I think it’s incredibly indicative of our society and culture (hello, White Supremacy) that “Black History” gets 1 month out of the year where Black accomplishments and struggles, histories and advances, take the limelight.
And worse: it’s the shortest month of the year!
So here are some things we can all do, all year round to celebrate, educate ourselves, familiarize ourselves with our collective and divergent histories, challenge our public (or private, if that was the case, or home) school teaching and textbooks and the dominant discourse that North American history is a white history.
- Sign up for SoulFire Farm’s Uprooting Racism in the Food System (URFS) 3-hour online, but very interactive, workshop. It’s sliding scale, and I’m hearing great things from people taking it from all walks of life. I’m signed up for April 7th (because the waitlists are long and these fill up fast!). Spots still open March 17th and April 28th. (And go buy Lean Penniman’s book Farming While Black while you’re at it)
- Learn about Black researchers in ecology, evolution and biological sciences. To start with, how about entomology? Did you know there’s a Black Entomologists’ Association? Or that the Entomological Society of America published a book, Memoirs of Black Entomologists? You can download it as a free PDF or order the book for $20 USD. The society also curates a list of published articles by Black entomologists (self-reported, so the list is very much incomplete). If you identify as a black entomologist you can submit publications for addition to the list. The ESA also published a short piece on why Black lives matter to entomology. You can also learn more about pioneering Black entomologist Margaret S. Collins, who was not only proud to earn the moniker “The Termite Lady” but was also a dedicated Civil Rights activist.
- If, like me, you’re involved or interested in evolutionary biology, check out this paper by Dr. Joseph L. Graves, Jr. – the first African American to have earned a PhD in evolutionary biology. He speaks broadly to not only the experience of African Americans but also those in other Westernized countries; and the parallels with experiences of Latinx and American Indian scientists and would-be scientists. He gives a detailed account both personal and professional that I deeply appreciated and recommend.
- Out of Graves’ paper, a few more texts (albeit, written by white dudes forming the field of evolutionary biology) are recommended as having played an important role in debunking biological racism, which unfortunately still raises its ugly head as eugenics:
“However, evolutionary biologists also played an important role in debunking biological racism, beginning with people like Th. Dobzhansky who wrote the popular book Heredity, Race, and Society along with Leslie Dunn published in 1946. Richard Lewontin’s classic study of genetic variation within and between the purported races of humans was an important contribution to anti-racism (Lewontin 1972). Stephan Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man first published in 1981 is considered a major contribution to this cause. My own anti-racist work as an evolutionary biology was deeply influenced by interactions with Lewontin and Gould.”
That said, here’s a much newer paper written by Lindsay Pressman, How Evolution was used to Support Scientific Racism, from Trinity College; and a paper from Nature Ecology and Evolution on Black Lives Matter.
6. When I can, I’m listening to Sonia Renee Taylor of The Body Is Not An Apology and The Nap Ministry. Great stuff to follow whatever month you find yourself in.
7. If you’re in the entrepreneurial world, Rachel Rodgers is making waves in the women-run business world with her launch (2020) of We Should All Be Millionaires membership club. Rodgers firmly believes that every woman should be a millionaire (and I’m happy to agree with her). Self-described as ‘poor kids from Brooklyn’, she and her husband and their 4 kids bought and moved to a 54-acre ranch in North Carolina. (You can bet your bucks that I sent her some resources and names to check out for regenerative agriculture and land design, since she’s already hired a farm manager and is learning about crop planning and land management). She’s launching her first book in March 2021. Go do what I did and buy 4 copies to share with your sisters, mom, friends, whomever, through her business website Hello Seven.
8. Learn about what strategies BIPOC researchers are recommending at UBC in Canada to create systems of support, specifically in evolutionary biology. Near and dear to my heart as I once, long ago, entertained dreams of doing research with Dr. Diane Srivastava, one the researchers who developed the recommendations. She does really cool work with insect communities in bromeliads.
9. While we’re all science-y, why not check out this paper on the evolution of skin colour in humans? Here’s the article on Science Mag and the full citation below.
Crawford, N. G., Kelly, D. E., Hansen, M. E. B., Beltrame, M. H., Fan, S., Bowman, S. L., Jewett, E., Ranciaro, A., Thompson, S., Lo, Y., Pfeifer, S. P., Jensen, J. D., Campbell, M. C., Beggs, W., Hormozdiari, F., Mpoloka, S. W., Mokone, G. G., Nyambo, T., Meskel, D. W., … Tishkoff, S. A. (2017). Loci associated with skin pigmentation identified in African populations. Science, 358(6365), eaan8433. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aan8433
10. Check out resources provided by the Women Farmers Agricultural Network (WFAN):
- Forgotten Farmers: African-American Land Loss
- Why Are All the Black Farmers Vanishing?
- … and a viscerally uprooting essay and video project titled: Blood at the Root: Black Americans, Southern Soil, and Shared Trauma by Mary Annaise Heglar.
Please be aware that this powerful piece may be triggering in its graphic depiction of trauma. WFAN also provided a series of writing prompts.
They also provided reading lists and library resources that I’ll post at the bottom.
11. Learn more about early regenerative agriculturists (before it was “a thing”), particularly agricultural researchers Dr. George Washington Carver and Booker T. Whatley (see below). In the early 1900s, these two men were likely the first people to develop modern day ideas around regenerative agriculture, in response to their observations of ecological degradation in mechanized farming, and impoverization of their families and communities through slavery.
12. And finally… get yourself educated on the history that CSAs and regenerative agriculture generally owe to Black agrarianism, as detailed in this article from One Earth magazine and another extensive article here.
WFAN Inspired Reading List
- Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement by Monica White
- Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice by Jessica Gordon Nembhard
- Writings byChimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Writings by Zadie Smith
- The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience, and Farming by Natasha Bowens
- Writings by Pauli Murray
- Farming While Black by Leah Penniman
- Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown
- Trophic Cascades by Camille Dungy
Library Program List
A tool-kit for anti-racism allies, a Black Voices Virtual Art Exhibit, a webinar featuring Black herbalism narratives, book-lists, author talks — and more. The below list provides libraries offering educational, free, virtual, and open to anyone (no library account required) programs!
- Seattle Public Library
- Phoenix public library
- Denver Public Library
- Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative
- Boston Public Library
- DC library
Additional Resources to Learn More
- Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society’s U.S. Farm Bill Corporate Power and Structural Racialization in the United States Food System, https://belonging.berkeley.
edu/sites/default/files/ haasinstitutefarmbillreport_ publish_0.pdf
- Growing Culture’s webinar series #HungerforJustice last year, and a special Juneteenth celebration that featured a lot of great farmers, activists, and scholars. https://www.youtube.com/
playlist?list= PLE0s6SR2InK8Fil9c2lRR_ RlJnTR4G6_0
- New York Times podcast 1619
- The University of Oregon guide to the 1619 project
On Racism, Environmentalism and the Outdoors