People We Love: Leia Lewis Henderson

Nurturing African-American culture through gardening.
Leia Lewis Henderson

In 2004, in a low-income neighborhood of Shreveport, La., a 2-acre lot stood abandoned and overgrown, three miles from the nearest park, library or grocery store. That lot has been transformed into Sankofa Gardens thanks to community member and former arts administrator Leia Lewis Henderson.

Henderson’s grandparents were sharecroppers who had to leave the land they had spent years tending. In the Sankofa campus, she has secured a green space that belongs to the entire community. Volunteers here grow nearly 100 bushels of organic produce a year to feed themselves and local people in need. But Henderson started Sankofa with a larger goal in mind: to nurture and celebrate African-American community and culture. Her next projects are building a learning center and the collective creation of an elaborate mural. Henderson says both are part of her ongoing work to establish Sankofa as a local “oasis of sustainability and understanding.”


  • What happens when the Motor City transforms itself into the capital of grow-your-own food?

  • The old logic of the slave plantation is still the logic of our industrial food system, 500 years in the making. There’s a new way of thinking taking off.

  • Breaking our families into nuclear units has an ecological and emotional cost. Could the multigenerational farm remind us where to turn for a viable future?