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more black people in US permaculture

 
gardener
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oho Raven, i didn't even think to put the page name and not the link in the wikipedia tab (also the first time i used it).

I have friends in Milwaukee and I got the chance to get to know the program when I visited a few years ago, Allen has faced some controversy over taking money from Walmart and the organization is still in transition, but if you want a rockstar, he gets my vote. https://www.macfound.org/fellows/70/
 
pollinator
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So the other thing I feel a need to add, and hadn't gotten to in my other post, is another thing those of us of dominant/privileged groups can do is become more aware of our privileges and make fewer assumptions--or, better said, learn more about what assumptions we have that we don't know we have.  That's the thing about an assumption, you usually don't make it knowing you're making it.  If we all grow up in our communities, in some kinds of bubbles, then we don't know what lies outside the bubble--like the expression "the water the fish swims in."  

This can get really emotionally charged, so I'm going to leave it really general, but Google can be a help with this.  What I was taught in school didn't cut it in many, many ways.

Just as we have to expand our awareness more and more in order to learn how to be more permanent in our horticulture and other material culture, I am quite sure we need to expand our awareness about how other people experience the world.

This doesn't have to mean, "I did everything you do in heels and backwards so your accomplishments are invalid and you should feel insignificant and inadequate," it just means that other people may have done things beyond what I imagine is possible for myself and I need to let go of the assumptions.  No shaming is necessary for progress.  The people who I know of as really getting aware and doing something constructive about it were taught by compassionate intervention, not by being yelled at.  Compassion is a lot to ask of someone who's already being shat on, but it's still what works.  It may be more effective to say nothing and ask the offending person to web search [fill in the blank].

I have learned a lot about how I was unconsciously assuming people of various oppressed groups were thinking and what opportunities they did and did not enjoy, and I am quite sure I will continue to have more to learn.  

Just as people higher up the eco scale than oneself can appear crazy, people with much more awareness can seem crazy, but from another perspective what they have to say is common sense.

Learning is a part of permaculture.  As Sepp always says, Listen!

Also, regarding the Indian community, a shout out to Bryan Deans, a Lakota permaculturist who teaches and holds builds on reservations, and the Wampanoag of Aquinnah, who built a modern carbon neutral building for their public information building decades before it was cool.  (Of course, all the Indians' buildings were carbon neutral, but doing one that simultaneously meets modern building code is a feat that boggles my mind.)

As for the thing going viral, my thoughts were a bit muddy about that, I have to rethink what I wrote.  

I appreciate learning about more Black permaculture voices in this thread.
 
pollinator
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There is an article on Mother Jones today called "The Guide to Farming While Black" for anyone who is interested.
 
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The book: A Terrible Thing to waste by Harriet A. Washington goes into environmental racism. Black communities are systemically separated from nature through a variety of intentional and disgusting tactics. Redlining pushes African American communities out of "desirable" areas, etc. I think that the root of the issue is also connected to the "whiteness" within permaculture which in its origins has after amplified voices of white men, while other voices were not being heard. A space where the majority of people are white, may not feel very welcoming to the black community until their voices become amplified.
 
gardener
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Thanks for sharing your ideas and experiences in this interesting thread.
As a German, I can only have an outside view as I only know the US from short visits.

This topic made me think what the situation is like in Germany.
Almost a quarter of the inhabitants here have an immigration background - something that does not compare to being black obviously.

The gardening scene (there is hardly a big permie movement) in the Social Media is dominated by the so-called "Bio-Germans" (with all-German, non-immigrant background), but there are some YouTubers with immigration background, mostly Turkish and Russian.

Lots of the children and grandchildren of immigrants live in cities. But many cities here have communal garden plots, and some of those are held by (ex-)immigrants. From what I see and read, these gardeners are well-respected because many of them are very successful in gardening and they have "exotic" veggies that they know from their childhood in Turkey/Greece/Croatia/Ukraine etc., they share their secrets and their recipes.
One of my most prized tomatoes is from a seed I got from a German who grew up in Hungary (and was displaced after the war).

