Wrapping up our first session of Valor, 2 weeks later and I’m just making it home. This was my first trip to Va. Tech, and my second trip to southwestern Va. in the last 9 months and in my life. I took my passport this time, according to Siri and google maps, a border crossing was bound to happen. Interactive and slightly spicy sessions are indicative that this may be an interesting and quite interactive two years. I look forward to respectful discussions, debates, and throwing in my curve balls and sliders into the discourse.
If you haven’t noticed, you probably will after the eighth page, i’m a bit long winded (or do you say long worded?) in writing. This blog will be a shortened version of the book of Psalms, but just as quotable and only 143 chapters. I’m also a bit, how they say in french, full of myself. So to be asked to write about myself, i’m piecing together all my journal and creative writing entries since 1981, Michael Carter Jr. the anthology.
Michael Carter Jr. is a child of the Creator, a student of the earth and a seeker of truths, known and unknown. He has the annoying tendency of addressing himself in the third person. The Michael is an agronomist/ agricultural consultant, husband, father, vegan, an icon (in his own head) and repatriate to Africa. His highlight in writing came in the fall of 1985 in Mrs. Coleman’s 2nd grade class at Bowling Green Primary, when he wrote a dynamic op-ed, parody of National Lampoon Vacation in which he received a 93 (B+).
Born in a village by the river in Baltimore, MD, I was raised and schooled in Virginia, educationally institutionalized in North Carolina and lived my early adult life in the District of Columbia. My pan African roots started to form circa 1987, being musically and politically influenced by Public Enemy, KRS 1, D-Nice, De La Soul, X-Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers, Arrested Development and Tupac Shakur. The African percussion rhythms of the DC created go-go style of music shaped and molded my musical preference even further, especially after learning the call and response and congo rhythms foundations came from Africa. Chuck Brown, Experience Unlimited (EU), Junkyard Band, Northeast Groovers, Backyard Band, Rare Essence and a host of other bands and musicians have made me a pan African go-go head. I may or may not still be one to this day.
Right about now you will start to notice I hold a strong affinity for the African culture that was lost from my heritage in the process of the trans Atlantic terrorists raids and subsequent kidnappings of innocent Africans. My roots, which are agricultural, appear in this country, at least in two locations, roughly around 1613 (more accurately 1619 was the first recorded African captives brought to the shores of America) at Shirley Plantation the oldest plantation in the country that would become the United States,and under the ownership of the largest plantation owner of his era, John Carter’s plantation and his son Robert “King” Carter who owned over 330,000 acres of land in the North American wilderness. I’m literally at minimum a 13th generation farmer, to my chagrin at least 9 generations of my family were doing it for the benefit of building a nation that regarded my ancestors as property and not people. Unfortunately I know a whole lot more about the people that may have owned members of my family, than I actually do of my actually family members. I’m still scavenging through records in various courthouses to find out more if anything about my ancestral legacy.
For quite a while I’ve possessed a desire to return to a simpler African centered lifestyle even before discovering some of my roots in America. With a degree in agricultural economics, I’ve studied various economic foundations and theories, and practice a communisocialcapitalism.
Before realizing my deep agricultural legacy, my agricultural background was instilled by my father, Michael Carter Sr., an agriculture/ vocational teacher for 35 years, and then reinforced by my Uncles,Great Uncles, Godfather and best friends father who were all agriculture teachers. I tried to get away from it, but just like Tony ‘Scarface’ Montana, every time I think I’m out, they pulled me back in, and said that hoe should fit your hand. In high school, with the influence of Mr. White a great agriculture teacher in Caroline high school, who was known for his swift right jab into smart mouthed students’ chest, along with my father greatly and unknowingly assisted in my appreciation and understanding of the economic and vocational philosophies of Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver and other early African American leaders who understood the role agriculture and vocation should play in the life of the African in America for their growth, development and sustainability in America.
After numerous trips to Africa and Israel (Northeast Africa), I packed up my family and moved to Ghana West Africa to, in subtle terms, escape America. I’d decided I didn’t want to raise my teenage son at the time and my two infant children in America any longer. I wanted greener pastures, or at least pastures that didn’t have winters, racial discord or urban violence.
Moving to Ghana was the agronomic equivalent of placing your tomato plants in a greenhouse with landscape fabric and organic fertigating drip irrigation. Ghana provided a protective environment where we could control every aspect of our children’s growth and development, and could also grow as parents nds people.
