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Local Black farmer hopes film promotes 'healing aspect to being connected to the land'
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Local Black farmer hopes film promotes 'healing aspect to being connected to the land'

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Local farmer Samantha Foxx is featured in the short documentary “Believe in Ghosts” that made its debut this month at the Doc Edge Festival in New Zealand.

“Believe in Ghosts,” directed by Courtney Dixon of Atlanta, was among the finalists nominated for Best International Short Film at the festival, which is an Academy Award-qualifying festival.

It lost out to “Say His Name: Five Days for George Floyd,” but Foxx said she was grateful that the film was even considered. “Just being nominated is kind of a big deal,” she said.

People can buy tickets for an online streaming of the film through the festival’s website now through July 11. Foxx also is planning a local screening Aug. 14 during the Bee Younited Festival at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds.

The film shows Foxx as an example of a Black farmer, something we don’t have a lot of in this country. Dixon was initially inspired to make the film after learning that Blacks own a mere 2% of all U.S. farms.

Foxx, 41, was born in North Carolina but grew up in Chicago. About 10 years ago, she moved back to the state with the idea to start farming.

She established Mother’s Finest Urban Farm about four years ago. From the beginning, Foxx had bigger dreams than just farming. “Total wellness is what I’m going for,” she said.

She favors sustainable farming methods, without harmful sprays. And she has been featured on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” and in Southern Living magazine.

Some of her first products were (and still are) such things as natural soap, elderberry syrup and a “fire tonic.”

She tends to grow a little of this and a little of that, including scotch bonnet peppers, collard greens and watermelons. She also has kept egg-laying hens and honey bees.

I met Foxx in 2019 after she started selling her products at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market. That summer, I visited her farm and wrote about her in the Winston-Salem Journal.

That article got the attention of Christine Rucker, a former Journal photographer, who photographed and wrote about Foxx for the December 2019 issue of Bitter Southerner magazine that ran with the headline of “The Lipstick Queen of Farming.” That headline was a nod to Foxx’s penchant for dressing up and working on the farm in makeup and lipstick. (The habit comes at least partly from Foxx’s previous career as a hair and makeup stylist.)

With Rucker’s photos and the catchy headline, the magazine story got some traction online, and that’s how Dixon heard about Foxx. “Bitter Southerner is based in Atlanta, that’s where Courtney is from, and the story went kind of viral,” Foxx said.

Dixon got in touch with Foxx and visited her several times last year during the pandemic to make the 16-minute “Believe in Ghosts.”

“I felt connected to this story and felt the urgency to give it a visual platform,” Dixon wrote on the film’s website. “I too grew up in the country, the deep south of Georgia. Only my version of history comes through the lens of a white woman — with farmers in my past no doubt perpetuating the systemic injustices. At that moment, I knew I wanted to work with Samantha on a visual portrait, an educational story.”

Shot during last summer’s many racial protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Blacks, the film takes on the issue of race and how it relates to a female Black farmer in North Carolina. “We watched months of demonstrations and heard voices that have echoed the same hurt and anger that seems to haunt this country year over year— the racism that is firmly planted in the soil of America,” Dixon said.

The resulting 16-minute film combines footage of Foxx with that of Floyd, Martin Luther King Jr. and civil-rights activist Fanny Lou Hamer.

“You see a lot of what I do day to day,” Foxx said. “But it intertwines that with the history of Blacks and Black farmers.”

Foxx said she sees the film’s message as a note to remember the history of Black farmers. “And there’s a healing aspect to being connected to the land.”

Foxx said the film shows her selling her products at Cobblestone Farmers Market in Winston-Salem. “It’s very white, but I have a lot of loyal customers there,” she said. “It just shows how we all need to live together. We all need to eat. We all need to live on this planet. And we need to do it together. Taking care of this planet is not a color thing. We all need to do it.”

mhastings@wsjournal.com:

(336) 727-7394: @mhastingswsj

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