Face Of This Place

Going Home: Inspired By A Big Vision, by Michael Cox 

I grew up on a farm in eastern North Carolina. About once a year, I go back to visit my family—and the land. Each time, I'm reminded of the many valuable lessons my parents shared with me as a child about the connection people have with their land.

About three years ago, in mid-January, I visited our North Carolina office in Chapel Hill. During that visit I witnessed a discussion between Mikki Sager, who leads Resourceful Communities, and partner Ammie Jenkins, Executive Director of the Sandhills Family Heritage Association (SFHA), regarding their progress in protecting historically African-American lands in the area. Just listening to them, and scanning the carefully chronicled maps of the land, brought back a flood of memories and made me nostalgic for my childhood—and the rural character that is still very much alive in this community.

With support from RC, Ms. Jenkins started SFHA in 2001 to bring African-American community members in the Sandhills region together to promote self-sufficiency, protect landownership, preserve cultural heritage, and ensure on-going sharing of knowledge and leadership through education. She explained how important these lands were in the early to mid-20th century. The care and protection of the land was critical because it offered so much: farming to nourish a family; shelter for safe haven from racial persecution; employment opportunities; roots and leaves for medicinal purposes; and a healthy home environment. Most of those attributes still hold true today but too often the pursuit of riches from outside influences, and the pressures that come with maintaining a farm, can sacrifice the care of the land and the associated legacy it holds. Because of this, it is imperative that protecting such communities continues.

As we toured the Sandhills community, we talked more about the importance of connecting current and future generations with the land around them. Given the temptation for young landowners to profit from development, they must be inspired by a big vision—one simple enough to capture the heart of this distracted and pressured generation—because this land still offers so much. My day spent with Ammie and Mikki near my childhood home in North Carolina reassured me. I know their vision is to do just that.

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