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How a History of Stolen Land Shapes Us Today Essential Common Future

Our February Spotlight on Land, Wealth, and Ownership

Authors: Olayinka Credle

Olayinka Credle, Program Director:

Worldwide, we lose 150 acres per minute. That equals 3.36 million hectares (8.3 million acres) a year — an area larger than New Jersey. In America’s Black communities, 30,000 acres of land ownership are lost per year. Let that sink in for a minute.

Jillian Hishaw, a Common Future network leader and Bridge Fellow, recently published Systematic Land Theft, a book which documents the history of land theft in Black and Indigenous communities. The book highlights which laws and broken treaty agreements have led to the current state of America’s farmland: 95% white-owned. “The most tangible asset in the world is land, and with land comes the building of subdivisions, windmills, and extraction of minerals,” Jillian explains.

What’s more, land theft is not the only way wealth is being stolen. A recent 2018 study found that owner-occupied homes in Black neighborhoods are undervalued by $48,000 on average, amounting to $156 billion in cumulative losses. From land ownership to home ownership, there is a clear connection between the health and prosperity of black communities in this country — and that connection is historical theft.

As we wrap up the commemoration of Black history this month, we must take a step back and ask ourselves this fundamental question: how can we celebrate the history of our ancestors while neglecting to secure the very futures they died fighting for? At Common Future, our resounding answer is that we secure that future by fighting against the legacy of systemic land theft and oppression, by incubating, cocreating, and funding ideas that shift capital and restore community wealth. In this newsletter you will read about the legacy of land theft, my personal connection to the fight against stolen land, and learn how BIPOC leaders are challenging land theft today.

In love and power,

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