Activism and Agriculture: An Interview with Farmer Kamal Bell
This post is part of our Black Organizing Today Series. This series, edited by Ajamu Amiri Dillahunt, consists of interviews highlighting the work of contemporary Black activists and organizers to shape local, regional, national, and global politics.
Sankofa from mediasmith on Vimeo.
In today’s piece, Ajamu Amiri Dillahunt interviews Kamal Bell, a farmer and activist who owns Sankofa Farms in Orange County, North Carolina. Sankofa Farms helps provide healthy and sustainable food to minority communities living in or affected by food deserts. Bell, who has a master’s degree in agriculture education, works with Black youth through Sankofa’s Agricultural Academy to teach leadership, discipline, community, and agricultural practices, also encouraging students to connect with their African ancestry. You can follow Kamal Bell and Sankofa Farms on Facebook, at Sankofa Farms LLC, and on Instagram, @SankofaFarms.
Ajamu Dillahunt: What experiences led to you becoming a farmer?
Kamal Bell: While attending North Carolina A&T, I did some some soul searching and had to ask myself what could I do for my people. Upon finding this answer, I began reading a great book titled Message To The Blackman in America by Elijah Muhammad. This piece of literature prompted me to change my major to animal industry, which was more centered around production agriculture. Since Black people do not control land, we also do not have access to resources. How can we truly be free from the oppression of others if we do not have the tools for our liberation? One of the key experiences that led me to becoming a farmer was the birth of our first son, Khalil Muhammad Tariq. During college, Amber and I discovered that we were having a child. At this moment, I knew that I had to do something that would ensure the survival for our son and also future generations who I will not have the chance to meet in person.
Dillahunt: How did your experience at A&T shape your consciousness around farming and agriculture?
Bell: Often times people would laugh or dismiss the notion of me becoming a farmer. The most common thing I remember hearing was, “What are you going to do with farming, become a poor farmer?” There were those who always supported the idea, but the masses of our people do not understand how farming can be used as a tool for our liberation.
Dillahunt: Describe how you see your farm as a tool for Black freedom.
Bell: The engine to rebuild civilization is the farm. If we look through the history of our people, we will see a common theme. The theme is that wherever people of African descent travel, we attempt to reestablish customs and values and build civilization. If we want better health, better housing, better food, better schools, etc., we have to get back to land ownership. Once we have a designated space, we can solve solve problems that specifically affect our people.
Dillahunt: If you do not mind me asking, what are some struggles that you face? But more importantly, what are some accomplishments and successes of the farm?
Bell: The biggest struggle that we have endured with the farm is receiving the necessary infrastructure to generate income. As a Black farmer, we have two battles on the forefront. The first is acquiring the land and the second is acquiring the infrastructure to generate an income from the land. Since our story is currently being written, I will not harp on any accomplishments. I know that this journey will start in my lifetime and continue far after me; our people must get free.
Dillahunt: If people want to get involved and support Sankofa Farms, what steps do they need to take?
Bell: The best way for anyone to support Sankofa Farms is to follow us on all social media accounts, but also to donate at the link below. We are a growing farm and money at this time helps us make the necessary adjustments to accommodate the growth. Thank you.
Donate to Sankofa Farms by clicking here.permission.