A Blade of Grass Films


Black Self-Determination: Jordan Weber

Jordan Weber is a Des Moines, IA based artist, activist, and environmentalist whose work addresses issues of environmental justice and inner-city communities with a focus on the Midwest. As an A Blade of Grass Fellow for Socially Engaged Art, Weber traveled to the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation in North Omaha, NE, the birthplace of the Black Power leader, to create a living artwork.

AIRED: July 24, 2020 | 0:06:04


Weber: One of the things that stuck with me

with Malcolm X's idea

by any means necessary, building whatever you need to,

to feel like you have some sort of control of your body

and the body of land that you live in.

Malcolm X gave his body for the community, the environment.

He was an example of using your body,

putting yourself on the line to make change.

Louis: Malcolm X was born here in Omaha, Nebraska,

May 19, 1925.

Malcolm's principles throughout his life

were self-reliance, self-determination.

And so we try to emulate that

here at the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation.

Gonna have them come contribute

to the garden a little bit.

Weber: Collaboration with the Malcolm X Foundation was key.

Leo and JoAnna kind of guided me

to what could be possible in this space and on this land.

When Jordan said, "I want to do a greenhouse,"

we said yes.


LeFlore: Jordan's idea had a lot of value to us

because we prioritize sustainability of a community.

Weber: When people ask you, "Why is this greenhouse

sitting right next to the placard of Malcolm X?"

I just tell them that it's built on these four pillars --

self-preservation, self-determination,

having a space to clear one's mind,

and then it starts with this space being a food desert.

I have a ton of knowledge about agriculture

because I'm from Iowa.

So it's the number one agricultural powerhouse

in the entire US.

You can see what happens to land

when indigenous peoples are kicked off of it.

In Iowa, we have less than 1% of indigenous land left.

The only thing you see when you look out the window

from a place that used to be predominantly prairie grass

and wetland

has now been replaced with soy and corn.

Monocropping is extremely detrimental

to the health of the body,

to the health of the land and the,

you know, nutrients in the soil.

Omaha, in general, is a humongous Superfund site.

There's a lot of lead contamination

and heavy metals in the soil.

So mitigation of land is another aspect of this greenhouse.

Environmental justice, social justice, and the arts,

all ball into one in the form

of this construct of the greenhouse.

LeFlore: Historically, Black and brown people

have been deprived of simple, basic human needs,

and food is at the top of that list.

Weber: Food insecurity in Omaha is

just like it is in every other inner city across the US.

The lack of fresh food and the health effects from it

in North Omaha is extremely apparent.

So the idea was to counter that with the greenhouse.

We plan to start the seedlings in the greenhouse,

which are essentially baby plants,

before you transplant them literally out into the garden.

Louis: Our community garden allows people to see

the whole process from the soil to maturity,

maturity to harvesting.

The greenhouse and the garden

help the individuals in the community

to actually grow their own food, to eat organic,

and to get the health benefits from that process.


All of the components of the greenhouse

and its goals really center around the idea of empowerment.

So whether that's empowerment of the mind, of the body,

of the spirit.

So we wanted to make sure our meditation was a part of that,

primarily because Malcolm X's religion and faith

was based in the Muslim tradition,

and prayer is very important.

Meditation is very important.

Weber: This whole building is true east.

That's extremely important in Salah prayer

to be facing Mecca.

Meditation has always been a key for me

to dealing with trauma being POC in the Midwest.

It's a way to decompress and center yourself

and reflect upon your environment.

Got it.

I knew it wouldn't function just as a greenhouse.

I knew it was going to be in flux.

You know, there's weddings here.

There's different programing to activate the space more.

The community is taking it

and making it whatever they need to make it.

LeFlore: We're hosting a second annual festival

that focused on food and sustainability

and using the arts to communicate that.


-♪ 100, 100, 100

♪ Most people are gonna keep it 100 ♪

-The 4MX Greenhouse is a centerpiece

for the Malcolm X Sol Food + Music Fest.

Showing a progress that our community

is making towards wellness and food security.

It represents activism, art, and agriculture,

which is everything the festival is all about.

-Let's go!

Weber: Building the structure and then passing it

onto the community is vital to the success of the program.

It's always been this collaborative process,

which is what my practice is in general.

It's really in the hands of the Malcolm X

Memorial Foundation and the community.

-[ Rapping indistinctly ]

LeFlore: The thing that I want people to understand

about what we're doing

and the example that Jordan is setting with his project

is that each person actually has something

to contribute to the whole.

And our mission is to make sure people actually understand

that not only they have a purpose,

but that is respected, that is needed,

and we can't move together without a unified understanding

of what we came here to do.

-♪ Hey, hey, hey

♪ 100, 100, 100

♪ Most people don't keep it 100 ♪

♪ Hey

♪ You hear what I'm saying, but I ain't perfect ♪

♪ Keep sharp because it's worth it ♪

♪ 'Cause I know I got it

♪ Yeah

♪ 100, 100, 100

♪ Most people don't keep it 100 ♪


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