- Ajima Olaghere
- Muhammad Abdul-Hadi
- Celeste Winston
Research Project Description
Growing Freedom Down North brings together two social scientists and a mission-driven business entrepreneur to build the foundation of an independent food system in the Strawberry Mansion community of North Philadelphia. Together we strive to address intersecting issues of health equity, including disrupting pathways to prison and increasing access to fresh, quality food in an urban food desert.
Our efforts will culminate in the creation of a community garden in collaboration with local residents, including young people and formerly incarcerated residents. The community garden will be located on a leased parcel of land adjacent to the Strawberry Mansion Learning Center, a neighborhood education and resource center. This will facilitate our vision to show the health and educational utility of cultivating vacant/abandoned lots to serve the health equity needs of the Strawberry Mansion community. We will document our efforts in a case study that combines surveying, ethnographic interviewing, and body mapping to capture lived and embodied experiences of foodways and their connections to safety and well-being. Structural racism manifests in urban food deserts as inaccessibility to infrastructure and policies that guide the cultivation and development of land.
A community garden that centers community experience and prioritizes racial equity is our countervailing system. We aim to provide a model for other communities by studying the strategies, challenges, and impacts of community gardening on residents' perceptions and experiences of safety and well-being. We will establish a grounded theory and scalable praxis for addressing intersecting issues of health equity.
Ajima is an expert on criminology and geography. Her experience includes community-based participatory research and mixed-methods research.
Muhammad is a leader who founded the Down North Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on community development, education, and improvement in underinvested communities. His latest partnerships include one with Temple University's CARE Lab where he and his team support and invest in underrepresented youth completing a 12-week cybersecurity training program in North Philadelphia. In addition, the City of Philadelphia agreed to sell an abandoned public library in Strawberry Mansion to Muhammad for $1 to build a permanent youth technology hub in the neighborhood. Technology for smart plant monitoring and digital mapping at the hub will provide meaningful synergy with the Growing Freedom project
Celest is an expert on Urban Studies. Celeste's experience includes qualitative, community-based research and GIS mapping; her work centers the knowledge and struggles of Black communities to generate evidence of and for more livable and equitable geographies