Introduce yourself! What should the world know about you? 

Hey, y’all! My name is Camille (she/her) and I am so thrilled to be a part of the inaugural cohort of Rethink Outside Fellows! I am originally from Maryland, right outside of Washington, DC, but I recently moved to Southern California to begin a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. I am a scholar, a student activist, and a lover of food in all its forms!

What are you passionate about? 

Currently, as a graduate student, I am very passionate about my research! My work looks at Black-led food justice movements to understand how Black people use food production and distribution in ways that embody abolitionist principles in their day-to-day lives. On the individual level, I am really interested in understanding how participating in Black-led urban agriculture programs and having the opportunity to grow food and build that physical connection with the land can provide a sense of liberatory healing for Black folks in the US.

What drives you as a person, a leader, and a storyteller? What or who shapes you?

My passion for storytelling comes from a genuine love for people of the African diaspora and a curiosity to better understand myself and others — where we come from, what motivates us, and what we live for. I recognize that even amongst our similarities Black people are incredibly diverse. But popular media does not take the time to honor and value that diversity, so it is my mission to unearth it. As Black people our relationships to land and nature are sacred. Choosing to discover and nurture those relationships even through the colonial, imperial, and white supremacist violence that has tried to separate us from the land, is nothing short of revolutionary. I tell stories to share how we as Black people discover and explore our connections to this land and the outdoors.

Why did you apply to the Rethink Outside™ Fellowship? What are you hoping to learn from this experience? 

I applied to this fellowship primarily in search of an intentional community to develop and think through ideas of BIPOC relationships to food cultivation, land, and each other. In higher education, and especially in research programs, so much of the research process is expected to happen in a silo, and all too often, these institutions refuse to recognize that work and knowledge building that happens outside of the ivory tower. I do not want myself and my work to get so caught up in the bureaucracy of academia that I lose sight of what I came here for in the first place; to highlight how Black people can use food justice and food sovereignty to get free. So I hope that by participating in this fellowship, I will be able to connect with folks from a variety of backgrounds and fields who will help be a grounding community as we embark on this journey. I look forward to learning transferable skills that I can apply in my work and life more broadly.

How will the Rethink Outside™ Fellowship experience help you address the systemic barriers for access to, and representation / leadership of Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the movement to connect people and nature? 

I will primarily be using the Rethink Outside Fellowship to assist me in developing my research project. As a first-year Ph.D. student, I am in the preliminary stages of developing a dissertation project, so this fellowship will provide me with guided support to explore what the networks of Black-led urban farms and gardens look like here on the west coast.

What is your favorite activity / place which connects you to nature and the outdoors? 

Unsurprisingly, I find peace being in the garden! I started gardening during the Covid-19 pandemic and that quickly became my favorite place to seek refuge from everything that was going on in the world around me. I love that gardening is an activity that can always meet me where I’m at. If I just need to relax on my own and be surrounded by life and nature, the garden offers that solitude. If I want to meet and connect with people, especially in a way that is covid-safe these days, community gardens offer a wonderful setting to bond and make connections. However, especially since moving to California, I have been enjoying exploring the beautiful beaches and hiking spots here in Orange County. I look forward to exploring more of the beautiful landscapes all around the state over the next couple of years!

Get to know all of the 2021-2022 Rethink Outside™ Fellows.