Farmer, author, and food systems advocate Leah Penniman recently released her new book Black Earth Wisdom: Soulful Conversations with Black Environmentalists. The collection of essays and interviews explores Black people’s spiritual and scientific connection to the land.

Penniman’s latest work features conversations with leading environmentalists who share the lessons they have learned by listening to the earth. Contributors include marine biologist and President of the Ocean Collective Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, Executive Director of the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers, Land Loss Prevention Project Savi Horne, seed saver, and gardener Ira Wallace, and climate reporter Kendra Pierre-Louis, among others.

The book began, Penniman says, with a phone call to the ethnobotanist, herbalist and midwife Claudia J. Ford, who spoke with the author about her experience listening to the plants. The discussion organically led Penniman to others, who became contributors.

“I only stopped at 40 because I knew there was a word count to contend with,” she tells Food Tank. That’s why, she says, there is a Black Earth Wisdom Directory. The document contains a list of organizations, books, and other resources for readers to learn more.

Assembling the book, however, proved to be a new hurdle. “It was beautiful to hear the diversity of responses and also a challenge,” Penniman tells Food Tank, “as someone who’s used to writing all by myself, to figure out how to weave together the conversations, the essays, the poetry, into something coherent, something that would be a gift, that would hopefully resonate and inspire people to engage in their own Earth listening practice, their own practice of ecological humility.”

Black Earth Wisdom is divided into multiple sections that tackle themes including the relationship between Black people and open space, environmental racism and the harm caused by capitalism, and the role that artists and storytellers play in bringing “ecological truth to light.”

In some ways, Penniman says, “it felt risky to write this book. It’s a lot more tender and esoteric.” But “fundamentally” it’s “the why” to Farming While Black, her first book published in 2018.

Read the full article about Black environmentalists by Elena Seeley at Food Tank.