I have to add that garden allotments are very popular here (especially for the last 10 years or so) and there are waiting lists. Gardening and growing vegetables is nothing that is related to being poor or backwards here.
To tell the truth, the most productive and beatiful little garden here are being kept by elderly people, and when they die the house and garden will be bulldozed and a new home with an ugly lawn-only garden will likely be built. But there is also a trend of growing veggies as a young (and urban) person and the ugliest of those gardens have a popular "hall of shame" on the Internet (https://www.facebook.com/GaertenDesGrauens/ or https://www.instagram.com/p/BwRD0synhtq/).
I have to add that there are no "zoning laws" or HOA here who could prevent you from having your front and back garden full of fruit trees and veggies.

Regarding urban populations:
Gardening on your balcony is quite popular. There are providers that cater for those urban gardeners, and there is a startup that provides sets with seasonal seeds and soil ready for planting.

So there are no negative biases against growing your own (on the contrary I would say) but I know this is quite different e.g. in Latin America. I know from a woman working for an NGO in Mexico that even the poorest people with space would not plant anything because they would be considered low-class. It was considered better to buy cheap, awfull junkfood.
Likewise with friends from Peru. They admire my garden and now even exchange seeds with me (currently they only own a balcony) but they say back home their mother has a big plot, but only dogs running around and maybe some rose bushes.
Another friend from Peru once told me when I informed her about the very popular second-hand market at our school (for children's clothing): Thanks, but this is not part of our culture.

This means they would knowingly avoid a way to save money and get healthy food just because they are prejudiced.
And I may not judge because surely I am prejudiced as well.
 
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I honestly think this is a self-segregating issue. I have known many farmers, ranchers, and practical gardeners of African descent. I just don't think - like most ranchers, farmers, and gardeners of any ethnicity - they tend to think of what they do in terms of permaculture. I also think we (as white people) tend not to go out of our way to invite different types of folks into our permie circles. It's not a criticism; I am noticing it for myself. I have been in many hobbiest groups and have seen/experienced the same thing. Trail riding is another one that seems to self segregate. Quilting too...of all things. It's very interesting, and something I am now committed to changing.
 
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Hi Paul,  longtime reader first-time commenter.  I'm here in Georgia and I'm a cyber-permie, meaning I read your newsletter but haven't put any into practice. I believe I'm a 6th generation Native NYer, but my great-great-grandmother was a West Virginia farmer, and her dad was from the Blackfoot tribe. So although my roots are indigenous to the permie culture - growing up in NYC didn't help me retain a lot of the knowledge.  I found this topic because I was actually searching for information on other black permies, and this one is at the top, but right under are several websites for the black permaculture network. So they're out there too!
 
Mel Hopkins
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Nicole Alderman wrote:It might also be an urban vs. rural thing.

But, they need that basic education that they and their parents probably didn't have, of what food is.



THIS!

I didn't even know Turkeys danced and could fly until I moved to West Virginia. At the same time, I couldn't eat turkey for years since so many took up residence in my backyard. But I digress; economic status is definitely a source of food ignorance -but the twist is, from my experience, it hits all socioeconomic status levels in the inner-city.  "Location, location, location."  The only turkey I saw in Brooklyn was in my uncle's freezer. My uncles were butchers and had vegetable stores in Brooklyn. - But I couldn't tell you how the food got to their stores or our table.  For some reason, we (as children) weren't included in "grown folks business."  

I remember traveling with my dad to North Carolina to our cousin's modest farm.  I remember begging to go to McDonald's because I saw a chicken in the pot that was running around the yard a few hours before. Or being nauseated by seeing things crawl out of the fish's gills after my cousin caught them from the pond.  AND my cousin didn't waste one part of the chicken; even the feet ended up in the pot.    

So, it's true many NYers, like me, didn't even know what fresh food was and how different (and good) it tastes compared to can or frozen.   As I'm writing this, I realize there's money to be made on our ignorance. If we inner-city dwellers don't know the difference - retailers can sell us anything and call it food.  And some do!

 
gardener
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There are many great observations and insights on this page.  I can only base my own perspective on my observations of what permaculture looks like, possibly from an outside perspective:  Even though backyard projects are encouraged, the myth of self-sufficiency holds strong in the mind, and in that sense, those that come to gain an understanding of what permaculture is primarily look at it as part of the back-to-the-land movement.  As was mentioned, the majority of black Americans are economically marginalized, are renting, or if they own their housing, they do not have a large plot of land and have very little outlook as to gaining the finances to even consider the option of moving out onto the rural landscape.  The concept of moving out onto the land is probably even more challenging than the average lower-income white person who comes to the conclusion that they want some kind of food security.  I think that this is so because of the lack of examples within their community-it creates a vicious cycle.  

