Jonshell Johnson-Whitten’s path to farming started when she was a teen living in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. The area is known as a “food desert,” a low-income neighborhood with limited food access. But when Johnson-Whitten connected with a network of backyard gardeners, she discovered the potential for not just healthy food options, but also for community empowerment. “Being able to put [neighborhood] growers next to the folks who want to grow was the biggest part of inspiring people,” she says. That was just the beginning. Now, Johnson-Whitten takes seriously her role as a Black community farmer.
While the land relationships that dominate this society have implications for every relation in society, the recent crisis of gentrification and forced removal in low income Black communities, along with the volatile boom-bust real estate cycles, has made the struggle for adequate housing the most pronounced battleground in an increasingly intense war over the vision for the future of how we relate, prioritize and manage access to land. The current regime of land relationships renders housing and community development fatally flawed in at least two respects: first, houses serve dual social functions in this society, but those functions are contradictory and at odds with each other. And second, decisions about land use is fundamentally undemocratic, rendering people unable to make basic decisions about how to improve their own communities.
On Thursday, more than 150 Nez Perce (Niimiipuu) people returned and blessed part of their homeland, a hundred years after the U.S Army drove them from the Wallowa Valley in eastern Oregon. In direct violation of the 1855 Treaty of Walla Walla, the Nez Perce in 1877 were forced from their 7.5 million-acre homeland to a 750,000-acre reservation in Idaho. For years, the tribe has worked to keep a connection to the ancestral land they were driven from. Last year, they successfully reclaimed part of that land.
The work of our time is both slow and fast, rapidly transforming human society in the short and long term simultaneously. That can’t happen without re-examining our relationships with each other and with every other living thing on the planet. An honest one-sentence summary of the past 500 years is brutal reading: Tens of millions of Indigenous people around the world have been killed and forcibly removed from their lands in order to make rich and powerful white men even more rich and powerful. It’s still happening today.
Amidst a worsening climate crisis, the Oakland Institute’s new report, Driving Dispossession: The Global Push to “Unlock the Economic Potential of Land,” sounds the alarm on the unprecedented wave of privatization of natural resources that is underway around the world. Through six case studies—Ukraine, Zambia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and Brazil—the report details the myriad ways by which governments—willingly or under the pressure of financial institutions and Western donor agencies—are putting more land into so-called “productive use” in the name of development. “The fact that most of the land on our planet, especially in the Global South, is public land or land held under customary tenure systems is seen as an obstacle to exploitation and economic growth,” said Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute and the lead author of the report. “Governments are being pushed to adopt the Western notion of private land ownership to give corporations access to natural resources—land, water, and minerals—just the opposite of the drastic shift we need to win the struggle against climate change."
The secretary of the Department of the Interior has ordered that the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe’s reservation land be disestablished, Tribal Council chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a statement posted to the tribe’s website on Friday, March 27. The decision returns the property, which had been held in trust by the federal government as reservation land, to the tribe and disestablishes the reservation, placing projects on the land in limbo.
Environmental Groups Sue Trump Administration Calling Plan To Open Millions Of Acres Of Public Land To Fracking ‘Illegal’
Environmental groups are pushing back on the Trump administration’s decision to expand fracking in California. A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Tuesday challenges the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to open more than a million acres of public lands in Central California to oil and gas leasing, Common Dreams reported. Calling BLM’s fracking plan “illegal” and a “disaster for Central Valley communities,” the Center for Biologocal Diversity is joined by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Central California Environmental Justice Network...
Canadian Police Were Prepared Shoot Indigenous Land Defenders Opposed To Megaproject On Their Territory
In 2018, 164 land defenders were killed while protecting their land and ecosystems from destructive extractivist industries. Nearly one quarter of those killed were Indigenous. Many of those killed were in the Latin American countries where Peace Brigades International accompanies human rights defenders. 24 land defenders were killed in Colombia, 16 in Guatemala, 14 in Mexico, and 4 in Honduras. The Guardian now reports, “Canadian police were prepared to shoot Indigenous land defenders blockading construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia…
The Occupied West Bank — In November 2019, following a long legal battle, Israel revoked the work visa and deported Human Rights Watch (HRW) director Omar Shakir. According to HRW, Israel argued that the state, “revoked the work visa of Shakir, a United States citizen, in May 2018 on the assertion that his advocacy violated a 2017 law that bars entry to people who advocate a boycott of Israel or its settlements in the occupied West Bank.” HRW claims that this is not true and that the organization does not call for the boycott of Israel.
So began remarks made by Dr. Shirley Sherrod, a cofounder of the nation’s first community land trust, New Communities Inc., to hundreds of people who gathered under a giant air-conditioned tent at the Resora farm near Albany, Georgia, during the community land trust’s 50th anniversary celebration. The gathering, designed to commemorate the founding of the nation’s first community land trust 50 years ago, was held earlier this month at Resora, a 1,638-acre farm (a little over two-and-half square miles of land) located about seven miles from Albany, Georgia—a farm that New Communities acquired in 2011.
For decades, low wage work and exploitive housing policies have reigned supreme in Baltimore. Today there are tremendous disparities in wealth and health outcomes and a lack of access to affordable housing, but a growing number of residents are fighting exploitation through collective ownership of food, labor, and land, showing that another world is possible. Worker owners and community leaders discussed these efforts at the 2019 East Coast Workplace Democracy Conference, which included tours of local worker run cooperatives, land trusts, and community gardens focused on community empowerment.
At one point they describe his seizure of white-owned farms. “By 1998, although Mr. Mugabe had promised new land for 162,000 black families, only 71,000 white households had been resettled. Then came a dramatic turn. Starting around 2000, Mr. Mugabe’s lieutenants sent squads of young men to invade hundreds of white-owned farms and chase away their owners. The campaign took a huge toll. Over two years, nearly all of the country’s white-owned land had been redistributed . . . The violent agricultural revolution had come with a heavy price.
The racial wealth gap is finally being discussed seriously in this election cycle and in the country. And some people are even citing the history of slavery, racism, and discrimination that created the racial wealth gap. One of the key factors in the creation of this phenomenon of the racial wealth gap is housing policy. Or more specifically, there is a link between the ability white people have historically had to own property and homes that have accumulated value and created wealth, that they were able to pass down to future generations, that black people were not allowed to enjoy equally.
The case for Israel’s legitimacy and right to exist is one that is difficult to make. Israel is a state that was created for immigrant-settlers in a country that was fully inhabited and developed. Yet as long as Israeli governments pretend that they are interested in a peaceful solution with the people of Palestine — a solution that will include some recognition of Palestinian rights — Zionists will argue that there is some legitimacy to a so-called Jewish state in Palestine.