'We can grow a legacy': Dad's gift of 40 acres on son's birthday rooted in powerful history

 A California father gifted his son a 13th birthday present that will benefit his family for years to come: an opportunity to build generational wealth. 

Faheem Muhammad, a Los Angeles based security director and real estate investment company co-founder, gave his eldest child 40 acres of land in San Diego County as a rite of passage.

“In the Black community, there was a promise of 40 acres and a mule, and I thought it would be a good play on that,” Muhammad told USA TODAY.

He referred to U.S. General William T. Sherman's Special Field Orders No. 15 announced in 1865 near the end of the Civil War.

Faheem Ra'id Muhammad, 13, stands with his father, Faheem Muhammad, on part of the 40 acres of land he received for his birthday on March 16, 2023.

The orders, which were later overturned by President Andrew Johnson, would have allowed newly freed families to receive 40-acre plots out of 400,000 acres and to lease a mule from the U.S. Army, according to the Georgia Historical Society.

Muhammad, who bought his first property in 2015 in his childhood L.A. neighborhood, gifted his son a portion of 198 acres of land he and his business partners purchased in 2021.

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Faheem Ra'id Muhammad found out about the surprise via social media, he said.

“We went hiking for my birthday, we just had fun,” Faheem said. 

When he returned home, he saw an Instagram post revealing his dad’s gift. “I texted and called him trying to figure out what's going on, what's happening, and that's how I found out the whole 40 acres thing,” he said. 

Teaching the values of land ownership

After the Civil War and by 1910, farmland ownership of Black Americans peaked as they rapidly bought over 16 million acres, according to the American Bar Association.

That percentage dwindled over the 20th century, and by 1999, Black people owned 7.8 million acres of land worth over $14 billion at the time, a United States Department of Agriculture report showed. 

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As a child, Muhammad Sr. says watching his entrepreneur mother endure tough times while still maintaining her status as her own boss, and eventually buying her first home, influenced his interest in real estate investment.

He wants to instill similar values in his own children. 

The 40 acres of land gifted to Faheem Ra'id Muhammad, 13, by his father, Faheem Muhammad, lies along the border of the U.S. and Mexico in Boulevard, San Diego County, California.

“We see this land as an opportunity that we can pass down to our children,” he said. “We can grow a legacy, we can create generational wealth, where it outlives us and our lifespan.”

'Generational wealth is important'

Obtaining 40 acres at 13 was “unexpected,” said Faheem Jr., whose birthday is March 16.

“It's like, ‘whoa, what am I going do with all this?’” he said. “But as I grow up and he teaches me the importance of owning land, I'll know more about what to do with it.”

He’s already got some ideas: All-terrain vehicle camps, cabins and Airbnb properties rank among them.

Whatever he has planned for his land, the teen seems to be keeping his father’s lessons in mind.

“If you have land and you pass it on for years and years, and your whole family continues to grow it, then it could become something big,” Faheem Jr. said. “That's why generational wealth is important to me.”

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