This summer, I have been grateful to be a part of the Global Black Liberation Donor Engagement Group (DEG) at Grassroots International. Together with Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), Grassroots International has led a space for members of the African diaspora in the United States to learn about and raise funds for African and diasporic movements working on land defense, climate justice, grassroots feminisms, and food sovereignty. A rich conversation about land rights and land sovereignty for Black liberation sparked up some of the following reflections.
Many African and Afro-descendant communities around the world struggle when accessing food and having food security. This struggle with food is directly linked with access to land and wealth. In the U.S., where the members of the DEG reside, the combined effects of slavery, colonialism, and racial capitalism continue to deprive Black people access to land. Through policy or by force, corporations and governments have been grabbing land from Black people, severing both their autonomy and a sacred connection to land. We named gentrification and “food deserts” in urban areas as forms of land grabs in Black and Brown neighborhoods. The decimation of Black farmers is another form of land grab that affects Black people’s relationship to food and land.
We also looked outside of the US, where the struggle for land and food sovereignty is about sacredness and survival. In Haiti, in addition to contending with climate chaos and deforestation, women farmers have to protect fertile land from Coca-Cola and other corporations. In Brazil, Quilombolas (Afro-descendant communities) consider their territory as sacred and linked to their identity. A group called MOQUIBOM is currently defending Quilombola lands from corporations and US military expansion. In countries of West Africa, women don’t have the right to own land. However, a movement led by women farmers called We Are the Solution educates women on their rights and coordinates the defense of land, water, and seeds from attempted land and resource grabs.
Despite all of this, Black people and movements of Afro-descendant and/or Afro-Indigenous people in the U.S. and globally are finding alternatives to neoliberal solutions to food insecurity and grounding themselves in the practice of food sovereignty by defending their land. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement believes that the land is the base for people seeking freedom and liberation, so they say “Free the Land”. Many believe that liberation struggles are land-based struggles, and as colonized peoples, sovereignty, which is at the intersection of all kinds of autonomies and self-determination, includes reclamation of ancestral lands, our bodies, food, healing, medicine, etc. Food sovereignty is a step towards Black liberation, and land sovereignty is a form of reparations for Black people around the world.