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By Angelique Walker-Smith
In 1976, the Isley Brothers released a R&B hit that poses this question: “When will there be a harvest for the world?” Jasper Isley has said that the song asks, “when will there be a time that people have an equal share of what’s going on, and when will they have equity in their lives?”
This month’s Pan-African devotionals consider these questions in relation to equitable land ownership—the acquisition and use of the land for nutritional food for all people. Land acquisition and the distribution of land is also a primary determinant of wealth.
At the turn of the 20th century, formerly enslaved people of African descent and their heirs owned 15 million acres of land, primarily in the South, mostly used for farming. Today, they own a little more than 1 million acres. This dramatic loss of land by African Americans helps us understand why white households have a net worth 13 times the net worth of African-American households today. And it also helps explain why African Americans are disproportionately affected by hunger.
Rev. Jennifer Bailey reminds us that land loss and hunger are also found in the urban food deserts in the African-American community, where many people have inadequate access to nutritional food. Rather, in low-income communities of color, where people have limited modes of transportation, there is often a surplus of convenience stores, liquor stores, and fast-food restaurants.
African nations have also lost their rich fertile lands to corporations, says Father Aniedi Okure. This has resulted in the loss of homes and source of livelihood for many. He points out that the Land Matrix Initiative (LMI) for 2016 documents African land deals involving more than 62 million hectares of land. This is enough land to contain more than 500 million single family homes.
Rev. James Blassingame says all of us have a responsibility to preserve the land by “tilling and keeping the earth” (Genesis 2:15) and that we are called to “justly share the gifts of God’s creation for all—today and for future generations.”
Government leaders and policies have an important role to play in this. They help dictate the flow of food supplies and wealth resources from the land. We are called to action to engage them in that role!
Rev. Tyler Milner says Nehemiah showed us a way to do this. Nehemiah wrote a letter to his government leader and ended up partnering with the government to re-claim and rebuild the land of the Israelite people.
During this season of Bread for the World Sunday, you can help us move toward reclaiming and rebuilding the land for all by voting in the midterm elections and by writing letters to our leaders in support of an equitable farm bill.
Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for Pan-African and Orthodox Church engagement at Bread for the World.
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