Africa came to America in the holds of thousands of slave ships. Although captive and brutalized, Africans carried with them an indomitable spirit and the treasure of their agricultural know-how, turning the sites of their exile into spaces of green abundance.
The troubled historical memory of that backbreaking labor and its stolen fruit is giving way to a growing appreciation of the African American farming tradition, an early model of sustainable agriculture that’s inspiring a whole new crop of permaculturalists and urban gardeners.
Rhythms of the Land is a documentary film project, a valentine to generations of black farmers from the enslavement period to the present, whose intense love of the land and dedication to community enabled them to survive against overwhelming odds. They struggled without either reward or recognition, and have been written out of the dominant narratives of American agriculture.
The filmmaker, Gail Myers, wants to change all that. She is a cultural anthropologist and scholarly expert in African American farming traditions who has been conducting field research and interviews with black farmers since 1997. But more importantly, she’s the niece of her irascible 100-year-old Aunt Rose, whose stories about growing up on the Alabama farm presided over by Gail’s great-great-grandfather, Hezekiah Patterson, provided the seeds of inspiration for “Rhythms of the Land.”