independent consultant and facilitator
Location: Durham, NC
In her words…
“I am interested in the slow work of relationship building — with the long term in mind. I am looking for relationships bigger than a grant cycle, campaign cycle, or electoral cycle. The problems with our food system and our imbalance with our environment weren’t created overnight, so I believe the path to transformation will take just as long.”
What gives her hope…
People do. Black/Descendants of Enslaved Africans. Poor and Working Class people. Poor and Working Class people who are College-educated. Nerds. Tree whisperers and Huggers. Healers and Rootworkers. Southerners. North Carolinians. Queer and Trans People of Color. Indigenous People. Lovers of the Earth. Change makers. Introverts. Horror Movie Fans. Iconoclasts and Autodidact Polymaths.
As she leans over a patch of rich, dark soil where she is planting native bee balm, elderberry, and lavender on a 48-acre land collective in Durham, NC, Tavia Benjamin mulls over her central mission: to connect people to their sovereignty, to themselves, and to the earth. In her ideal world, people can see each other, come together, and be resilient. The through-line in her healing, food and land sovereignty, environmental justice, and self-determination work moves towards a moment when people who look like her can also imagine and birth new models and structures that support their freedom, without replicating the exclusion and exploitation of our current system.
She thinks about all of this as she works with a myriad of national and regional nonprofits, including the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG) and land-based EarthSeed Land Collective in Durham. There she teaches herbal preparations and supports 30 families who are planting seeds, cultivating arts, upholding food justice and engaging in cooperative learning on the land. As a Black/Descendant of Enslaved Africans who was born and raised in the South, Tavia views her liberation work as tied to and born out of her perspective walking through this world with a socially constructed racialized identity, knowing the systems that run this country were not created with her survival in mind. She brings all of this, and more, to her organizing and facilitation work at events and conferences, working with farmers and others dedicated to race-based work on land management in the deep South, getting people on land who want to be there, so they can all connect to each other more. If you talk with her, you see that she is gifted at meeting people exactly where they are, helping them cultivate the skills to listen to their own inner knowing, and to move forward empowered.