By Ebonie Alexander
I’m proud to say that the Black Family Land Trust (BFLT) measurably improves the quality of life for landowners in Virginia by providing families with the tools necessary to make informed, proactive decisions about their land and its use. We work to honor the legacy of the stewards of the land who came before us and have faith in the stewards of the land who will come after us.
I’m also proud that the BFLT is one of the anchor organizations of the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Network (SFLR). Being part of the network allows us to work with and learn from like‑minded organizations that face many of the same challenges we do.
One of the most important ways members of the SFLR Network execute their missions is through innovative and community-based programming. I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight the effective and popular programs we offer through BFLT.
Wealth Retention and Asset Protection
WRAP is our signature program. It’s a comprehensive intergenerational program designed specifically to reduce the rate of African American and other historically underserved populations land loss by educating landowners about heirs’ property and estate planning, intergenerational financial management, conservation easements, and 21st century options for land use. African American Land Ethic, a stand-alone program, was originally the introduction to our WRAP program. It provides the foundational context for our work, what we do, and why.
Women in Agriculture
The BFLT serves as the convener for this support group of proud women. Virginia African American Women in Agriculture is an organic group of women who have come together to celebrate and honor the proud history of African American women in agriculture. Estate planning, financial management, and farm management are just some of the group’s focus areas. This program has been expanded to include a partnership with the American Farmland Trust’s Women for the Land initiative.
Historically Black colleges and universities have provided Black students with educational, social, and moral sanctuaries that have educated, nurtured, challenged, trained, and motivated students since 1837. Through our partnerships with HBCU’s we continue to advance our respective missions of education and innovation for future generations.
Livingstone College is putting an urban farm into production for the first time since 1960. BFLT provides the college with technical assistance on bringing the farm online as a sustainable farm enterprise and community asset. BFLT has a long-standing partnership with the Small Farm Outreach Training Program at the Virginia State University College of Agriculture and serves as an original member of the College of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Advisory Committee. We conduct workshops and other training on our African American Land Ethic and Wealth Retention Asset Protection programs. BFLT also recently formed a partnership with the North Carolina A&T State University College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences to offer the African American Land Ethic and Wealth Retention Asset Protection programs.
A Tree, Is A Tree, Is A Tree
A Tree, Is A Tree, Is A Tree, is a comprehensive forest management program that introduces participants to managed forestry as an asset protection strategy.
Green Church Initiative
The vision of the Green Church Initiative is to encourage the faith community to embrace a holistic approach to their stewardship role based on stewardship, financial planning, food, safety, and conservation.
A proud past, a bountiful future
In the early fall of 2002, 40 people including African American farmers, land advocates, community development practitioners, land conservationists and academics gathered for two days in Salter Path, North Carolina to explore creating a land trust to protect black-owned farms and family lands, and to identify the concrete steps required to test and launch a black land trust. In 2020, the BFLT was one of the lead organizations that worked with the Virginia General Assembly to get the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) enacted.
All agreed that the Black Family Land Trust would be the precise vehicle, and its mission would be ensuring, protecting, and preserving African American owned lands. Today we are harvesting the bounty of the seeds that were planted then. Together, we look forward to building on this legacy and building a brighter future for Black landowners in the South.
Ebonie Alexander is the Executive Director of the Black Family Land Trust