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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: Rooted by Brea Baker 
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Brea Baker is, first and foremost, a freedom fighter. She has been working on the frontlines for almost a decade including contributing to dozens of electoral and advocacy campaigns. She has a B.A. in Political Science from Yale and has been recognized as a 2023 Creative Capital awardee, a 2017 Glamour Woman of the Year and much more.

With "Rooted: The American Legacy of Land Theft and the Modern Movement for Black Land Ownership," Baker explores the impact of land theft and violent displacement on racial wealth gaps. She poses the quesiton "Why is less than 1% of rural land in the U.S. owned by Black people?"

Then, Baker begins to unpack it all.

Writing in a way that is both well-informed and deeply personal, Baker explores the historic attacks on Indigenous and Black land ownership and looks at one of this nation's first sins - stealing, hoarding, and commodifying the land.

Baker notes that research suggests that between 1910-1997, Black Americans lost about 90% of their farmland. This land theft widened the racial wealth gap, privatized natural resources, and created a permanent barrier to access that should be a birthright for Black and Indigenous communities.

Throughout "Rooted," Baker speaks of her own family's experiences in Kentucky and North Carolina. She also speaks with love and admiration of her grandparents' commitment to Black land ownership and the area that would become known as Bakers Acres.

"Rooted" is a passionate call for reparations and an embrace of certain paths toward that act of justice that can heal both the land and, in Baker's words, "our nation's soul."

There's a matter-of-factness to "Rooted" that some will find jarring. I found it rather refreshing, a passionate truth-telling and call into action grounded in extensive research and personal testimonial. In a country where institutionalized racism is still prevalent, it is practically undeniable that "Rooted" won't resonate with everyone. So be it. For those in search of a better and more just way, "Rooted" is engaging and powerfully reasoned reading that demands our attention.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic