Volume 9, Number 7 August 27, 2006
Whites Re-invent African Culture
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Mu’min Muhammad
On August 18th and 19th 2006 Min. Lee Muhammad of Charlotte, NC, Barry Crumbley, BFAA member from NY and myself attended the National Bio-Dynamic Agriculture Conference held at Hawthorne Valley Farm in upstate New York. The theme of this year’s conference was "Building Sustainable Communities: Agriculture as Foundation for Social Change". As a student of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad the title of this conference resonated with my consciousness since he taught us that "Agriculture is the Root of Civilization." The title and the subject matter also reminded me of the African village concept of communal work, communal ownership, mixed agriculture and connectedness between the soul and the land.
In listening to the various speakers at the workshops it became apparent that these white people were trying to become more "spiritual" and get back to "nature". On the other hand Black people in the cities have totally bought into the western value system and are becoming more "materialistic" and artificial. While the host group was trying to grow food without chemicals and artificial fertilizers, Black people were dying their hair, putting in colored eyes and eating as much fast food as they could "super swallow". These white people were trying to understand how they fit into the cosmos, while Black people are trying to adapt their behavior and even appearance to fit into the artificial world set up by their conquerors, the white people.
The concept of Bio-Dynamics is based on a series of lectures given by Rudolph Steiner in 1924 in Austria. He introduced an idea for "a farming system based upon on-farm biological cycling through mixing crops and livestock. …This philosophy suggests that humans, animals, plants, minerals and the cosmic periphery form a whole system, or organism." This sounds like traditional agriculture developed by Africans thousands of years ago but destroyed by Europeans.
As we listened to the presenters at the various workshops the similarities became more apparent between this "new" concept of Bio-Dynamics and the African culture which was based on a continuous flow of energy from the spiritual world into the physical world. It is man’s responsibility to balance these energies to maintain an environment of health and peace.
We remembered the African story of Osiris (Ausar) and Isis (Auset). Isis is given credit for developing domesticated animals and crops while Oisiris is said to have taken this agricultural system of ancient Kemit to other parts of the world, thereby fostering the development of civilization throughout the world. It seems that Seth has temporarily won the struggle against his brother Osiris. Seth represents the hot, dry, selfish, destructive, nomadic, male principle represented by Western warrior exploitative society, while Osiris represents the wet, sedentary, harmonic, female principle represented by many now destroyed indigenous cultures of the planet. Now it seems that whites are trying to resurrect the principles of ancient African culture by another name.
Gary Lamb, Director of the Center for Social and Environmental Responsibility at Hawthorne Valley, laid out a new paradigm for economic development based on "working together" instead of the competitive profit making model. He quoted David Corten who made many attempts to use western economic development models with indigenous people but found that "...no development theory embraced all peoples." Mr. Lamb opined that for sustainable development, people must "...break from money to community." Any attempts of development must work with the "whole view of reality" instead of the "excessively partial view of reality" that under girds the thinking of western economic and agricultural thought.
He continued by asserting that man must understand how he fits into the cosmos. The basic relationships are between the earth, man and God. This goes back to the indigenous inhabitants of the America’s concept of the three tiered world with earth as the foundation, man in the middle and God on top.
Let us highlight a few other comments from various speakers to get to our conclusions: "Productivity should be connected to furthering the spiritual development of the human being. It should increase the vitality of the individual and society." (Gary Lamb)
"Food carries the energies of he who handles it…People should be connected to the source of their nourishment." (Jessica Prentice)
"Researchers had told the Congress in the 1950’s that reliance upon artificial fertilizers would decrease the vitality of our commercial crops and increase the strength of competing weeds forcing the utilization of herbicides and pesticides. It seems that the USDA and the chemical industry understood the value of this information and pushed through this concept of mono-culture (growing one crop year after year) supported by artificial fertilizers and chemicals which the chemical firms produced and the USDA loaned money to the farmers to consume…Black farmers carry a wealth of information on how to handle soil without chemicals. We should visit these older farmers who now may be located in the cities and get as much experiential information as possible especially from those farmers that used to farm in the areas where you may have your farm." (Klaas Martin)
Mr. Martin went on to describe the form of sustainable agriculture once practiced by Black farmers in the South which included crop rotations, livestock grazing, recording and paying attention to natural rhythms of their environment, and a deep spiritual connection to their crops, livestock, land and family. Of course, this tradition would have naturally been passed on to the children of theses farmers if their land was not taken from them.
White people have now "rediscovered" this more sustainable way to produce food and fiber. They have also rediscovered the "neters" or "Orisas" which are the governing forces of nature that all African cultures knew had to be properly "appeased" through prayer, song, dance and obedience. The Africans never tried to "conquer" nature but worked with the forces of nature to justify their existence in harmony with nature.
However Africans who were practicing this form of interdependence and harmony with nature were captured by European slave traders and brought to America to teach white people how to farm, "Bio-Dynamically". After slavery even though they were never given their promised "40 acres and a mule", they bought 16 millions acres of land by 1910 and continued this mixed farming approach. However, Black farmers were forced out of this traditional style of mixing crops and livestock by the USDA which forced them to grow a limited number of crops and give up their small livestock operations if they were to get government loans and assistance.
As members of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association we were allowed to give a presentation about the state of Black farming. It was interesting to see the incredulous looks on some of the whites in attendance as we described how the US government succeeded in destroying Black agriculture in the South. Now that they are gone another set of white people, the Bio-Dynamic types, are looking for these same farmers to help them understand how to farm in a sustainable manner.
Our two days and registration fees were well spent to learn that our Black farmers in America and in Africa had it right. Maybe more Blacks will listen to this new breed of white experts and go back to their African culture of communal land ownership, food security, working together and respect for the land. However, it may be almost impossible to buy land if the trend continues of increasing land values. The 1600 acres of land now called Muhammad Farms was purchased in 1995 at a price of $1,000 per acre. This past week two farms were put up for sale in our area: one was 650 acres and the other was 1,500 acres. Each is selling for $3,500 per acre.