Highlighting Atlanta Black agrarians in the documentary series 'Seeds of Resilience'

Yolanda Owens is the owner of iwi fresh Farm-to-Skin Spa in Atlanta. (Courtesy of Food Well Alliance/Seeds of Resilience)

Zimbabwean-born author Matshona Dhliwayo once said, “Truth is like a seed. No matter how deep you bury it, it will rise.” This sentiment is at the heart of the documentary series “Seeds of Resilience.” The short film series highlights the experiences of Black agrarians in Atlanta. WABE and Food Well Alliance will present the premiere screening of season two at the Fulton County Central Library on Wednesday, May 18. WABE is also co-hosting the Soil Festival, which opens May 7. “Seeds of Resilience” filmmaker Tabia Lisenbee-Parker joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk about the new series. 

Interview highlights follow below.

The local growers who inspired “Seeds of Resilience:”

“’Seeds of Resilience’ really came to be because I saw an opportunity to change the way stories were being gathered and told, specifically about growers in the Metro Atlanta area,” Lisenbee-Parker said. “As a Black storyteller in the South, I really can’t help but see most things through the lenses that make up personal identity, and I just became more curious about how many of those growers looked like me. So ‘Seeds of Resilience’ was an opportunity to put growers together for an afternoon stroll, sit together and move through the farms and or gardens that they’ve cultivated, and to share their experiences with each other without a script to stick to.”

Discovering Atlanta’s community food scene with Food Well Alliance:

“I became aware that there were well over 300 community gardens and farms in the city, and I didn’t even know that. And so I started just through the curiosity of it, and the curiosity from a storyteller lens turned into the curiosity of, ‘Is this something that I can do?’” said Lisenbee-Parker. “I began enrolling in various workshops, various cohorts in the city that teach people how to grow their own food, Habesha being one of them, Shamba ATL being another.”

“A lot of these growers, a lot of Black agrarians, certainly are doing this as a small business enterprise. However, they are making very, very vast and sweeping efforts to restore and revitalize our local food system, designing concepts to build self-determined communities, and showing the value of healing a lot of the historical trauma that people of color have experienced through the cultivation of food and of land. Many of these growers have their own personal initiatives throughout the city…. There are just countless, countless organizations who are working to bring folks back to the land.”

Featured farmers in the documentary series:

“In the first season, the first episode, I went to two young Black women, people who were newer… in the food space in Atlanta, to talk together about how they’ve grown, how they’ve evolved in this space as Black women. The second episode was about two women who came to Atlanta from different countries, one being Jamaica and the other coming from Cape Verde, and talking about their experiences, bringing what they knew from their native countries into this space,” said Lisenbee-Parker.

“In the second season, we went a little differently. The first episode was one that was based in family. The second episode was… about business owners who primarily tap into the Black growing space to help support their businesses. And then lastly, it’s two men who really started as students, not like me, but similar to me, with a lot of the same mentors and teachers along the way who have now risen into positions of leadership in the local agricultural space in Atlanta, now in the position to really develop and design policies that can better integrate urban agriculture into our city.”

Fulton County Central Library is hosting the premiere screening of season two of “Seeds of Resilience” on May 18. More information about the event is available at www.fulcolibrary.org/blogs/post/seeds-of-resilience/. More on Food Well Alliance and the May 7 Atlanta Soil Festival can be found at http://foodwellalliance.org