Before the pandemic began, vegan rapper Ietef Vita, known as “DJ Cavem Moetavation” and “Chef Ietef,” had planned on touring to promote his album Biomimicz. The pandemic shutdowns cancelled those plans and the Denver, Colorado native pivoted in ways that supported a larger mission.
Vita, along with his wife Alkemia Earth, who is a plant-based lifestyle coach, sent out thousands of packets of kale, beets, and arugula seeds to urban farmers and gardens across the country. Vita included an image of himself and QR code for a digital copy of his album, and the business took off.
The impromptu campaign launched by the couple helped promote the “Godfather of Eco Rap”’s latest album while providing healthful food support to communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic shutdown. The seeds, they hoped would help with food shortages at grocery stores and food banks which saw increased demand throughout the shutdown.
“I wanted to change the way that they’re eating, let alone change the economic approach,” Vita told NPR, referring to part of the inspiration behind the “seed pushing” business. The business earned shoutouts from Cardi B, Cedric the Entertainer, Mark Ruffalo, and Natalie Portman.
The seeds made their way to Cincinnati, Chicago, Minneapolis, New York City, St. Louis, and several cities in California and supported Black-owned gardens like Gods Garden Girl, Coco and Seed, I Grow S***, and Urban Farms Garden Shop.
During the pandemic, there was a rise in Black entrepreneurs launching gardening and plant businesses, NPR reported. Gardening was one of the few safe activities that could be done amid pandemic precautions and helped promote healthy living while providing stress relief.
Some Black people in the US have moved away from agriculture work because of the painful impact of slavery, though seeds and working the land date back centuries before slavery began.
“Part of our cultural narrative has been to move away from the land, because moving away from the land represents progress,” Natalie Baszile, author of We are Each Other’s Harvest and Queen Sugar, told the outlet. “The farther away you are from the land, the more successful you are. You go away to school, you get your education, you get another degree, you get a job in a field where you don’t have your hands in the soil.”
Farmer and food activist Leah Penniman wrote in her book Farming While Black that the connection between seeds and Black Americans is a deep one, dating back to slavery where seeds were braided into hair of enslaved African people as “insurance for an uncertain future.”
With food deserts and the devastating economic fallout of the pandemic, many American households were left with few options.
“If we can flood our community with unhealthy food and drugs, I believe we can also flood it with seeds and love,” Vita said. “We can flood it with positivity and urban farming and juice bars; without gentrification, without the urban renewal replacement,” he added.
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