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The Story
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black farmer Warren James

Charlene's cousin, Warren James

HOMECOMING follows the development of black farms through the expansion of the early 1970s into the farm crisis of the late '70s, which was caused by drought, the oil crisis, and the grain embargo during the Carter administration. Black farmers faced the same obstacles as all American farmers during the '70s, but they also continued to face discrimination from banks and the government. Warren James' uncle Lynmore explains: "We tried to expand our farming operation...but they just felt that this was the wrong thing for people like us to do, and our applications were denied." According to historian Pete Daniels, "If this had happened in any other country...if you had a U.S. Department of Agriculture and it had caused the farming population to dwindle from 15 or 20 million down to 2, if a certain segment of the population wasn't popular with the people in that department and had been dwindled down to practically a handful, if all these things had happened anywhere else in the world and the United States went in and investigated, we'd call for land reform."

Warren James combines the hard-working, early-rising qualities of his ancestors with a modern day respect for the role of technology. He brought irrigation to his family's farm (his father believed that if God wanted it to rain, then the plants would get water), and his wife, Tina, has computerized the farm's planning process and accounts. Warren's savvy about technology also extends to the world of media: "Some of us got together and we all had the same problem, we were all denied loans. When we got some media coverage, the situation changed." If anyone is likely to succeed at the difficult task of growing a small family farm, it is Warren, whose determination and love of farming shine through in HOMECOMING.

Finally, HOMECOMING explores the spiritual and symbolic meaning of land for black farmers in America. Professor Marsha Darling asked black farmers "What does your farm mean to you?" She found that many farmers emphasized the importance of "having a place where they could keep their family together and nurture their family, as well as a place where they could be producers instead of consumers. They talked of farming and one's ownership of a farm as having a home place where you could sink your roots and hold on."

HOMECOMING lovingly shows that having a place in which to sink one's roots is critical to the well-being of the African-American Diaspora. For Charlene Gilbert, tending a 10' x 10' garden plot in a Philadelphia community garden and making this film link her to the red dirt that her family farms in Georgia. Her cousin Warren's roots in the land and family history grow stronger day by day. Warren proudly asserts, "Black people in general have always played a major part in farming. It's part of history, we're a part of history."

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