In this essay booklet, 2021 Community Partnership Grant recipient Lyrianne Gonzalez (History) details her oral history work with Black farmers in New York State. The project was developed during the 2021 Spring Seminar on Rural Black Lives.
Click to read the essay booklet online!
In preparation to conduct interviews with local New York State Black farmers, Gonzalez met with community partner Onika Abraham, director of Black Farmers United, and was tasked to "put stories behind numbers: highlight joy and resilience, not just adversity and struggle." Inspired by this message to highlight joy, Gonzalez framed her interview questions accordingly and was subsequently inspired by the robust conversations that followed.
"When I asked Pamela, 'How have you experienced joy as a farmer?' She responded with awe in her voice as if she had never been asked that question, 'Joy as a Black farmer?' she asked. She then gasped as she looked out her window down to her prized possession, the garden she spent ten years sifting glass shards out of.' Gonzalez continues to describe her interviewee's reaction:
...There’s a time when I walk on my porch and all my herbs are hanging, and it is the most beautiful sight. That’s my joy.
In addition to her revolutionary conversations with farmers, Gonzalez was also struck by her audience's reaction to the stories of joy. In this, she learned the inherit value of centering joy, and "completely changed how I [Gonzalez] will conduct oral histories moving forward."
Read more in "Joy and Aspirations: How Black Female Farmers Revolutionized My Approach to Oral History" embedded below:
Funded by Humanities New York, Community Partnership Grants pair Cornell students with a regional organizations, such as a libraries, community centers, and museums, to support campus-community collaborative public humanities projects.
Lyrianne E. González is a History PhD student minoring in Latino Studies—her research focuses on the racial and generational legacies of U.S. guestworker programs.