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Fall 2023

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September 20th

Audrey Petty presents "We the landmarks": reflections on High Rise Stories, an oral history of high rise public housing in Chicago

In this presentation, Audrey Petty will explore her work compiling and editing High Rise Stories, an oral history in which narrators describe their lives in Chicago’s now-demolished high rises. These particular high rises were among the largest public housing complexes in the United States and home to predominantly Black communities. Defunded by city, state, and federal governments over the course of the 1970s forward, high rise public housing was chronically neglected and mismanaged and many were ultimately torn down as part of redevelopment projects. High Rise Stories’ narratives of community, displacement, and survival amplify the experiences of many who have long been ignored, but whose hopes and struggles exist firmly at the heart of our national identity.

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Audrey Petty is a writer and educator from Chicago. Her writing has appeared in Saveur, Oxford American, Poetry, Callaloo, Southern Review, The Chicago Neighborhood Guidebook (Belt) and the Best Food Writing anthology. She has also served as guest editor of a recent Great Migration issue of Gravy magazine and as the nonfiction editor at Ninth Letter magazine.


Formally educated at Knox College and University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Petty has taught extensively in the fields of African American literature and Creative Writing on the faculty at Knox and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has served as the Simon Blattner Visiting Assistant Professor of Fiction at Northwestern University and the Tin House Writer-in-Residence at Portland State University. She is currently on staff at the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism company on the South Side of Chicago. And she is a member of the Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project, a visual arts and humanities project that connects teaching artists and scholars to incarcerated students at Stateville Maximum Security Prison through classes, workshops, a policy think tank, and guest lectures.


Petty’s oral history work, High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing (Voice of Witness/Haymarket Press), features firsthand accounts of twelve former residents of now-demolished Chicago Housing Authority high-rises. In a review for The Chicago Reader, Janet Potter writes, “High Rise Stories is informative and moving, empathetic and educational. While most of the CHA developments are gone, their influence on the demographics of Chicago life is not. As Paula Hawkins, who grew up in Cabrini-Green in the 60s and 70s, says, ‘The thing is: we the landmarks. Forget a building! People are the landmarks.’”

October 4th

Kristin Reynolds presents Urban Agriculture, Racial and Economic Equity: Action Research for Food and Social Justice

Urban agriculture has a long and diverse history throughout the world. Its health, social, and economic benefits for communities have been the subject of many studies and advocacy efforts seeking recognition of urban food production as a legitimate use of city space and as “real” agriculture. In the US, the past decade has seen policy support for urban food production expand at multiple scales of governance. At the same time, new forms of high tech, commercial urban agriculture have emerged, often funded through private investment and venture capital. Understanding the implications of these shifts for racial and economic inequity, within the broader US context of social inequality, is important in designing and implementing more socially just urban agriculture policies. In this talk, Kristin Reynolds discusses recent evolutions in urban agriculture practices and policy, their implications for racial and economic equity, and her current work to inform more socially just urban agriculture policy through her Food and Social Justice Action Research Lab.

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Dr. Kristin Reynolds is Chair and Assistant Professor of Food Studies at The New School in New York City. As a geographer with expertise in international agricultural development, she is interested in understanding how uneven power dynamics in the food system originate and articulate at different community and geopolitical scales. Using critical and participatory action research, her work focuses on informing the creation of more socially just food systems through scholarship, policy, and activism.

Her current research areas include: urban agriculture policy in the US and, France; small-scale heritage grain production and food sovereignty in Eastern France; and inequities experienced by immigrant and racialized farm workers in Southern France. As a part of her scholarship and food systems work, Dr. Reynolds collaborates regularly with community-based food and environmental organizations and supporters.


Dr. Reynolds’ first book Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City (University of Georgia Press, 2016, co-authored with Nevin Cohen) examined the work of community-based activists to advance social justice through urban agriculture, and roles that research and scholarship can play in such initiatives. She has additionally published her work in numerous academic and public venues, including Antipode; the Annals of the American Association of Geographers; and the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. Her forthcoming, book Radical Food Geographies: Power, Knowledge, and Resistance (co-edited with colleagues Colleen Hammelman and Charles Levkoe) will be published with Bristol University Press in 2024.


Dr. Reynolds is an Affiliated Faculty with the Yale Center for Environmental Justice at Yale School of the Environment; a Research Associate at the European School of Political and Social Sciences in Lille, France; and a Specialist with the US Fulbright Program. She holds a Ph.D. in Geography and M.S. in International Agricultural Development from the University of California, Davis.


Instagram: drkristinreynolds

October 25th

Maya Singhal presents How to Fight a Mega-Jail

In 2017, New York City committed to a plan to close Rikers Island Jail Complex and build four smaller jails around the city in Manhattan’s Chinatown, Downtown Brooklyn, Mott Haven in the Bronx, and Kew Gardens in Queens. The Chinatown jail is planned to be built on the site of the current jail in the neighborhood, but rather than repurposing or remodeling the building, the city plans to demolish it and build a 300-foot mega-jail, which would be the tallest jail in the world. The fight against the new Chinatown jail has drawn together a diverse coalition concerned about the effects of the jail on the Chinatown population and the predominantly Black and Latine populations incarcerated inside it. This talk explores how concerned groups are working to bridge their differences and develop strategies to fight the new jail construction.

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Maya Singhal is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. They completed their PhD in Anthropology at Harvard University, and they also hold MA degrees from the University of Chicago and New York University and a BA from NYU. Singhal’s research is interested broadly in how people navigate violence across generations. More specifically, their recent work deals with crime, capital, and mutual aid in African and Chinese diasporic populations. Singhal’s current book project is an ethnographic and historical study of African American and Chinese American self- and community defense in New York City and the histories of extralegal neighborhood protection (e.g. gangs, neighborhood patrols and associations, etc.) that inform these present-day efforts towards safety.

 More speakers coming soon throughout November - early December!

All colloquia are held via Zoom webinar from 12:00-1:00 pm ET

Recordings will be made available after the presentation

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