Green peppers in a brown basket with a person blurry in the background wearing a blue shirt and brown hat.

Oral History: Abu Talib

Abu Talib Introduction

Abu Talib was born in the 1930’s, into a South Carolina sharecropping family, and learned early to tend the land. Abu’s earliest food memories are of eating wild onions, beans, poke salad and pepper weed to survive. But he also learned the medicinal benefits of wild plants like rosehips, mugwort, and peach leaves. Losing his father ruined the family economically, and in the mid-1940’s, Abu was illegally abducted and sent to reform school. After his release he returned home to help his mother, whom he considers a great cook, before moving to Washington D.C. to work as a cook himself. In time, Abu joined his brother in NYC, and in 1992, looking to improve his Highbridge neighborhood in the South Bronx, he co-founded Taqwa Community Farm on an abandoned city-owned lot. Eventually, Taqwa was assigned to the NYC Parks Department as a public green space, and after thirty years, Abu still works the garden, teaching and motivating what he calls “my green thumb family.” He sees Taqwa as a place of community and healing that addresses wider societal issues, passing on knowledge and a sense of responsibility to younger generations. “That’s my life, that’s my story,” Abu says. “People helping people…that’s a good thing.”

Interview Date: September 3, 2021

Profession: Gardener, Community Organizer and former Sharecropper

Birthplace: Hartsville, South Carolina

Head shot of Abu Talib

Abu Talib

Full Length Video