Food for Justice | Food for Thought
Artist Seitu Jones' life work has been grounded in the civil rights movement and the Black Arts movement, so the impacts of structural and systemic racism frame his approach. The pandemic, as we know, has revealed injustices that have been there all along, as well as the generous spirits that rise to fulfill various needs. Jones will join a panel of Champaign-Urbana residents, including several University of Illinois faculty, to think together about what lies beneath local food insecurities and to illuminate the needs, desires and hopes of the community. Mr. Jones is interested in improvisational approaches that work with the materials at hand: land, plants, water, soil, air and the humans who live alongside and in these environments. This informal discussion, moderated by Urbana arts and culture coordinator, Rachel Storm, will feature Dawn Blackman, Ruby Mendenhall, Jennifer Monson, Magdalena Novoa, and Bobby Smith II, in conversation with Seitu Jones.
Seitu Jones is a George A. Miller Visiting Scholar for 2020-21. These virtual events launch a hybrid residency that will extend beyond the pandemic (hopefully) and include visits to the University of Illinois when it is safe to do so. In addition to the Center for Advanced Study/George A. Miller Committee, co-sponsors of these events include: Dance, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, College of Fine and Applied Arts, African American Studies, Center for Social and Behavioral Sciences, Extension, Human Development and Family Studies, Inner Voices Social Issues Theatre, Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute, Krannert Art Museum, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Landscape Architecture, Siebel Center for Design, Theatre, and Urban and Regional Planning.
Seitu Ken Jones | a George A. Miller Visiting Scholar (2020-21)
Seitu Jones is a Saint Paul (MN) based artist whose interdisciplinary practice considers the historical construct of race and the desire to restore our Beloved communities through food, conversation and beauty. His practice aspires to create environmental and public artwork that honors and inspires communities. Seitu Jones Studio engages, advises and produces work that advances food and environmental justice through the arts and public sphere.
Ruby Mendenhall is an Associate Professor in Sociology, African American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, Urban and Regional Planning, and Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also serves as assistant dean for diversity and democratization of health innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, and is an affiliate of the Institute for Genomic Biology, among other appointments. Mendenhall received her Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University in 2004. Mendenhall’s research examines how living in racially segregated neighborhoods with high levels of violence affects Black mothers’ mental and physical health using surveys, interviews, crime statistics, police records, data from 911 calls, wearable sensors and genomic analysis. She examines the role of the Earned Income Tax Credits in social mobility and health outcomes and the medicalization of poverty.
Magdalena Novoa Echaurren is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Novoa’s work focuses on the intersections of historic preservation and social justice, the politics of cultural heritage and memory, grassroots organizing, and alternative planning approaches in the Americas. She is particularly interested in how cultural heritage and planning principles are mobilized to integrate or segregate historically marginalized groups, as well as the challenges that arise from the changing and globalized landscapes of cities. Novoa combines ethnographic, archival, participatory, and arts-based methods to understand the tensions between local knowledges and formal heritage and planning approaches and its implications in shaping citizenship. A native of Chile, Novoa received her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.
Bobby Smith II is a sociologist and assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Smith’s research uses sociohistorical and community-based approaches to analyze historical and contemporary struggles for food justice and food sovereignty in Black communities in the United States. Smith received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 2018.
Rachel Lauren Storm (she/her) serves as the Arts and Culture Coordinator for the City of Urbana. She oversees the Urbana Arts and Culture Program's various initiatives including the Urbana Arts and Arts in the Schools Grants programs; the City's Poet Laureate Program; exhibitions, and the City's ongoing arts programs including the Art Now!, the Urbana Sculpture Project, Murals on Glass, Open Scene Open Mic, and Downtown Urbana's latest festival: the Downtown Get Down! She has worked on arts, social service, and education initiatives for the past fifteen years in public, nonprofit, and higher education sectors. Outside of her professional positions, Rachel has managed two media arts camps for young people; taught university dialogue classes on race and culture; and offered creative writing workshops in schools, nonprofits, and to incarcerated writers. She holds a BA in international studies, an M.Ed. in education policy, and is a PhD. Candidate in the College of Education at the University of Illinois where she studies transformative justice and community healing.
Choreographer/improvisor Jennifer Monson (Director and Founder of iLAND-interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature and Dance) uses choreographic practice as a means to discover connections between environmental, philosophical and aesthetic approaches to knowledge and understandings of our surroundings. She creates large-scale dance projects informed and inspired by phenomena of the natural and the built environment. Her projects include BIRD BRAIN (2000-2006), iMAP/Ridgewood Reservoir (2007), Mahomet Aquifer Project (2009), SIP(sustained immersive process)/watershed (2010), Live Dancing Archive Vol. I & II (2012 and 2014), in tow (2015) and bend the even (2018). Monson has been on the faculty at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign since 2008 and was a Marsh Professor at Large at the University of Vermont (2010-16). She has been awarded numerous grants and fellowships including an Illinois Artist Fellowship 2019, The Doris Duke Impact Artist Award 2014, Guggenheim Fellowship 2004, Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship 1998, and multiple National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. iLAND published A Field Guide to iLANDing: scores for researching urban ecologies in 2017.
Dawn Blackman | Randolph St Community Garden
Ms. Dawn Blackman is a former military wife, mother of one, a storyteller and dressmaker. In 2006, she took on the stewardship of what is now the Randolph Street Community Garden in Champaign, IL. Located on property owned by Champaign public schools, the garden has increased over the last 14 years from eight beds, one of which was tended by Ms. Blackman and neighborhood youth, to more than 2 acres in production now, tended by a vibrant community of more than 300 children and 150 adults. The garden is located in an area of north Champaign that has largely rental properties and many immigrant groups. The area is a food desert with few options for fresh and affordable food. More than 2,600 people grew, bought, or received fresh produce in 2019. She has long been an advocate for those facing food insecurity and, in addition to the garden, manages the food pantry, the Youth Snack Program, and the Senior Nutrition Program at the Champaign Church of the Brethren where she serves as Outreach Pastor.