Sankofa's youth interview Chris Bolden-Newsom, co-founder of Sankofa Community Farm, about his life and his experience on the farm.
Chris Bolden-Newsom, better known as "Mr. Chris" to his students, is the co-founder of Sankofa Community Farm. He talks about why he wanted to start the farm, where it got its name, the importance of healthy eating, and plenty more.
Aminah Fields, a youth gardener at the farm, leads the interview by asking where Mr. Chris is from - the Port Village of Greenville, Mississippi. "(It's) in the Delta Area of the state of Mississippi, close to Memphis. I'm from a small village. Well, it's really the biggest village in the area, but for you all it would be very small." He says. He explains how it was hot, surrounded by water, and had plenty of trees. "(It's) semi-tropical, close to Africa or Asia. Actually, a lot of things that grow in Africa or Asia grow in Mississippi." Some crops that he's talking about include watermelon and black eyed pees, two things he loves to eat. "There's so much I love to cook, I'm the cook in my house. Last night I made RedRed, a dish from Ghana." It includes being fried palm oil, onions, carrots, shallots, black eyed pees, and peppers. It's gets its name from its color.
With food in mind, he also talks about growing up as a vegetarian and says he's been one since the age of twelve. "It was just reading, knowing that I didn't have to eat meat. I had a crush on somebody who's whole family was vegetarian, when I was in fifth grade - I wanted to imitate them." He dips briefly into how meat isn't food to him. "It looks like what it is to me, a dead animal." However, he does honor certain animals because, for example, people would have died without the pig. During slavery, black people were given the scraps of the pig to eat and had to learn how to turn that into something edible. We as a people made something out of nothing, so it's only natural that the cycle will be continued Although, one point of creating Sankofa was to give the Southwest community (a community that is pre-dominantly black) access to fresh and affordable fruits & vegetables. So, I guess the farm is trying to break that cycle. "Sankofa (from the Akan language; means 'go back and get it') is a verb to me, not a noun. It's an action. So when we see the name, it's telling us what we should do, what we're trying to do. Go back and fetch it." He says. "It's really great work we're doing here."
"I recognized that my people have been so disconnected from our cultures and our cultural ways that we started to identify ourselves with whatever passing wind. I'd never seen this - where I'm from, a lot of people are poor, but we have faith and families that are still strong." He explains that here, family and food ways didn't have the same importance as it did back home. "You parents, or your great-grandparents, they came here and they left something behind that didn't make it here. So the concept Sankofa, which in part, means 'go back and get it' - I realized that that was the mission in which we were trying to do."
What you put in your body is extremely important, which I'm sure Mr. Chris would agree with. While you don't have to change your food ways in an extreme way, you can make small, subtle changes that can really impact your body on a large scale. Something as simple as drinking more water really help, something I actually learned myself. Working on the farm helped me immensely with just gaining healthier habits and kicking habits that were hurting me in the long run.
If you want to know more about Mr. Chris, or just our farm in general, don't hesitate to visit!