Plants & Gardens Blog

She Hid Seeds in Her Hair: The Power of Ancestral African Foods (Video)

Christopher Bolden-Newsome, farmer and codirector of the Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia, asks, “How have African people built a food culture in America? Far from the succulent greens, pearlescent cowpeas, and comfort-cooked yams? New World stand-ins—collards, red beans, and sweet potatoes—ingeniously reconfigured, helped our ancestors re-create home and humanity wherever we went. Celebrating our ancestral foods by farming, consciously cooking, praying with, and sharing them can heal the spiritual and physical damage that we and our ancestors have experienced in our bittersweet American journey.”

Presented as the Wilbur A. Levin Keynote Address at Making Brooklyn Bloom 2021.

Biographies

A Black man with dreadlocks in a field with a shirt that says

Chris Bolden-Newsome, originally from the Mississippi Delta, is the oldest son of farmers and community justice workers Demalda Bolden Newsome and Rufus Newsome, Sr., and is the fourth generation in his family to farm free since Mississippi’s emancipation in 1865. In 2010, he joined Ty Holmberg in creating what became the Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden. There Bolden-Newsome codirects a three-acre crop field, orchard, and 60-bed community garden and an intentionally spirit-rooted, African Diaspora–centered farm and youth development program. The farm follows traditional natural agriculture techniques that focus on growing healthy soil for life-giving crops of the African Diaspora while learning and teaching pan-African cultural practices in traditional farming and foodways in an intergenerational context. He is married to Owen Smith Taylor, with whom he cofounded Truelove Seeds.

Laquanda Dobson creates curricula for youth and community members that reconnects them back to the Black diaspora. She is the creator of Chef Dobson’s Famous Greens, the culinary cultures coordinator and farmer manager at Sankofa Community Farm, and a proud member of the Black Dirt Farm Collective.

Ashley Gripper is the founder of Land Based Jawns, a Philadelphia-based organization that provides education to Black women on agriculture, carpentry, land-based living, and self-defense, with a focus on healing.

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