Planting the Seeds of Black Study

As February changes to March thoughts of the spring garden are in mind. I planted carrots a few weeks ago, and the collards that survived the winter are coming into their own.

I reflect on Black History Month. They say it ends on February 28th. I like to rather think of it as a time to renew commitment to Black Study — what Fred Moten describes as the active process of engaging mind, body, and spirit in bringing freedom into existence. Like breathing, it is a process not circumscribed by wealth or place, or time. Rather a season, a point in the cycle of things.

The process of integrating the past, the wisdom and presence of ancestors, the necessity of being present in the present beauty of our dear ones and beloved world, and in dreaming into being a future where Black life is precious everywhere.

As I think through the garden, I feel the presence of my mother tending her collards and (re)call the taste of kale and mustard greens that she harvested from the backyard, made with her own spice blend. I bring to mind the wisdom of her aunt “Sister” who made chowchow with homegrown cabbage. I envision the fields that my great great grandmother Chaney — born enslaved — planted in the earth of Salem, Alabama. To move mind and heart along the arc of each of their lives is to call forth history, and to realize that down to this very moment there is an unceasing effort to erase their very existence, to make the recollection of their experiences, their stories, a crime.

I’m looking forward to completing and thinking on Robin D. G. Kelley’s Hammer and Hoe, which tells the story of how Black sharecroppers and steelworkers organized as Communists to fight racism in the Alabama of the 1930s and 1940s. The contemporaries, most like the coworkers and neighbors of Chaney’s children and grandchildren.

I begin Monica White’s Freedom Farmers Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement, which tells the story of how Black farmers fought and are fighting to reclaim traditions, land, and connections that have been constantly under attack. I connect it to W.E.B. Du Bois’s brilliant The Negro Landholder in Georgia. Planting seeds, committing to nurturing the thoughts and ideas and actions that will yield liberation in some season yet to come. I think of the many Black food justice efforts in Atlanta, among them, The Grocery Spot

A stand in back of The Grocery Spot, a community serving farm store in Atlanta’s Grove Park Neighborhood. The store is 500 yards from the church my family and I attended.

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