Remembering Bonita Conwell

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Bonita Conwell. Photography courtesy of Children’s Defense Fund.

Bonita Conwell, a woman who devoted her life’s work to agricultural, social, and economic justice, passed away on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. She was sixty years old. She lived and worked in Mound Bayou, Mississippi.

Ms. Conwell was a driving force in the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative (SRBWI). She worked tirelessly alongside thirty women in the Mississippi Delta growing vegetables, organizing black female farmers across the region, and using farming as an educational tool to eradicate poverty and barriers experienced by rural black women.

She connected other parts of the country to foodways of the Mississippi Delta. She created Robert’s Meat Market in 1985 to provide Mississippi-made meat products to Chicago. She sold her sweet potato greens, a crop normally discarded after harvest, to African markets in Houston, Texas.

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Conwell and her crops. Photograph courtesy of Children’s Defense Fund.

You can farm this land, and you can grow some vegetables, and you can put food on your children’s table, and you can make a good living. ~ Bonita Conwell

In 2011, Ms. Conwell presented at the SFA’s Delta Divertissement, teaching participants about her work in the region, and providing them the opportunity to experience her famous sweet potato greens during a meal.

Linda Rule of Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative conducted an oral history interview with Ms. Conwell in August 2011, two months before Ms. Conwell presented at the Delta Divertissement in Greenwood, Mississippi.

Here is a link to the interview.

Funeral services will be Saturday, November 19, 2016 at 11:00 AM at Bethel A&M Church in Mound Bayou, Mississippi.