The Racial Equity Alliance of Lamoille stands in solidarity with the Clemmons Family Farm and Dr. Lydia Clemmons and her family and would like to call attention to our fellow community members in the global majority — meaning Black, Indigenous and people of color — whose experiences across our state have been silenced or left untold.
Recently the public was made aware of the Vermont Human Rights Commission’s report regarding illegal discrimination by the Vermont State Police against the Clemmons Family Farm’s director, Lydia Clemmons. The report details years of harassment, discrimination and injustice toward her entire family at their historic 148-acre family farm in Charlotte.
According to the report, state police allowed an individual “to prey on Dr. Clemmons and terrorize her and her family and destroy a building on one of the few African American farms left in Vermont. The building that they allowed (this individual) to destroy was the heartbeat of the Clemmons Family Farm — a place that the elder Clemmons bought and cherished and developed over decades and where the next generation of Clemmons worked to bring people from across the country and the world to celebrate and create African and African American history, culture art and community.”
The Clemmons Family Farm is part of a rare fabric of Black-owned farms, which constitutes only 0.4 percent of total U.S. farmland, according to the 2017 Census, and one of only 19 farms of the 7,000 across Vermont. These statistics serve as evidence behind centuries of institutionalized racism in the form of discriminatory practices and, in some cases, outright violence preventing access to land to those in the global majority.
Since 1962, the Clemmons Family has grounded its dedication to building a legacy in a three-part mission of preservation, empowerment and building. The United States looks to Vermont for its rich farming heritage and the deep pride families take in the farm culture that has shaped and celebrated the characteristics of a quintessential Vermont experience, especially in Lamoille County.
The Clemmons Family Farm, in part, with its pioneering efforts in the arts and sciences, has helped shape that rich legacy and should be afforded the same respect, and the same level of protection and dignity, all other Vermonters enjoy.
We have fallen short of those ideals, or possibly Black farmers were simply never considered worthy enough. Heather McGhee in her book, “The Sum of Us,” describes “the moral upside down of racism that simultaneously extols American virtues in principle and rejects them in practice.”
The Racial Equity Alliance of Lamoille envisions a community that embodies inclusion, equity and justice as values central to our identity. We are committed to building a safe community where all people experience dignity and respect, and all are welcome with kindness and belonging.
Truth and reconciliation will only occur when we acknowledge that we are operating in an intentionally biased system and that only by acknowledgement of such, with consistent and constant dialogue, will we begin to heal, repair and ultimately remedy these systems, including protecting those that have been excluded, exploited and victimized, and naming and upholding the basic civil liberties of all our neighbors.
What can you do now? Support the Clemmons Family Farm.
Jennifer Daniels is a member and is writing on behalf of Racial Equity Alliance of Lamoille (REAL).