Leah Penniman is a Black Kreyol farmer who has been tending the soil for 20 years and organizing for an anti-racist food system for 15 years. She currently serves as founding co-executive director of Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York, a people-of-color led project that works to dismantle racism in the food system. Her first book, Farming While Black, is out today.
As a young person, and one of three mixed-race Black children raised in the rural North mostly by our white father, I found it very difficult to understand who I was. Some of the children in our conservative, almost all-white public school taunted, bullied, and assaulted us, and I was confused and terrified by their malice. But while school was often terrifying, I found solace in the forest. When human beings were too much to bear, the earth consistently held firm under my feet and the solid, sticky trunk of the majestic white pine offered me something stable to grasp. I imagined that I was alone in identifying with Earth as Sacred Mother, having no idea that my African ancestors were transmitting their cosmology to me, whispering across time, “Hold on daughter—we won’t let you fall.”