Special to The Dallas Examiner
On Feb. 12, 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, noted educator, historian and NAACP leader initiated the first Negro History Observance. The second week of February was later set aside for the celebration to coincide with the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglas and President Abraham Lincoln. The week was later expanded into Black History Month in 19876.
Today it has come to be known as African American History Month. This being the first Sankofa Garden Homes article written during African American History month, I felt it was important to address what I call “Heritage Gardening.” The word “heritage” is defined by Webster New Collegiate Dictionary as, something transmitted by or acquired from a parent or predecessor: legacy.
As DABA – or Descendants of African People who Built America – people, we come from a rich heritage people who were farmers and gardeners. As we discussed in the previous article Freedom, Land and Food, many of us have left the land our Ancestors farmed and garden and moved the cities or suburbs. In doing so we have not kept up the traditions of “working the land” and growing food for ourselves.
As we begin our first spring together as Sankofa Garden Homes, it would be a great time to include our youth and young adults as we begin to prepare the land for planting. All the things we will be doing will be valuable learning experiences for them and will fall under what is now called STEM education – science, technology, engineering and math – or project based learning.
Being the sixth generation raised on my ancestors land, I am deeply aware of the importance of Heritage Gardening. From my mother, maternal grandfather, grand-mother and great-grandfather and great-grandmother, I came appreciate the value of land and how to work it to grow food for the family. I did not know that what I was learning in my youth would someday become as valuable as it is today, as I share my knowledge of gardening with the younger African American generation. If future African American youth are to have the knowledge of farming and gardening, then we as African American adults must take the time to share the knowledge that has been shared with us.
I see the evidence of this in the many men and women today that my great grand-parents and grand-parents taught how to farm, garden, cook and preserve food. Their legacies live on, in their farms and gardens and the foods they cook, prepare and preserve, and that I still enjoy today when I go to “the country.”
As I stated earlier Heritage Gardening is not simply about sharing knowledge about gardening with the next generation, it is helping them to become the next scientists, doctors and engineers who will create new ways to help our nation and world become more “green conscious.” As this generation is exposed to gardening they will as Dr. George Washington Carver did during his lifetime, find new ways to use today’s technology to solve many of the agricultural issues facing our nation and world today. They will become the new agricultural businessmen and businesswomen who will return to the land to make a living while also providing food for their families and society.
Heritage Gardening is not simply sharing how to grow food close to home, it is also about knowing how to harvest, prepare and preserve food. The byproduct of this knowledge will result in a healthier generation. It will also help to bridge the generational gap as elders and youth work together, each sharing their knowledge to inform both traditional and modern methods of gardening and farming.
As you began preparing for your Sankofa Garden Home be sure to include you children or children from your neighborhood in the process. Letting them help construct the garden beds, go to a home improvement store to select the soil and fertilizer, buying the organic non-GMO seeds and building a compost bed will all be learning experiences that will align themselves with many of the learning objectives in their school.
Research has also suggested that youth who are exposed to soil develop stronger immune systems and become better rounded emotionally. By working with adults in gardens they also spend quality time talking and sharing their emotions and building stronger family and generational bounds. It goes without saying that the lessons they are learning will last a lifetime and be shared with their children and generations to come.
African American History becomes alive when we as African American adults take the time to share our stories with our youth. As we engage in Heritage Gardening we are not only growing food, we are growing minds and bodies. As we grow, harvest and prepare food together, we are reconnecting with family and community bounds that make our culture stronger and more lasting.
When we return to the days when African American elders, parents, infants, youth and young adults, shared a common table of food raised by the family, we can share family history and traditions and build stronger bounds of communication. We can set aside cell-phones for a while and reclaim the authentic art of face-to-face family and friends communicating.
Let’s make history together this African American History Month 2018 and start a Sankofa Garden Home and engage in Heritage Gardening. African American adults, elders and youth are waiting to meet up in the garden. So let’s get back to the garden and come to know what our ABA – or Africans who Built America – ancestors knew that the garden is actually where life begins and the legacy lives on!
Until next month, Happy Sankofa Home Gardening!
For information on gardening and harvesting, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.