Sankofa Garden Homes: Harvest of thanks for bountiful blessings

CLARENCE GLOVER | 11/19/2017, 6:41 p.m.
Most of us may think the purpose of growing a garden is to produce a harvest. But producing a harvest ...
Professor Freedom expresses thankfulness for a harvest of summer collard greens. Albert Williams

The Dallas Examiner

Most of us may think the purpose of growing a garden is to produce a harvest. But producing a harvest alone is not the end-all of growing a garden. The “Africans who Built America,” our ancestors, before being enslaved in America knew that harvest time was a deeply spiritual and social experience that represented both a spiritual acknowledgement of the source of the harvest and the social impact the harvest had on the families who would partake of the bountiful harvest. As “Descendants of Africans who Built America,” we would do well to remember these African traditions and those of our African Ancestors and Elders here in America.

During the early days of America, African people were still connected to the land and the growing of food. After the establishment of chattel – property for life – slavery, Africans were the primary source of agricultural labor in America. Without being paid, they raised rice, sugar cane, peas, greens, yams, okra, squash, corn, hogs, chickens and cattle that sustained a young nation. Their free labor and the products they produced served as the foundation for an economic system that would make possible the creation of a new nation that would become the international trade market for the world. And that’s the cotton pickin’ truth.

Over the years, I have heard African Americans say, “Slavery destroyed our African culture and traditions.” To this assertion I have to say, “Absolutely not.” Culture and traditions are like energy; you cannot destroy them, you can only transfer them or transform them. Like other cultures, we have transferred and transformed our African culture and traditions to adapt to the American experience we found ourselves in.

As a DABA elder, minister and educator, I can now reflect on the lives of my parents, grand-parents and great grand-parents and see the continuation of African culture and traditions, particularly as it relates to the planting and harvesting of food. During my childhood, I experienced the seasonal planting of various seeds in the soil and anticipated them sprouting out of the ground. As I grew older, I became aware of the fact that the planting and growing of food was not just an arbitrary act, but was very intentional and in line with age old traditions of knowledge of the land and seasons combined with prayer. Many times, once the planting had been completed, I would hear elders say, “Let us pray for a good crop.” This acknowledgement recognized that growing food was not only a natural experience, but a spiritual one as well.

As we plant food, we are only custodians of the seed and the soil working in concert with The Creator of the seeds, the soil and The One who sends the sunshine and the rain. This relationship made us deeply aware of our dependence on the spiritual-natural balance of life, thus giving rise to attitudes of thanks for a bountiful harvest.

Because of modern times, many have lost the awareness of the balance between the spiritual and natural forces that gives us our food. For most youth, food comes from the grocery store, and this is the extent of their knowledge of the source of their food; their parents do not help them think otherwise. We have lost our attitude of thanks for the food we eat daily. Slowly slipping away are the days when we gathered around a common table and offered grace and thanks “for the food we are about to receive.”