2021 DeepThink Tanks
DeepThink Tanks are participatory, action-oriented working sessions focused on critical social and environmental issues. Attendees actively engage with how to address these issues in our teaching, research, community activism, and organizing.
Environmental Restoration as Racial and Socioeconomic Justice: Interwoven Local and National Community-Engagement Practices
Featuring the projects, experiences, and insights of two recognized DC-based community activists/organizers, this DTT focuses on authentic community engagement toward equitable and sustainable environmental justice. Our guest speakers will draw upon their extensive experiences in local, regional, and national environmental justice efforts to offer reflective shifts of frame around community engagement and civic coalition/relationship building. We will ask: How have these leaders redefined “environmental stewardship” to engage and support all stakeholders in environmental restoration efforts ? How might we pose and learn from “counternarratives” to recognize the often erased/marginalized histories and responsibilities within communities impacted by environmental racism? How do we honor the place-based knowledges shared and embodied within community networks? And, how do the projects and experiences our guest speakers share help us, as educators interested in community-engaged research, to advance environmental restoration as a form of social justice?
In this session you will identify the root causes of common challenges faced by Black-led organizations. Participants will gain tools to restructure philanthropy, while instilling frameworks to disrupt barriers to impact and success through the lens of Black-led organizations.
Engaging Community through Contemplative Practice and Writehealing
This Deep Think Tank will interactively discuss how to engage community around writing for the purpose of healing, individually and collectively. Speakers will use their work to demonstrate how to implement contemplative praxis and writehealing in everyday spaces. Examples of this practice will be provided to participants as case studies. Participants will leave this session equipped to engage in contemplative practice and writehealing in their communities.
Participants in this DeepThink Tank session will apply disability justice frameworks to their own community literacy work, gaining tools for anti-ableist practices. While connections to disability may not be immediately apparent to attendees, all issues of community literacy–including ongoing community writing projects in prison literacy, food justice, and campus-community partnerships–are also disabil
The Racial Realism of Narrative: Methodologies of Refusal
This session will explore three major areas of thought concerning frameworks of racial realism and refusal, and narrative as methodology. We will collectively interweave our narrative methodological approaches to look closely at Black narrative, storytelling through studies in queer diaspora, and counternarrative through multimodal texts. Our time together will explore a span of methodological narratives of slave fugitive escape to students’ contemporary Dirty South memoirs in classrooms, “homing”– the writing practice through which queer diasporic subjects story their experiences in relation to others’ lives, related histories, and conditions of belonging, and critical indigenous narrative practice in relation to refusal. We collectively move through these topics in consideration of institutional spaces and ask ourselves along with our audience, “To what ends do we conduct this work?” We believe methodological narrative is work in action, it is work to mobilize, and it is work that should create a sense of interconnection amongst struggles. Narrative as methodology is a main consideration and take away attendees can expect from this session.
Spatializing Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Systemic challenges today, like inequities in housing, education, income, criminal justice, and healthcare are far from separate issues. These challenges are rooted in deep and entangled social and spatial complexities perpetuated by legacies of dehumanization and inequity manifested in policies like Redlining, restrictive deed and Eugenics practices, and uneven investments. Collectively, all continue to inform and shape how each of us experiences the built environment. Gone unanswered are fundamental questions interrogating social and spatial dynamics: how did we get here, and what does that mean for where we are going? This is especially relevant as our current moment yet again provokes thought, questions, and dialogue around the ways our policies, practices, and investments not only accentuate divisions and systemic inequities but impede the full potential of democracy.
This DeepThink Tank session engages participants in the co-generation of knowledge, critical insights, and service-learning projects centered on advancing spatial healing, equity, and justice. The module infuses an exploration of historical and current contextualization of social and spatial dynamics through the identified themed frameworks like systems thinking, and the Social Determinants of Health, within a specific site context. Participants engage in a transdisciplinary understanding of the interconnectedness of the built and planned environment shaping and challenging daily life.
Theory of Change and Value Exchange
Participants gain insightful knowledge and skills to explore how the built environment continues to be shaped by social and spatial constructs of perceptions, relationships, policies, practices, and investments. From a very granular level to systems-level thinking, participants dissect how policies, practices, and investments shape the built environment while co-designing interventions collectively re-imagining social and spatial experiences in more restorative and equitable ways.
Dennis Chestnut is a native Washingtonian, and is a lifetime resident of the Hillbrook neighborhood of Ward 7. Dennis is a master carpenter and vocational educator by profession, but his dedication to youth development, community improvement and civic duty has led to his involvement with many civic and conservation projects, and enriching experiences. He is also a lover of the outdoors, has a passion for conservation and the environment, and has advised many community, business and government leaders on civic ecology and civic engagement issues.
