"My engaged ethnographic research is in my home state of Florida in the Central Florida/Orlando area with Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in the Blue Trunk Community Network (BTCN) non-profit organization. People who are part of this network, including myself, focus on increasing food security and environmental sustainability in marginalized communities. Through my engaged/applied dissertation research I seek to not only uplift BIPOC definitions of sustainability (which are often ignored and/or silenced within sustainability’s mainstream narratives) but to also advance the mission of the people I work with: 'to grow food and power through sustainable arts and culture.'
Since my last spotlight with the Anthropology Department in October 2022, Central Florida communities have been slowly recovering from a particularly intense hurricane season and we have begun to discuss preparations for the next hurricane season which starts in June. Aside from hurricane preparedness, this year has already been filled with several Garden Brigades, which are events where BTCN invites community members to work in the gardens of different people in the network. During the brigades the host also conducts a workshop related to the focus of their garden in the network, such as greenhouse gardening, herbal medicine growing, and soil and water science among other topics. In late February this year my friend and I hosted a garden brigade and workshop in our aquaponics system in my backyard. Aquaponics is a form of agriculture where we grow fish whose waste provides nutrients for plants we grow hydroponically and that, in turn, purify the water. Through the brigade, community members and other people within the network, including several young people, were able to learn through hands-on experience about water chemistry, flow, and conservation; how to care for and measure the fish; and about the different plants and how they grow in our system. In April, we will have another brigade at my house where an herbal healer within the network will teach people about medicinal fungi. We will also cultivate reishi mushrooms on repurposed oak logs that will be stored in my yard for future medicinal use by the community.
Throughout my research, I have used my yard (an acre of rented land) as a community space and it has served as a key site of my data collection and an essential element of my engaged methodology. More importantly, it has been a space has been a site of knowledge production and exchange, relaxation and leisure, and where I can materialize my solidarity with the human and non-human communities I am a part of."