My great grandmother was born and raised on a Louisiana slave plantation. She worked her way up and became a land owner.
As the story was recently narrated to me by my Aunt, my great grandmother was being bullied by Whites who were trying to acquire her land. After several warnings to leave her alone, she ended up shooting a White man in the face with a shotgun; a very serious offense for a Black woman in that day. She’d told him to get off of her property and he refused. That’s how serious she was about her land.
My grandmother (her daughter) fled the small town, at the order of her mother. She ended up in Houston, Texas, and never looked back. She never told her children the whole story. My great grandmother was murdered. She was barricaded inside of her own house and the house was set afire. I was told that little children died in the blaze along with her. Nobody really knows the things that Black people have had to endure in this country, while trying to hold on to a piece of land.
I knew none of this until recently. I always wondered where my fire for justice came from. I truly believe that the fire that burned inside of my great grandmother, up to her death, ended up in me. I’m dead serious!
My great grandmother died protecting our family’s wealth. She went to her death trying to keep possession of her land. This is the mindset we must develop today.
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad taught that “land is the basis of freedom.”
Every major war in history has primarily been fought over land. Of course, many modern wars are fought over oil. But, where do you find oil?
Underneath land, of course. Land ownership is the key to independence. Land is power. Always has been. Always will be.
When our ancestors were “emancipated” from slavery, their first priority was to acquire land. They knew that they’d made White plantation owners wealthy through land cultivation. It only made sense for them to do the same for themselves. They were the masters of the soil.
In the 45 years following the Civil War, freed slaves accumulated approximately 15 million acres of land across the United States. By 1920, there were 925,000 Black-owned farms. Freed slaves didn’t have much. What little they did have, they used to buy some Earth that they could call their own. Here we are with over $2 trillion in annual spending power, and we own less land than our ancestors did coming out of slavery.
Black people are the original inhabitants of the Earth. Our relationship with the soil has always been a natural one. Our experience in slavery interrupted this. After centuries of back-breaking labor on plantations, making America a superpower and creating generational wealth for Caucasian families with nothing to show for it, our people grew to resent land cultivation. Our culture began to look down on farming and agriculture, as if it were lame. We valued corporate jobs. We praised entertainment and athletic careers. I have friends who grew up in the country and never bothered to learn about the land. They couldn’t wait to get away and move to the city. This mindset has crippled us economically. We have to change the narrative.
Black America must become “land centric” again.
So many tricks and tactics have been used to finesse Black folks out of our land. Our ancestors had sense enough to buy it, but most were not educated enough to know how to protect it. They had no legal resources, so most of them died with no will, leaving the land with no clear title. I’ve heard stories about Black men losing their land to White men in card games. In places like South Africa, the land was simply taken by force. This is why revolutionary South Africans are calling for land expropriation without compensation. The European has mastered the art of stealing land and looting nations of natural resources. All over the world, Black people must make a power move toward the acquisition of land.
Gentrification is just a sophisticated term for inner city “land wars.”
Black people have been dealing with so-called gentrification for over 150 years.
Young brothers and sisters are waking up. They are discouraging their parents and grandparents from selling the family land. This is a good thing. However, we put our grandparents in a tough position when the younger generation appears to have no interest in putting the land to good use.
The study of agriculture, farming and land development must become as popular as Air Jordan sneakers in our culture. Our land must be kept, but it must also be cultivated and monetized.
We cannot have a serious conversation about reparations for the descendants of slaves without discussing land. Think about it. If our ancestors had been compensated for their labor, they would have wanted to be paid in land; not just money. As long as you have the land, you can make the money. Black people are not necessarily owed money. Black people are owed land; which is more valuable than money.
If we could accurately quantify how much land is owed to us, based on our ancestor’s free labor, they would have to give us the whole damn country. Since that will, more than likely, never happen, we have to deliver our own reparations by placing a laser focus on land acquisition and occupation.
I didn’t stutter. Yes, I said occupation! If there is an abandoned piece of property in your neighborhood, try and find the owner. If you are unsuccessful, I say clean it up and take it over. Turn it into a play area for children or an urban garden. Put it to good use. If the owner shows up, ask him how much he wants for the property. Find a way to buy it from him. He should sell it for a cheap price since you’ve already put in the sweat equity.
With food shortages hovering due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many people have started to grow food in their backyards. We should all follow suit.
My people, let us hold onto our land and put our dollars together to acquire more. Let’s send our children to school to learn more about engineering, agriculture and land development.
I still struggle, trying to process what happened to my great grandmother. I plan to learn more about her, and someday find the land she owned. Like my great grandmother, many of our ancestors lost their lives trying to protect the little land they had. If we are ever to achieve real Black power, we must get back to the land.