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How African Americans Regained Their Dignity By Growing Urban Gardens

Only one in ten Americans eat the amount of fruits and vegetables recommended by health authorities each day, and the poorest people consume the least. In Washington, for example, the inhabitants of the Clay Terrace district do not have access to fresh produce, and few supermarkets come to settle in this bad-known area which has about 70,000 inhabitants, mostly farmers. African-Americans. In the middle of the towers of buildings, a community garden was born between an arm of river and a node of highways.


A native of Washington and a graduate in agronomy, Xavier Brown is a bearded forty-year-old with the physique of a sereer wrestler. His feet in the mud, he teaches the inhabitants the workof the land, the varieties of seeds, the cycle of the seasons. This return to the land is also a dive into African American history , which has settled in the cotton fields. The urban farmingadvocated by Xavier Brown is a way to take control of his life, starting by regainingits food autonomy, synonymous with dignity and respect found again. In this garden, worries are put on hold. Forgotten the stress of everyday life, urban violence and the trauma of mass incarceration!

Beans from Central Africa

Xavier Brown studied the agricultural practices of Native American Indians and collected the legacy of former slaves to develop his project , called Soilful City . At the head of a team of six former detainees, he built a gigantic wooden compost bin, which provides nearly 550 kg per month of “black gold” from food waste. This compost will feed 32 plots planted with various fruits and vegetables. Each plot is bristling with stakes for the plants and provided with a fence that protects it from small rodents.

Xavier Brown’s team sometimes receives the reinforcement of Boe Luther and Wallace Kirby, two pioneers who started a similar project, first to get the prisoners out of poverty, then to allow them to become market gardeners. The three men are convinced that the products of these urban gardens can satisfy the needs of the poor in fresh fruits and vegetables.



They know that natural products from Africa that their ancestors used to eat kept them in good physical and mental health. Brown, Kirby and Luther have already marked the culinary landscape of the capital by putting in the plates a variety of green beans native to Central Africa, rich in fiber and vitamins, so rare in the diet of Americans.

“We are not only planting vegetables, we are putting the community back on a new foundation,” says Xavier Brown. “Black people have to go back to the land to become farmers, builders and producers,” says Wallace Kirby, “by feeding one another, we contribute to our liberation.” Planting , weeding , watering and sowing is to rebuild community, to regainstrength and body, to heal the evils of yesterday and today, from slavery to segregation, from expropriation to junk food and poor housing, which blacks have endured and endure again.

The peasant culture faded

“We are dealing with a generation that has lost touch with the land, Wallace Kirby notes. And yet, in the neighborhood of my childhood, the aisles were flowers and chickens running around. The families had implanted in the city the way of life The rural riots that shook Washington following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 are all part of the ruralculture they experienced in the South. businesses such as adjoining gardens.


Xavier Brown, whose mission is to reconcile people with their African roots, is inspired by the work of Blain Snipstal, the forerunner of Afro-ecology: this farmer operates a small farm in the state of Maryland, within a co-operative of organic vegetable and seed growers called Black Dirt Farm. An initiative that has been emulated not only in Washington but also in New York,Baltimore and Detroit, where new anti-racist activists are putting their hands in the compost.

Abdourahman A. Waberi is a Franco-Djiboutian writer, professor at George Washington University and author of, among others, Skull Harvest (2000), The United States of Africa(2006) and The Divine Song ( 2015).

Source: The


Written by How Africa

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