My uncle Jimi has now been farming in West Texas for more than 40 years. With grace and humility, he has taught me the definitions of perseverance and faith through his commitment to this challenging career.
“I had a guy once tell me, ‘You can be a hired hand all of your life. Or you can make something out of your life.’ And that stuck in my mind. And I was just like, ‘I don’t want to be a hired hand for somebody all of my life,’” he told me. “A lot of people said I would probably never make it. But I’m still going today, and I thank God for that.”
Uncle Jimi’s stories led me to found Black Farmer Stories, a nonprofit and digital platform that preserves the history, legacy, and agricultural knowledge of Black farmers and ranchers across the United States. I began this project with the intention of creating it for Black families who own land that is currently or once was in production. At first, I envisioned this project would preserve their work primarily for their relatives, those living now and future generations. With land loss shrinking Black property ownership to just the tiniest fraction of what African Americans owned in the early 20th century, families need records of how and why their ancestors and kinfolk worked the land; what they grew and produced on it; how they lived and loved on it; and most importantly, how and why they held onto it.
Since 2019, I have interviewed 10 Black agricultural producers in Texas. I am inspired and humbled that they opened their hearts and shared their stories with me. I consider myself a partner in the storytelling process; my goal is not just to capture narratives of struggle or resilience, but to record those quiet, tender moments of rest and joy. I do not take lightly the privilege I have in telling their stories, and sharing their faith and commitment to ensure the next generation has a legacy to carry on.
Black Farmer Stories is launching this year, and I hope you will share any stories that inspire you with others.
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