Roots of Resilience: The Towner Legacy and Aya Solutions’ Vision for Food Justice

by | Feb 21, 2024 | Aya Solutions

In the wake of the Civil War, African American farmers like the Towner family faced monumental hurdles in asserting their right to land and economic stability. This period, marked by systemic barriers designed to maintain racial disparities, set the stage for stories of extraordinary resilience and perseverance.

The Towners’ journey from the harrowing escape from slavery to establishing a foundation in Mississippi agriculture exemplifies the fight against oppressive systems to secure a life of dignity and liberty.

Within this broader historical context, Aya Solutions aligns its mission, drawing inspiration from the enduring spirit of those who navigated post-war America’s challenges. By spotlighting the Towner family’s saga, we underscore our commitment to dismantling present-day barriers to food sovereignty, continuing a legacy of resilience against systemic oppression.

Flight to Freedom

In the shadowy backdrop of the American Civil War, Claiborne Towner’s quest for freedom began with a harrowing escape, fraught with danger and cloaked in secrecy. Born into the merciless confines of slavery in the early 1860s, Claiborne, alongside his siblings, was smuggled off a plantation. This daring venture led them through the night’s embrace towards hope.

Tragically, this flight to liberty was marred by profound loss, as some of the children, hidden beneath piles of straw and hay to conceal their escape, suffocated— a heart-wrenching sacrifice at freedom’s altar.

Settling in rural Mississippi with his steadfast partner, Aurilla, they navigated the exploitative labyrinth of sharecropping. Their indomitable spirit bore fruit thrice over as they acquired the very land that tested their resolve, laying down roots for future generations and catalyzing the growth of a vibrant African American farming community.

This saga, imbued with relentless perseverance, leadership, and an unwavering commitment to community empowerment, mirrors the essence of resilience against systemic oppression. Their narrative, rich in detail and spirit, underpins Aya Solutions’ dedication to fostering an equitable food system, embodying the profound legacy of those who tread the path of adversity toward sovereignty and dignity.

Threefold Struggle for Land: The Enduring Spirit of Claiborne and Aurilla Towner

Claiborne Towner’s journey from bondage to landowner in post-Civil War Mississippi encapsulates a saga of courage and resilience in the face of systemic exploitation.

He and his wife Aurilla’s struggle for land ownership, which necessitated purchasing their land three times, is deeply interwoven with the broader, tragic tapestry of systemic injustices that include not only the legacy of slavery and the exploitative sharecropping system but also the sorrowful history of the Trail of Tears.

The same land that provided the Towners a foundation for freedom and community empowerment was once inhabited by Indigenous Native Americans who were forcibly removed by federal policies, exemplifying the painful continuum of displacement and disenfranchisement in American history.

Claiborne and Aurilla’s quest to own land was thwarted not once but thrice by deliberate acts of exploitation that took advantage of their vulnerable position as formerly enslaved people with limited legal recourse.

(1) Their initial purchase was invalidated due to a lack of receipt, a common ploy used to exploit African Americans. (2) Undeterred, they saved again, only to have their second attempt nullified over unfiled deed transfer documents. Each purchase was met with increasing resistance, showcasing the systemic barriers designed to disenfranchise. (3) Yet, their perseverance shone through as they navigated these obstacles, eventually securing the land on their third attempt.

This young couple’s dedication and perseverance were also instrumental in founding a fledging African American farming community where they served in various leadership capacities within religious and civic organizations. The land on which this community was established bears the scars of multiple layers of oppression. On this ground, the Towners’ steadfast resolve and the efforts of Aya Solutions stand, striving to heal and build upon a legacy that acknowledges and learns from the past.

Aya Solutions - Towner Family History

Sowing Seeds of Justice: Aya Solutions’ Modern Mission

Drawing from the deep well of history, Aya Solutions honors the resilience embodied by Claiborne and Aurilla Towner, whose determination to secure land ownership created a legacy and paved the way for current efforts in food justice.

Our initiatives in urban agriculture and policy advocacy are driven by the same spirit that propelled the Towners to overcome the barriers of their time.

As we continue to advocate for food sovereignty, our work stands as a modern reflection of their fight, ensuring that the principles of autonomy and self-sufficiency remain at the forefront of our mission to empower communities and build sustainable food systems. Through these efforts, Aya Solutions carries the torch of resilience, lighting the path toward a just and equitable future.

The Sankofa Principle: Drawing Wisdom from the Past

Inheriting the spirit of the Sankofa, Aya Solutions channels the fortitude of ancestors like the Towners into modern efforts for food sovereignty. We embrace the wisdom of the past to foster present progress, advocating for urban agriculture and policy reform, echoing the same drive that empowered the Towners to secure their autonomy.

This continuity of struggle and empowerment threads through our mission, demonstrating the transformative power of resilience from historical times to today’s initiatives.

Joining the Legacy: Your Role in Shaping the Future of Food Justice

As we stand on the shoulders of giants like Claiborne and Aurilla Towner, Aya Solutions invites you to join a movement steeped in the same determination that secured land and liberty against incredible odds.

Your actions, whether through volunteering, participating in workshops, or amplifying the message of food justice, weave you into a collective narrative that honors past resilience and shapes a future of communal well-being.

Together, let’s advance toward a world where, as prophesied in Micah 4, peace and self-sufficiency prevail, and no fear shadows the land.

Join us in nurturing a just food system where “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.”

Contact us to take the first step today.



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