Why we organized this special session. Regardless of where teams are on their three-year IRL journey, fellows have been sharing how their communities are responding to the norm-altering disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, structural racism, murders of our Black community members, and political turmoil surrounding the presidential election. Fellows have also been sharing the challenge of continuing their research and community engagement activities in a way that centers community voice during this unprecedented time. The January 2021 cross-cohort virtual forum was designed to share IRL teams’ common ground and leverage their experiences tackling community engagement and research challenges.
I am the community partner in a project focusing on reimagining, both the health infrastructure and food infrastructure, in our small community of Utica, Mississippi. So far it has looked like the community building skills in collecting data in the form of story, learning how to do oral histories, learning how to do interviews, and really understanding how those pieces can aid us in reconstructing a rural community that basically has been decimated by disinvestment and deterioration over the last three decades.