Michael Santiago’s 2015 First Place Student Winning Stolen Lives, Stolen Future has been featured by both The New York Times and Scientific American over the past few weeks. The project documents the experience of Black farmers in the U.S. It tells of the tenacity of the African-American farmer in the face of decline, much of which was driven first by unjust traditions, such as sharecropping, and later by racially discriminatory loan practices particularly by the USDA.
In both The New York Times and Scientific American, we are introduced to Mr. James McGill, a third generation farmer who lost his own 320 acres to foreclosure and now struggles to hold onto the 5 acres that remain of his father’s once 90 acre farm. He keeps 25 pigs at a time, which are sold every six months for $200-$300 a piece.
McGill was a member of a class action lawsuit Pigford vs. Glickman, against the USDA for racial discrimination in lending. That decision became the largest civil rights settlement in history, although it was hardly enough to undo the losses caused by decades of discrimination.
“This story is important to me because people in America aren’t aware that black farmers are still around,” Santiago told The New York Times. “People don’t know what their struggles are and that they are still being discriminated against.”
You can read our in-depth Alexia interview with Santiago on his project here: http://www.alexiafoundation.org/blog/2015/03/31/7-questions-for-alexia-student-winner-michael-santiago/