Black/Land Project Community Conversation
March 5 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm EST
Join us on Sunday, March 5th, at the Clockhouse on the Goddard College campus at 7:00 p.m. for a community conversation with Mistinguette Smith, executive director of the Black/Land Project, who will discuss black people’s relationship to urban, small town and rural land in Vermont.
This event is free and open to the public and is presented by Goddard’s Undergraduate Studies program.
“There is a long history of black people here in Vermont, and when black Vermonters tell that story, it is a different American history than the one we are used to hearing,” says Smith.
Smith and the College invite black Vermonters to this discussion to share their experiences of land, history and community. RSVP be emailing RSVP@BlackLandProject.org.
Smith has spent the last 5 years gathering narratives about black people’s relationships to land across the U.S.. She finds there are specific race-based ways of relating to land that cross barriers of urban and rural experience.
“Black people have unique relationships of care to land that are different from mere ownership of property. The very idea of race was created using land: who gets to own land, who lives on what parcel land, who works the land and who benefits from that labor. Dismantling the idea of race must include revealing the unique and valuable ways that black people understand the meaning of land” she says.
At only 1% of the state’s population, the voices of black Vermonters are rarely heard in conversation with each other. Yet it is from such conversations that new understandings arise.
“In a workshop we led in Burlington in 2012, there was a discussion about how black people in New England tend to be newcomers who work in higher education rather than agriculture. After a long while, an African-American man who had been sitting silently in the back quietly said: ‘I’m a sixth generation Vermonter and I am here to tell you that every apple that is harvested, packed, and shipped from Vermont orchards passes through black hands.’ We suddenly became aware that black Vermonters are business owners in Montpelier and Burlington, they are farmers in rural Bennington County, and they are Afro-Caribbean skilled agricultural laborers who migrate across New England, following the harvest. Each of them have a unique relationship of care to land that is shaped by race. And we don’t yet know their stories.”
Smith invites black Vermonters to this discussion to share their experiences of land, history and community.