What does the recognition of emancipation mean in the context of Black food sovereignty?



On August 1st, 2022, the world celebrated Emancipation Day in recognition of the day that the Slavery Abolition Act was instituted in the British Empire in 1834, ending the practice of slavery for millions of African people and their descendants.


This month, we reflect on the power of resistance and the ongoing need for liberation in all aspects. In the context of Black food sovereignty, emancipation represents reclaiming ownership and independence in our food systems and our right to define our own food and agriculture systems.


Black food sovereignty is also about connecting with our roots. Our African ancestors were food sovereign before colonialism. They flourished off the fruit of the land, and grew and ate foods that healed them. But with colonization came the destruction of historical food systems through cash-crop colonialism and an attack on African agriculture. Moreover, the displacement and the destruction of African food systems occurred not just through agriculture, but through the disruption of traditions, recipes, celebrations and more.

Today, we move closer to the original, pre-colonial concept of Black food sovereignty. It was attainable for ancient African civilizations then, so we know it’s achievable now.


So what does Black Food sovereignty look like today? It is about restoring the right of people of African descent to access healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods. It is a return to organic and indigenous African food plants. It is the empowerment of the Black community to thrive in our own food systems––uniting Black farmers, chefs, policy makers, activists, dieticians, importers and more––to build a holistic Black sustainable food system.


Cover photo by Joelle Avelino/NPR.

Words by Celeste Ceres

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