a new grassroots, black-led collective that organises around environmental and land justice issues, particularly as they relate to black people in England. Leah Penniman of Soul Fire farm joined us, sharing her learnings in support of the collective aims to address the lack of diversity in farming, discrimination and other barriers faced in the UK.
The day resonated deeply in mixed emotional expressions of sorrow, celebration and connection and a brief exploration of long held reflections about identity, land and farming. Reflections on colonialism, ownership, belonging, dispossession and landless histories. Of pain and trauma being on the land, of farming and working the land, intergenerational traumas from the historical violence of enslavement and indentureship, migration and diaspora..
Camila Radwan from Willowbrook Farm said, “I think this was a really positive event. The LION community is a mix of intelligent and ambitious people from varying cultures brought together by common cause. There was a positive community outlook on farming and great project ideas. It left me optimistic for the future.”
The day was pivotal for farmers and growers of colour and for LWA members who attended. It was a first of its kind, creating national dialogue and building networks to advance access to and ownership of land by people and communities of colour.
An attendee, Alice, from Wales shared her experiences; “Arriving onto the farm and walking into a room full of black and brown people felt so significant that both me and my friend were close to tears and smiling from ear to ear. The way the space was held by Land In Our Names and all of the beautiful contributions from those there really made me realise that this is what I want for social movement organising and land-based work. It brought things into stark contrast with other spaces I’ve been in within other movements as well as food and farming. It was also really heartening for this to come after several days of those same conversations and spaces being created within the ORFC which I think really changed the feel of it for many people.These kinds of spaces are really important for making POC feel like they can take space within the wider movement and feel comfortable on the land. Hearing about the inspiring projects and stories of others and our ancestors also allows us to feel that change is possible. I’m excited about the prospect of organising regionally and I sense that this could be a challenge within Wales at the moment but is still possible and important for challenging the barriers that face POC landworkers and activists, particularly young new entrants who may feel alienated in rural areas and within sustainable farming movements.”
It was an opportunity to share our experiences as people actively farming, earth stewarding, interested in farming or food justice, or supporters of this growing movement. The day provided a space to think about how people of colour can best support each other in our projects in Britain.
In looking at how LWA can address inequalities in power and in making our food and farming systems more equitable, a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) working group has now been set up and welcomes ideas, suggestions and next steps as to how we explore and unpack issues, support each other and build solidarity in our land and food movements
Please email dee.woods@landworkersalliance if you would like to share anything and help create a safe space.
* Land In Our Names (LION) seeks to uproot & disrupt systemic issues of land as they pertain to black people in Britain. To address land justice as a centrepoint for issues around food insecurity, health inequalities, environmental injustice & widespread disconnect from nature. LION strives to creatively reimagine a country where black people can feel at home in rural settings, delight in nature as equally to their white peers & be able to live off the land in ways which care for the soil, the surrounding biodiversity & ourselves. LION research, campaign, and educate for the development of black-led inclusive farms, gardens, and public green spaces, using a reparative land justice framework.