“Queen Sugar” Author Natalie Baszile on How Black Farmers Can Help Save the Planet

“Those old indigenous practices have everything to do with carbon sequestration.”

Natalie Baszile with the cover of her new anthology We Are Each Other's Harest

Mother Jones illustration; Courtesy of Harper Collins

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Natalie Baszile knew she was onto something when she got the call from Oprah’s people. A novelist and food justice activist, Baszile had been working for years on a semi-autobiographical novel about a Los Angeles-based Black woman who is unexpectedly faced with reviving an inherited family farm in Louisiana. The book became Queen Sugar, which was published in 2014 and, with Oprah’s backing, later debuted as a TV series on OWN in 2016. American audiences were getting an intimate glimpse into how reverse migration was reshaping Black life in America.

Now, in a new anthology, Baszile is broadening her scope. In We Are Each Other’s Harvest, Baszile offers up a carefully curated collection of essays and interviews that get to the heart of why Black people’s connection to the land matters. Mother Jones food and agriculture correspondent Tom Philpott recently published an investigation called “Black Land Matters,” which explores how access to land has exacerbated the racial wealth gap in America. The story also takes a look at a younger generation of Black people who have begun to reclaim farming and the land on which their ancestors once toiled.

In this discussion on the Mother Jones Podcast, host Jamilah King talks with Baszile about how this new generation of Black farmers is actually tapping into wisdom that’s much older than they might have imagined.

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