The amazing and possibly most unsuspecting benefit of our five years, was the cultural differences we had with indigenous Ghanaians. Living in another country helped me to see how American in my ways I was and am. It didn’t help when we were called Obroni (stranger/foreigner), and as we traveled further north, it was quite common to be called ‘white man.’ That’s a head scratching moment.. every time it happens. Those moments helped me to see that we were experiencing white privilege, and we liked it… ALOT. Being moved to the front of lines (cues as they are referred to anywhere outside of America), people unknowingly looking out for your safety, were just a few of the benefits. I actually argued with a police officer emphatically for about 20 minutes, no fear of being shot, arrested or beaten. I fussed with police in Ghana, in Kenya, on the Togo/Benin border. For a person who MAY have had 2 arguments my whole life in America, I know made a hobby of recreational bickering and belligerence. I even yelled two or three times, first time ever. Of course I didn’t mean it, but it was good to get full use of my lungs.
In Africa, I felt more American than I ever have in life. I could exhibit and practice those inalienable rights mentioned in my civics classes, with no fear of repercussions, penalty or punishment.
Africa also assisted me in seeing what poverty did and did not look like. I worked and lived in several villages, and could attest that the amount of money one earned or had did not determine poverty. In Kenya I met a 112 year old woman, who had lived and worked on her coffee farm for the majority of her life. She did not speak a word of English, but communicated to me the regal nature and self respect of the monarch she is. Her spirit of self sufficiency and confidence in her culture gave her the aura and confidence of a Silicon Valley billionaire. Witnessing Queens of the Soil in villages and rural communities throughout Africa, also reshaped how I started viewing agriculture, and its role in African peoples lives. We have lived and breathed with the soil, since the times of the Nile Valley Civilization and as inhabitants in the Garden of Eden. The first and oldest profession according to the bible was a farmer and not what you may have been thinking…..Empires were and are being built on the unique relationship Africans have had with the earth we were originally spawned from. As C.W. Lowdermilk documented in ‘The Conquest of the land’, the rise and fall of kingdoms were predicated on agriculture. To think, a country like Ghana, taking a few cocoa trees, and in less than 100 years , producing enough chocolate (in conjunction with its neighbor Ivory Coast) to have it in every school, grocery store, gas station and home in America. My ancestors as well labored on behalf of America in a similar manner, producing zero pounds of cotton in 1790, to 3 billion pounds of cotton by 1861. In a span of 71 years, both crops, cotton and cocoa, produced by African labor and agriculture changed the scope, taste and wealth of the world. The ability and skill to work with the land and create income and sustenance for your family and community erased any notion of abject poverty, but rather planted a seed of purpose and pride above profit and productivity. The oldest and healthiest people I’ve seen on the planet have been barefoot with a hoe in their hand.
We decided to return home last year as nothing can compare to the love of family. The experience proved to be great for my entire family, both immediate and extended. And to say we missed the comfort and security of grandparents and their super hero like baby sitting abilities is an understatement. We went 5 years without a sitter. Five years with three very small very active children. In returning home we graciously accepted the passing of the torch of our family farm and desire to shine greater light on our family legacy.
On our return from West Africa, ideas and ancestry started to come full circle in the second phase of my spiritual ascendancy to be a conduit for those ancestors who have come before me to restore African values in my children and community and acknowledge the presence of those forgotten in the fields, paths, journeys and passages of the enslavement process. I’ve spent many days and some nights, and given many tours in the Cape Coast Slave Dungeon, one of the most solemn and desolate places in my travels. The slave dungeons have had a greater impact upon me than the Byzantine Church, the shrine of the Holy Sepulcher, the Wailing Wall, the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee or wading in the River Jordan. The dungeons were Amazon warehouses for the most valuable and history changing commodities in the history of the world.
Being a member of the fourth cohort of VALOR is a testament to those individuals, those kidnapped and enslaved Africans who worked fields, who lived and died getting to slave ports dotted along the coast of West Africa. Those prisoners of an African War on Terror that lasted for 400 years that built the largest empire the world has ever known. VALOR is an opportunity to tip my hat, give respect to those whose shoulders, battered and bruised, beaten and trampled are still strong enough to carry the weight of my 142 lb slender frame.
My legacy in agriculture precedes the establishment of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the constitutional convention. It is only right and responsible that I gave honor and recognition to my founding mothers and fathers who built this nation and authored my family book. So to really know about me, you have to get a sense of whose eyes I view agriculture and the world through..
Spiritually grounded, agriculturally motivated, ancestor inspired and physically immortal (I’m sure I’ll blog about this in the next two years), I am the Michael Carter Jr..