June 18, 2021 Update: Thank you for visiting our fundraising page! We recently updated our story below and have increased our goal to expand our business and to begin an educational program.
Please help us spread the word: Like, Share, and Donate to the Black Hives Matter Project.
Beekeeping for me is the answer to my life’s calling — to work in harmony with the rhythms of nature while supporting the physical and spiritual wellbeing of my family and communities. The Black Hives Matter Project was born out of an opportunity to purchase the apiary (bee farm) where I work in Nevada City, California — bringing a loved and long-standing honey business under Black ownership one of the least diverse county in California, while providing food, medicine, employment and educational opportunities to my community.
It has been a dream come true for my family to step into this role — but it’s not just about us. The history of African Americans and beekeeping is long and deep, and has been one of the victims of the systematic erasure of the contributions of Black farmers from the records of history. I believe that there is immense power in the reconnection of this African diasporic insect and the African diasporic peoples in the Americas. I’m grateful for the opportunity to reclaim this relationship and share it with all of my communities.
It is unsettling that a google search of the history of African American beekeepers turns up almost nothing. History tells us that the "European" Honey Bee was brought to this continent by way of the Virginian colony in 1622, shortly after the first enslaved African peoples arrived in Virginia in 1619. The enslaved peoples of Africa were the force behind most of the agriculture in what would become America. The conclusion that enslaved Africans were beekeepers in North America is self evident.
The relationship of African Americans and bees is deeper still. The domestic honeybee widespread across the globe, including America is known as the European Honeybee although science confirms that this bee originated on the African continent. In fact the earliest depictions of domesticated bees are hieroglyphs in ancient Egypt. And the traditions are still alive — ancestral beekeeping is an ancient practice carried out by tribes in Kenya such as the Kamba, Maasai, Samburu, and Mbeere. As Black people of the African diaspora, we deserve our relationship as stewards of this diasporic pollinator to be recognized historically, and to be integral participants in the field of beekeeping today. It bears repeating that there is immense power in the reconnection of this African diasporic insect, and the African diasporic peoples in the Americas.
About our bees:
Our bees are kept across multiple counties in the Sierra, providing pollination for local farms and creating a sustainable circuit that keeps small agriculture businesses alive. The recent waves of colony collapse (it is considered average for beekeepers to lose 40% of their hives each year) are primarily due to pesticides and parasitic mites. As stewards of these tiny and majestic creatures, we are committed to maintaining environmentally sustainable healthy hive practices. As a testament to the care and skill my team and I will bring to this project, my hives generally suffer less than 25% losses — significantly lower than the national average.
Why now + What we need:
Ya’ll, we crushed through last Summer’s goal to purchase the apiary! We were able to purchase all 150 hives, a honey extractor, bottling equipment, and more. This year and last we are experiencing record setting droughts and the funds we gathered are also helping us mitigate the damage - keeping the bees alive.
As we look ahead, we have some big dreams. Our goal from day one was to begin an educational program to teach beekeeping to impacted youth, giving them a skill while introducing them to the magic of bees. This work is our contribution to address food injustice and inequality in the greater Northern California area.
The initial purchase of the apiary did not include land. All of our bees are kept on properties of wonderful, generous land owners throughout Nevada County. Our dream is to purchase a physical location to HQ our educational program and beekeeping operations. This ties into our mission of raising awareness around land justice for Black farmers in America who have historically and currently experienced unfair treatment, predatory practices and illegal discrimination as it pertains to land ownership
We want everyone to know about the work we do and the crucial role bees play in the world’s ecosystems and we hope we can do that right here on the farm. In order to accomplish all of this, it would take an additional $80,000 but we are hoping to raise $40,000 now to get started. Each project (purchasing new land and hiring an employee to help with educational programs) would cost about $40,000 so please help by donating and sharing so we can ensure the bees and our community thrive.
We have been overwhelmed by the amount of community support we're finding in the project and are going to keep it going as long as you will. Thank you, the bees thank you, please keep helping make this dream come true.
Please donate, like, and share widely. Like bees, we humans aren’t designed to thrive alone.
Music for video provided by Hannah Mayree: soundcloud.com/hannah-mayree