Local black champions are needed, and when they arrive on the scene, they need to be promoted by other permaculturalists and gardening magazines, but also, if possible, aided in any way to spread their knowledge in their local communities or to spread the love of the message and methods into other black communities outside of their local areas.  

The Black Panthers created food programs to feed children decades ago, but from what I understand, both their militant stance, as well as the communist ideology that they believed strongly in and were promoting to the children made them difficult allies for some who did not feel the same way.  A similar community-led effort, but this time focusing on growing and teaching food production in urban environments right across the country in all marginalized black communities, would be a massive gain, and as a result the face of permaculture as an urban movement would likely be much more black than white.      
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Here’s some other darker elements that have not been discussed yet and the possible light at the end of the tunnel:

There is an inherent racist overtone in a movement onto the land in a place like America, where the vast majority of us are immigrants living on stolen land.  The whole concept of land ownership and of what that truly means is far greater than I could possibly write in a single post, but that creates the foundation of agriculture on this continent, and it is perpetuated by a economic model of agriculture and horticulture that is based on private land ownership and individual small competing farms.

I am partly guilty of this, myself, as a private land owner on unceded Indigenous territory, who aims to earn a living based on his farm.  This carries on with the idea that in order to earn a good living on a farm we must do so on the private farm and do it in specific ways that enshrine an elitist attitude toward our market (high priced produce) so that we can make a profit (or earn a decent living) from our extensive labor hours.  The cost of organic farm-to-table produce is beyond the means of the majoriity of the people who live in North America’s countries, and as such, it is inherently a flawed model if we have intentions of reaching everyone, or even any where near the majority, let alone those who are economically marginalized.  

Besides that, the movement is trying to compete with some of the world’s largest corporations, and that corporate competition is trouncing the organic market by 400%.  If we have any hope of getting good food into the hands of the majority of people, particularly the disenfranchized who need it the most, then we need to completely do a rethink about how we develop and promote the food movement, and that is rather than competitively (meaning competing with each other) we likely need to do so coopertatively.  Big Ag is counting on us trying to compete with them as struggling individuals, and as such, they know they can continue to sell garbage food to the masses at ridiculous profits, and that is almost exclusively what is happening in the majority of Black American neighbourhoods.  

Now, maybe I’m starting to sound like the Black Panthers, and yes I have some leanings toward radical communitarianism, but I would like to think that the answer lies in those people in those neighbourhoods all over North America, and in the collective purchasing power of the masses to create different markets that collectively can compete with Big Ag.  And that can start with Black people growing and sharing and selling fresh nutritious organic food in the city at a cost that people can afford, but it also has to start with us rebuilding the food to table model away from this one with so many inherent flaws to one that can get the food onto the majority of tables.  

How that happens, is up for discussion, but unless those two things change, we will not see Black (or other economically marginalized) people involved in the process.

This concept is writen about much more extensively by Chris Newman of Sylvanaqua Farms in this article.
 
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I'm not understanding why it matters what someone's demographic is.  We all come to this from different perspectives, and I think we should be reaching out to people we know rather than targeting a specific demographic, whatever that may be.

I'm keeping my responses non-political.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Hi Julie Hoolie

I'm not understanding why it matters what someone's demographic is.  We all come to this from different perspectives, and I think we should be reaching out to people we know rather than targeting a specific demographic, whatever that may be.  

Paul is trying to reach everyone.  He's trying to reach the largest audience that he can.  He noticed that there is not a lot of Black folks that are visible in permaculture.  If we do not reach out into the Black Community or give them an incentive or even the idea to be involved in permaculture, then we never reach them unless they stumble on it alone, against immense odds.  If we do as you suggest, then we do not reach the majority of people.  We do not reach many people at all. It certainly is still good and fine to work in our communities and to network with people who share the same demographic or have the same perspective, but movements do not expand far or fast that way.  Paul is looking to develop more of a critical mass.  
 
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Last night as I was getting ready for bed I checked my email to see if there was anything critical that i need to stay up for (server problems, time critical moderation problems, etc.).  There was an email from nicole saying that somebody had emailed the permies staff and asked that i do stuff to entice more people of color to wheaton labs.  And nicole then added her own comment about the people of color that are here right now.

Not critical, so I didn't read the details and went to bed.

