- Marcus Bernard, MS, PhD
- Veronica Womack, PhD, MPA
- Tracy McCurty, JD
Research Project Description
In the Black Belt South, African Americans struggle with enduring economic isolation in seemingly barren spaces that are the relics of resilient communities built from a traditional knowledge that normalized cooperative structures and community institutions. The proposed study uses a lens of community resilience to capture patterns of traditional knowledge woven in the culture of health, culture of food provisioning, and the utilization of cooperative economics. This study is unique in that it will focus on health, health equity and the culture of health by connecting production agriculture, land ownership, and cooperative development to traditional knowledge. The proposed study will serve as the foundation for an emergent communal network that promotes a thriving local sustainable food economy through the following community resiliency metrics: (1) advances the regeneration of traditional knowledge, the legacy of subsistence farming, and production agriculture among next generation farmers (2) stymies the epidemic loss of Black-owned farmlands and provides long-term land access to next generation farmers; and (3) promotes community health through cooperative economics, farming, and alternative land-based enterprises. Our proposed research project will utilize various community-based participatory methods (i.e., personal interviews, focus groups, listening sessions, archival collections, land records, social network analysis, etc.) to identify the resources within a geographic subset of the Alabama Black Belt region to create and implement replicable community-centered solutions.
Marcus Bernard, MS, PhD
Marcus Bernard is the Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund. Bernard focuses on improving the quality of life for Black Belt communities through economic development, health, and opportunities for youth in agriculture. At the University of Kentucky, his PhD work focused on the Black Belt region and Black farmers. For his MS, which he received from NC A&T SU, his research focused on health care across the 12 state Black Belt Region.
Veronica Womack, PhD, MPA
Veronica Womack is a researcher of the Black Belt region and the American South and has gained international recognition for her work. A skilled professor and researcher, she has taught all levels of students in political science and public administration. She received both her MPA and PhD - Political Science - from the University of Alabama. She authored a book on the region and has a host of other publications on the subject.
Tracy McCurty, JD
Tracy McCurty, Esq. is the Executive Director of the Black Belt Justice Center, a legal and advocacy organization dedicated to preserving and regenerating African American farmlands and land-based livelihoods through effective legal representation, advocacy, and community education. McCurty has served as a legal advocate on issues disparately impacting rural communities, particularly those focusing on multigenerational farm families living in the rural South.