Many black travel narratives focus on racism, ignorance or exotification. Other damage-centered stories focus on forced movement or displacement. When we only hear and tell these kinds of stories about black movement across land, we showcase narratives of black bondage. One impact of these narrow appraisals is it keeps black people in the same place, preventing us from experiencing the freedom that moving can also bring.
We have been blogging about black people on pilgrimages as a liberating and authentic relationship to land. Another story about moving across land we hear is about moving from the city to the country.
Leah Penniman moved from Albany to rural upstate New York, where she and her husband began to build their own home and farm. Penniman vividly describes the complexity of this move:
“I hated this land a lot too. We bought it. It’s beautiful. It’s a spiritual vortex. It’s amazing. It’s the only place with fields and the whole mountainous area. But the work, the work and the money almost killed me. It almost made me kill [my husband] actually. I think that he almost killed me too! But we’re here so, it’s good…. The thing is that it’s hard to make a decision to live early on land because...it felt like it was leaving the Black community.”
Penniman’s account of moving across the land is balanced. It is not a story about force. She talks about the beauty, the building process and the freedom while still acknowledging the losses , complications and the getting used to a new place. Penniman’s relationship to moving across land is complex and all desire-centered.
In what ways have you or your family moved across land because you were going toward something you wanted, instead of moving because you were being displaced or getting away from something ?
Check out Leah’s Soul Fire Farm Black and Latino Farmers Immersion courses this summer!