Around and around

Monique wants to go to town with her father, Joe Richardson. Joe raised his three kids just outside of New Madrid, Missouri, ona farm with his parents. Like so many Black farm families, obtaining and keeping land was, and is, a constant uphill battle. With one mistake or bit of bad luck, the forces pushing Black farmers off their land can quickly get the upper hand. Today, the farmland no longer belongs to the family, although the house still does. Photo copyright Torsten Kjellstrand, 1995.

If this is your first time to Cultivating Justice: Welcome!

This project is the happy collision of decades work done by Will Atwater and Laura Lawson — who have worked with community agriculture, land ownership, justice issues and such for a long time – with the photos I’ve made with Black farm families in the Bootheel of Missouri since 1993. Our hope is that others’ works and efforts will collide with Cultivating Justice, too, in hopes of giving a full and dynamic view of the intersection of race, agriculture and land ownership in the United States.

Looking back and forward from my perspective here in the summer of 2020, it feels like the conversation about race and land in America has moved into spaces unimaginable when I started photographing the Richardson family, and others, in 1993. On the other hand, it feels depressingly similar, as if we are just going around and around, as we constantly find new ways to engage but not move forward. I choose to think of this as an opportunity for all of us who want to be relevant and constructive in the conversations we must have and actions we must take, and I hope that this collaboration can make some contribution to making that real.

I will post more pictures of Joe and his family, as well as some from the Pullen and Peat families near Sikeston, Missouri, from visits I’ve made between 1993 and 2018.

Please follow us and keep coming back. Better yet, join the conversation.


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