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A 13-year-old invents an emergency kit to prevent drownings on Florida beaches

By Moses Kamuiru.

Farm in Charlotte

When young photographers Zymora Davinchi and Audrey Grant spoke at the opening of their exhibit “POC: Power of Color” at the Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte last week, they included a special tribute.  “We’d like to take a moment for Philando Castile,” 17-year-old Davinchi said to some 30 people, mostly white, who gathered under a tent on the lawn of the 148-acre property. There was a moment of silence, and then Davinchi’s younger brother asked, “Who’s that?”  What happened next was a spontaneous and direct reflection of the Clemmons Family Farm’s mission. Mary Brown-Guillory, president of the Champlain Area NAACP, encouraged Zymora Davinchi, a biracial student from Hardwick, to explain the circumstances surrounding Castile’s death and the recent acquittal of his killer, a police officer. The audience was receptive; some even chimed in to flesh out the story.

One of just 19 farms in Vermont operated by blacks

In a state that remains 95 percent white, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, the Clemmons Family Farm is a rare space devoted to giving people of color ownership of their lives and histories. It’s also one of just 19 farms in Vermont — out of nearly 7,000 — that are owned or primarily operated by African Americans.  Jackson and Lydia Clemmons have owned the farm since 1962. Now the second-eldest of their five children, also named Lydia, has set her sights on turning the property, which includes six historic buildings, into a nonprofit African American heritage and multicultural center featuring family storytelling, agriculture, culinary arts and more. Since programming began last summer, the site has garnered support from a handful of enthusiastic partners and small grants. It’s been added to the Vermont African American Heritage Trail.

Foster diversity and multicultural awareness

In June, Lydia learned she was a finalist for a National Creative Place making Fund grant from ArtPlace America, art and culture grant-making program.  Burlington’s non-profit Peace & Justice Center serves as the organization’s fiscal agent, but for now the farm remains a “family property,” Lydia said. “We need to make sure inheritance issues, and trust issues for the land are settled.”  The going may be slow — Lydia noted that the Clemmons family is land rich, not money rich — but they’re determined to carve out a space to celebrate their unique history and to foster diversity and multicultural awareness in the present. When Jack and Lydia Sr. moved to Vermont from Cleveland in 1962 and purchased the farm, he had just been hired as a pediatric pathologist at the University of Vermont, the second black person on the faculty. She would soon be the first African American nurse anesthetist to work at the institution. (Later, she also ran a home-based gift shop that sold African imports.)

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Photo credits: Seven Days