Growing up in the far northeast section of Washington, DC, Dennis became connected to the many green spaces, parks, streams, and the Anacostia River where he learned to swim as a child. Dennis has served as the Carpentry internship instructor at the Academy of Construction and Design at IDEA Public Charter High School since 2017, and is the retired founding executive director of Groundwork Anacostia River DC. Among the many programs and projects developed by Groundwork, two stand out, the Green Team youth leadership development program, and the Bandalong litter traps. Managing these four litter traps resulted in the removal of tons of trash and floatable debris from the Anacostia River, becoming one of Groundwork’s signature programs. Dennis is a board member with the East of the River Youth Steel Band, the Capital Recreation Youth Sports Program, and chairs the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. Dennis is a Senior Fellow of the Chesapeake Region Environmental Leadership Program, an appointee to Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Leadership Council for a Cleaner Anacostia River and the Urban Forestry Advisory Council. Dennis is a founding member of the United for a Healthy Anacostia River Coalition, the National Capitol Region Anacostia Watershed Stewards Academy, and the Anacostia Watershed Community Advisory Committee. Dennis has received numerous awards including the Greater Washington Interfaith Partnership Vision Award, the Lankford/Giles/Vaughn Minority Architect Award for Community Activism, the DC Appleseed 2019 Sustainable Living and Leading Award, and the 2019 River Network River Hero, the 2020 Cox Communications Trust for Public Land Cox Conserves Heroes Award, and most recently the Chesapeake Conservancy 2020 Lifetime Champion Award. Dennis has also appeared in numerous publications, books and video documentaries that highlight his work on restoring the health of the Anacostia River, improving the natural resources in the East of the River communities, and developing high quality youth programs.
Ward 7 and areas east of the Anacostia River have been described as the “Greenest” Ward and section of Washington, D.C. outside of the National Mall, but also is where some of the most environmentally challenging conditions in the city have existed. This is the reason why Dennis has committed himself to restoring the health of the Anacostia River, improving the natural resources located in this community and throughout Washington, D.C., and connecting the residents, schools, businesses, civic and community organizations to the many outdoor resources and natural environment through tangible on-the-ground projects that Change Places and Change Lives.
Autumn Saxton-Ross, PhD, developed a love of the outdoors first through her grandmother’s yard and then exploring city parks with her family in her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. Now a resident of Washington DC and mom of two, she is the VP for Education & Chief Equity Officer at the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA).
She started her career as an elementary school Health and PE teacher in DC Public Schools and after receiving graduate degrees in Health Education and Sociology, has worked in various positions that placed her at the intersections of health, equity and the outdoors. Most recently, as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Director and Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Lead for NatureBridge, and prior to that she held positions as the Program Director for Place-based Initiatives at the National Collaborative for Health Equity, Program Specialist at DC Department of Health and (Health) Recreation Specialist at both Montgomery County and DC Departments of Recreation.
Autumn is a connector- actively seeking out ways to build bridges between seemingly disparate people, opportunities and ideas. And if you really want to see a sparkle in her eye, start a conversation on all things Marvel, Octavia Butler or Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Ada Vilageliu-Díaz is an Assistant Professor in English at the University of the District of Columbia where she teaches composition, literature, and creative writing. She received her Ph.D. in English from Howard University and her B.A. in English Philology from Universidad de La Laguna, Canary Islands. Her research focuses on rhetoric and composition; community-based teaching; and community-based scholarship. Her poetry has been published in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, American University’s Festival Latino-Americano de Poesía, and Knocking on the Door of the White House: Latina and Latino Poets in Washington, D.C. Her creative writing is based on legends and myths about the indigenous Guanches from the Canary Islands and focused on reconstructing a fragmented African Latina identity. She is also a documentary filmmaker. Her directorial debut was in 2014 with the documentary Near the River about environmental women leaders in the DC area. This film was in the official selection of film festivals in Colombia, Brazil, India, Spain, and the US. She is the founder and creator of the community literacy project Mi Libro, Mi Espejo/My Book, My Mirror which focuses on diversity in children’s literature with a special focus on bilingual and Latinx children’s literature. Her website is adavilageliudiaz.com.
Michelle LaFrance is an associate professor of writing studies at George Mason University, where she teaches in the Writing and Rhetoric PhD program. She lives in southwest DC at the confluence of the Anacostia, Potomac, and Washington Channel.
