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Week of October 10, 2011

Activist focuses on black women’s relationship to land, space


With her “Black/Land Project,” Minstinguette Smith is giving black women a platform to discuss their relationships to land and place.

Smith, the Center for the Education of Women’s 2011 Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist, gathers stories throughout the United States that both provide a historical perspective and address policy issues related to land use among black communities.

Why focus on black women? Smith explains, “Black women tend to talk about their relationships to land and place in very specific ways. They focus less on who owns the land and more on how it is used — to build self-sufficiency, hospitality and connectedness.”

During her one-month residency at CEW, Smith will interview women from across Michigan.

She also will offer three public workshops in October, two on the Ann Arbor campus and one at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. These events, which are free and open to the public, will include a preview of Smith’s new documentary short, “Black/Land: Women’s Voices.” Registration is requested at www.cew.umich.edu.

Smith’s lecture dates are as follows:

• 5:30-7 p.m. Oct. 20, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Betty Ford classroom

• 5-6:30 p.m. Oct. 24, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning Auditorium

• 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 25, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit

The “Black/Land Project” highlights conversations about land and place happening inside black communities, in order to emphasize powerful traditions of resourcefulness and resilience. In her interviews, Smith focuses on key environmental, cultural, economic and social justice issues.

“Most people think of a ‘Black/Land’ story as about owning farms or working gardens, but my research shows that such stories are the exception, not the rule. Most black people live in cities, with paved sidewalks, brick building and few trees.

“We can learn much about resilience from how black people have maintained a relationship to land in cities: accounts of six city blocks that have become a new home to an African immigrant community in Manhattan; or of a church mortgage-burning party in a small town in Ohio.”

Smith, founder and director of the “Black/Land Project,” said her objective is to describe issues “as black communities themselves define them, rather than to impose traditional categories of analysis.” Another of her goals is to convene a national conference about black people’s relationships to land and place.

Each year, the Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist Program brings to CEW a social justice activist whose work affects women and recognizes gender equity issues. The program, which is made possible through a gift from U-M alumna Twink Frey and her husband James McKay, allows the individual to spend four weeks at U-M to research, plan and write about an area of activism.

For more information contact Eilisha Dermont at 734-764-6005.

For more information about the Visiting Social Activist Program, go to www.cew.umich.edu/action/tfvsa.

Minstinguette Smith’s lecture dates

• 5:30-7 p.m. Oct. 20, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Betty Ford classroom

• 5-6:30 p.m. Oct. 24, A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning Auditorium

• 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 25, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit

 

SPOTLIGHT

What inspires Perry Samson, professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences? "The outdoors. I believe my inspiration comes from nature while hiking, biking or cross-country skiing, though it might just be hyperventilation."

EVENTS

Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies lecture, Emil Tedeschi, 5-6 p.m. Oct. 13, Stephen M. Ross School of Business, Room R0210.

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