As I went to sleep I thought about it a little.  I thought that a good response would be that my empire is reaching more than a million new people each month.  Surely that is reaching thousands of "people of color."  Further, if I changed my strategies to focus more on people of color, I suspect that I will, in the end, actually reach fewer people of color - and fewer people overall.  I suspect that the person writing has some strategies in mind - perhaps this person should implement those strategies rather than pushing them onto me.

This morning I tracked down the email.  I get the impression that the author's intent was a little different than nicole's interpretation.  Somebody is thinking of joining the bootcamp and is trying to find a polite way to ask if there might be race stuff here to worry about.  I don't think there is.  We've hosted a lot of people from different races.   There are a few non-anglo folks here now.  Dez has been here a long time.  "Hey Dez, how much racial suffering are you experiencing here?"  "What?  I dunno.  Zero.  Nothing."  and his facial expression is "dafuk?"

I think a person could travel across the country and find themselves in the middle of something really dark because of race stuff - so it makes sense to try and get a feel before making such a big leap.
 
pioneer
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To flip the question, why aren't most white folks into permaculture? There are lots of white folks that are, but not most. Could many of the reasonings be the same? Either that they don't recognize that there's a problem with the way we're living now, or are too busy dealing with day-to-day bullshit to worry about making the world a better place, even if it would ultimately be a better place for them?

Alternatively, why don't most of the white folks who are doing permaculture have platforms like Paul's? It's a lot of work, most of it thankless, and it takes a lot of time to build momentum and get recognized. Most people, regardless of race, don't have the time and resources to build the "brand recognition" that we're talking about. Or they simply don't want to be in the spotlight. It's tough to build an audience even without piling any level of racism on top of it. But there are lots of people doing lots of great work, it's just that most will never be known outside of their family and friends.

A lot of my focus lately has been permaculture on youtube, and I'm trying to build a community of young channels that can come up together since collaboration is an effective way to grow on that particular platform. It's hard to discover channels with fewer than 1,000 subscribers, but I'm constantly searching for random stuff, and sorting it by newest first (so that youtube doesn't just show me what's already popular), so that I can find the people that haven't been discovered yet. I've gotta tell you, I'm finding lots of black folks and people of color, and it's been amazing to get their particular insights and perspectives. I hope to collaborate  with some of them in the future, if they'll grant me that privilege, and use whatever unique insights and privileges I have with regard to growing on the platform (because of my background in tech and digital marketing) to boost their voices.

On that, I have to ask: Are you seeking out the perspectives of people who are different from you, or are you just waiting for them to fall into your lap? Are you doing anything to boost unique perspectives when you find them?

On Youtube, it's fairly easy to help someone develop a platform once you find them. Watch videos to the end; that makes Youtube recommend them to more people. Comment; that doesn't really help with regards to the algorithm, but it does keep small channels motivated to keep creating and improving... and you can ask for more insight into things that were mentioned in a video, and that can be the impetus for yet another video. Liking videos is of moderate use, but technically counts as engagement, and certainly helps motivate creators. Share great videos from small channels: here, on Facebook, on Reddit, or wherever. Show up. Listen. Interact. Build relationship. Showing up every day, for every video, no matter how rough, is how you boost a voice.

Content on small channels is rough. Gear costs money. Being on camera takes practice. Editing is a whole beast that most people never master. It's a lot of work with everything stacked against you. And someone isn't going to blow up over night. It takes blood, sweat, and tears. If you believe that someone's voice deserves to be heard, then you have to be willing to be there when they're still finding their voice, building their audience, and building their skills. If you're not willing to sit through blurry videos and crappy audio, who will? And how will they grow?

Here's a black permaculture channel that I'm subscribed to. It's fantastic. Her young food forest puts mine to shame. But she only has 31 subscribers. Her latest video only has 12 views. I love seeing what she's growing, and the combinations of plants that I would have never thought of. It's a shame that she doesn't have more viewership. Sure, she's not traveling the world giving lectures, or coming up with the next Rocket Mass Heater, BUT THIS IS WHERE IT STARTS. If she doesn't gain a following while things are still rough, then she'll never have the platform to achieve any of those other things, even if she wants to. If you want to hear more black voices, then find JUST ONE, and boost it. It's powerful to see other people that look like you, and talk like you, and think like you. Boosting one voice that's unlike yours creates a pathway for more of those voices to rise to the top just because they see that it's possible. Create one beacon and more will follow.
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