Tonee Lawson is a Washington, DC area native, but has made Baltimore her home since her college years at Towson University, where she graduated with a dual Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics (MB3); and Biology. She also has a Master of Science degree in Biotechnology. Tonee is the founder and executive director The Be. Org, a youth development nonprofit that focuses on STEM enrichment and college and career readiness. Tonee was featured on “In Real Life” on the Quicksilva Show for her impact on the community; and was recognized by the Daily Record as a Very Important Professional Under 40. She is a 2018-2019 Johns Hopkins University Social Innovation alum, where she developed a virtual reality curriculum for social emotional learning in youth; a 2020 Baltimore Corps Fellow, and a 2020-2021 Annie E. Casey Foundation Emerging Leader Fellow. Tonee has been featured in the Baltimore Times, Baltimore Business Journal, and The Afro. Tonee is passionate about bridging the digital equity divide in Black communities and creating opportunities for the next generation of Black women in STEM.
Chef Nichole A. Mooney is the Executive Director and Founder of the Baltimore based non-profit organization Black Girls Cook. Established in 2014, Black Girls Cook (BGC) is a non-profit organization that teaches inner-city adolescent girls of color self-actualization activities and life-skills through the use of culinary arts and edible gardening
Before starting a career as a social entrepreneur, Chef Nichole worked as a personal and private chef for clients in NYC, The Hamptons, Miami, Baltimore and DC. She has held various positions within the hospitality industry ranging from hotel catering sales manager to a restaurant operations manager and a casino beverage server.
Nichole was the recipient of the “2019 Champion for Girls Award” from The Society for Girls and the “2019 Up & Coming Leader Award” from Black Yield Institute. Nichole is a 2019 graduate of the Future Harvest CASA’s Beginner Farming Training Program. She is currently a 2020-2021 Annie E. Casey Foundation Baltimore Emerging Leader Fellow and enrolled in Agricademy Inc’s Black Empowerment through Agriculture Program.
Brittany Young is a West Baltimore native who has programmed nuclear plants, developed medical devices, and planned satellite explorations, but she finds the most satisfaction in her roles as an educator and problem solver in service to her community. She taught technology in Baltimore City Schools and was a project manager for the BCCC STEM Scholars program. After the incarceration of her brother, Brittany became empowered to create solutions to funnel talent which resulted in B-360.
B-360 is an organization that utilizes dirt bike culture to end the cycle of poverty, disrupt the prison pipeline, and build bridges in communities through STEM education and career opportunities. Since launching in 2017, B-360 has been instrumental in changing the narrative around dirt bike culture, serving over 7,000 students and hiring 30 dirt bike riders. Brittany’s accolades include being hand-picked for Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s transition team, TED, Echoing Green, the Baltimore Corps Elevation Awards, The Social Innovation Lab at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore 40 Under 40, OSI Baltimore, and many more. Her work has been featured in CNN, the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Times, Shondaland, Forbes, Teen Vogue, Vice, Afro Punk and more. B-360’s partners have included Red Bull and Toyota, among others.
Brittany is passionate about reimagining city planning and government best practices, and providing a model for culturally relevant programming and school curricula. She wants people to recognize and appreciate the natural genius and talent in cities like Baltimore and to match opportunities to people’s passions. Brittany sees herself as a “socio-economic” engineer – connecting talent and passion with resources and opportunity.
Christina V. Cedillo is Assistant Professor of Writing and Rhetoric at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Her/their research draws from cultural rhetorics and decolonial theory to focus on embodied rhetorics and rhetorics of embodiment at the intersections of race, gender, and disability. Christina’s current project examines the multimodal rhetorics of 20th and 21st century women of color activists. Her/their work has appeared in CCC, RSQ, Composition Forum, and other journals and various edited collections. Christina is the lead editor of the Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics and co-chair of the CCCC Latinx Caucus.
Adam Hubrig (they/them/he/him; Twitter @AdamHubrig) is a multiply-disabled caretaker of cats. They live in Huntsville, Texas, where they work as an assistant professor and English Education coordinator for the English Department at Sam Houston State University. Their research and teaching explore disability, especially at the intersection of pedagogy, queer rhetorics, community literacy, and teacher education and is featured in in College, Composition, and Communication, The Community Literacy Journal, The Journal of Multimodal Rhetoric and Reflections: A Journal of Community Engaged Writing and Rhetoric and their words have also found homes in Brevity, and Disability Visibility Blog. Adam is currently co-editor of the AntiAbleist Composition blog space and an advisory board member of the Coalition on Community Writing.
