In this article, we present the voices of African American urban gardeners in Cleveland, Ohio, a city in the Rust Belt. We draw attention to the history of a rich neighborhood life following the Great Migration that was grounded in political activism and mutual support. We focus on the gardener's visions of thriving, self-reliant African American communities and the desire to rebuild soil, neighborhoods, and economies. The central values articulated include hospitality, empowerment, and giving back, values that are grounded in the history and current practice of community organizing. We critique the mainstream tendency to label black bodies and African American communities as pathological, and instead argue for recognizing the skills and abilities of African American gardeners to cultivate community—that is, to build and strengthen the social, political, economic, and cultural fabric of neighborhoods.
Cultivating Community: Black Agrarianism in Cleveland, Ohio
Janet Fiskio is Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Comparative American Studies at Oberlin College. Her research and teaching focus on environmental and food justice, ecocriticism, and climate change. Her work has appeared in American Literature; Race, Gender, and Class; and The Routledge Companion to Native American Literature.
Md Rumi Shammin is Associate Professor and Chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College. He has published on topics related to life cycle analysis of energy and carbon emissions in the United States, the Genuine Progress Indicator, urban sustainability, urban agriculture, and the value of environmental amenities. He is currently engaged in projects involving food access and food justice, climate change in developing countries, ecosystem services, environment and behavior, and urban sustainability indicators.
Vel Scott is a community advocate and a leader in the movement to bring nutrition and healthy living into people's lives. Through her workshops, lectures, and cooking demonstrations she teaches people that food can be the catalyst for better living.
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Janet Fiskio, Md Rumi Shammin, Vel Scott; Cultivating Community: Black Agrarianism in Cleveland, Ohio. Gastronomica 1 May 2016; 16 (2): 18–30. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2016.16.2.18
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