As a real estate investor, my partners and I own properties around the world from Puerto Vallarta to the South of France in a rustic Mediterranean village called Eze and at Le Son Net on the Island of Mallorca in Spain. I also have small apartments in Washington, D.C., where I’ve lived on Capitol Hill for over 30 years.
I am truly blessed to enjoy the privilege of owning real estate. But I have come to the realization that, of all the places I have come to call home, my family farm in South Carolina—the place where I was born and grew up—is the best piece of property I have. It has far more meaning to me than anything else.
My attachment to the land of my birth is special because it is the place that my parents built with their bare hands; it is the place they toiled and gave their blood, sweat and tears to create. When my mother passed away a couple of years ago, I inherited a portion of the land, along with my siblings who each got a share. But it was only recently that I had the epiphany; that is, it only takes me 51 minutes to fly from Washington, D.C. to Myrtle Beach and come home.
So it only makes sense that I spend more time on the family property, than the other far-flung places around the globe. The property is beautiful and bountiful—home to a full complement of crops: corn, lima beans, tomatoes—and a thriving herd of jersey cows; there are pigs for roasting and chickens who lay fresh eggs.
But this wistful remembrance also highlights what is unfortunately a common occurrence among the generations in America. That is that successor generations have, for the first time in America, been unable to grow the lands we have inherited. It is unfortunate that when our parents and grandparents die, generations cannot afford the upkeep of the estate, and instead of becoming more valuable, it begins to look like a run down shed. The precipitous decline, particularly in Black farming, which was once the principle path toward social independence, is writ all over the south. The land that our fore parents toiled during the height of racism and bigotry, with the hope that we would be able to inherit our birthright and keep it in the family for generations , has gone by the wayside. It is almost as if children have forsaken their own birthright for the shiny promise of life in the cities; they feel no obligation to upkeep the land and preserve this rich legacy.
But when the next generation fails to make good choices in terms of their work ethic, it starts to fall apart. What should be a yellow brick road paved with gold becomes a path to perdition. It is almost like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz; we have gone off chasing a dream when really there is no place like home. There is no excuse for land cultivated by generations prior to be taken away by some tax assessment, when, for what our parents endured in building a foundation, we should be thriving.
Our ancestors need redemption, they deserve it. I don’t mean a government-given Band-Aid, but redemption in terms of the growth of our children and the generations that follow; redemption in the fact of knowing that their pain and their struggle was not in vain. Redemption in knowing that when they die, their children are not struggling merely to afford funeral costs. But this is not limited merely to Black families—although it is especially difficult for them. We need to get our heads out of the sand; we need to stop trying to anesthetize the discomfort with petty distractions. Given what our parents had to go through to give us this inheritance, we should never complain and we should never make excuses. We have no excuse to wallow in depression and despair, to resort to drugs and alcohol to avoid reality. We have no excuse not to show up, no matter how hard times may be.
Fortunately for our family, our farmland is now in even better condition than it was when my parents were alive; God blessed us with resources for the upkeep. But we want to do even better; we want to turn the family farm into a Shangri La, our own transformational garden of Eden. Why do I endure the twelve-hour flight to Europe or the six-hour plane ride to Puerto Vallarta, when a verdant oasis awaits me a mere 51 minutes from my front door?
There is no place like home; where the water is always sweeter; the people are always more informative and more meaningful. This is the place I grew up; it is the place my parents built. We are to be the protectors of this land and the builders of the future.
Armstrong Williams is manager/sole owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the year. Follow him on Twitter @arightside