Week 5: Urban Farming, Race, and History – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 5: Urban Farming, Race, and History


The title of this article intrigued me because my internship on an urban farm consists of me, a white intern, working with Naim, the black director of Hope House, along with other black interns L’Oreal (a former DCBRPer!) and Lamar, who lives a few streets away from Hope House. I have thought about the issues that often come along with white people coming to do some type of service in a non-white community. I am worried that community members will see me as more of an intruder, trying to do some good for some recognition, and then leaving at the end of the summer, showing no real commitment or care for the community. I’m glad I have this opportunity to learn from and discuss these issues with the black Detroiters I work with. I thought this article would mostly be about this issue of white urban farmers coming from outside the neighborhoods they work in often don’t meet the needs of the community. What surprised me was a slightly different topic; this history of black farming, and how the media has only become interested in it when it becomes a “white people thing”. This reminded me of what I’m learning in the book I’m reading with Naim, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. Many black people who were recently “freed” from enslavement relied on farming at their homes, and it was passed down generations. They had to grow their own food because they were so poor under the system that tried to keep them as close to slave status as possible. But once it becomes a trend for white people to take charge in these settings, the focus often goes from the community to the person or organization. Urban gardening is a tool of resiliency, a concept that is not new to the black communities. The more black people running community farms, the more receptive communities will be and the more it will strengthen ties within neighborhoods, and between people and their food.

1 thought on “Week 5: Urban Farming, Race, and History”

  1. I thought that this article was very pertinent to our work and work that I’m interested in doing in the future. It’s easy as a white person to even accidentally impose yourself on a community to do what you want to do without fully recognizing what the community wants. I loved hearing Malik Yakini’s opinion on what a white person’s role is in Detroit’s urban farming. Yet I do think it is possible to do this work if you are very intentional about it. Community work takes years and years of being present and proving yourself, especially if you’re not originally from that community. It is definitely hard, but it can be worth it.


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