Jo Hsu (they/them) is an assistant professor of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Texas at Austin, where they are also faculty for Asian American Studies and the LGBTQ Studies program. Jo’s research focuses on how stories are used to constrain institutional access and social imagination, and also how stories can envision worlds otherwise. They take particular interest in how narratives capture the interrelations of racism, cissexism, heteronormativity, and ableism—and foster coalitions among those affected by these scripts. Jo’s work can be found in major (inter)disciplinary journals and their creative writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. As of Summer 2021, they are working to finish revising their book manuscript, tentatively titled Homing Stories: Constellating Trans and Queer Asian American Rhetorics. As a misfit who once found refuge in classrooms and as an as academic given homes by community-based worldmakers, Jo is committed to transforming access to disciplinary knowledge-making as well as (re)imagining universities that are accountable to the communities within and affected by them. A trans, crip, diasporic queer, Jo is always looking for ways to commune across/within/beyond presumed boundaries and is grateful for opportunities to learn and grow with others. You can access their writing and find more about them at www.vjohsu.com.
Carmen Kynard (bio coming soon)
Aja Y. Martinez is Assistant Professor of English at University of North Texas. Her scholarship, published nationally and internationally, makes a compelling case for counterstory as methodology in rhetoric and writing studies through the well-established framework of critical race theory (CRT). Her book, Counterstory: The Rhetoric and Writing of Critical Race Theory has been named one of the 20 Best New Rhetoric Books to Read in 2021 by BookAuthority and is nominated for the 2021 Teaching Literature Book Award. Her writing has appeared in College English, Composition Studies, Peitho, and Rhetoric Review.
Yanira Rodríguez is an Assistant Professor of Journalism and Writing at West Chester University. Her teaching and research focus on community writing/publishing/grassroots journalism and the politics of cultural production as tools for social justice and liberation within and beyond the academy; multimodal/multigenre compositions which foreground anti-racism, decolonization and abolition as explicit end goals; the politics of place and context; intersectional women of color feminisms. Her writing has appeared in Community Literacy Journal, Computers and Composition Digital Press, the edited collection Unruly Rhetorics: Protest, Persuasion and Publics, Radical Teacher and the Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics.
Jameta Nicole Barlow, PhD, MPH, a Charlottesville, Virginia native, is a community health psychologist and an assistant professor of writing in The George Washington University’s University Writing Program and Women’s Leadership Program. She also holds a secondary appointment in the Health Policy and Management Department of the Milken Institute of Public Health and is an affiliate faculty member in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, Global Women’s Institute, Africana Studies Program and the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health. Dr. Barlow utilizes decolonizing methodologies to disrupt cardiometabolic syndrome and structural policies adversely affecting Black girls’ and women’s health, as well as intergenerational trauma. She has spent 23 years in transdisciplinary collaborations with physicians, public health practitioners, researchers, policy administrators, activists, political appointees, and community members in diverse settings throughout the world. Dr. Barlow holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in English from Spelman College, a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Maternal and Child Health from The George Washington University and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology from North Carolina State University.
Certified as an Emotional Emancipation Circle Facilitator and trained as a doula, childbirth educator, yoga and meditation, Dr. Barlow is a 2015 AcademyHealth/Aetna Foundation Scholar-in-Residence Fellow and a 2016 RAND Faculty Leaders Fellow in Policy Research and Analysis. She has lectured on her research throughout the world at institutions such as the University of Virginia, Harvard University, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi, Ghana. Dr. Barlow is the Chair for the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Women in Psychology, inaugural Scholar-in-Residence at the Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Strategic Partnerships and Communications Advisor for the Council on Black Health. Her writings on Black girls’ and women’s health, intersectionality, health equity, healing and restorative health practices in psychology and public health research appear in various publications and she offers community-based and industry focused workshops and trainings on these topics. She believes “writehealing” is an effective approach towards uncovering trauma and healing.
Stephanie R. Briggs is the owner of Be.Still.Move. and Breathing N2 Blackness, facilitated programs of mindfulness/contemplative practices for educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and corporations. A retired English professor at the Community College of Baltimore County, she specializes in the use of contemplative practices, including storytelling, writing, movement, and art, to foster community growth through the development of intra- and inter-connectedness as the foundation for socially engaged action. Her recent work includes coaching and facilitating contemplative engagement as part of anti-racism training. Stephanie has designed programs for the Association for American Colleges & Universities STEM initiatives, the STEM Women of Color Conclave, University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Social Work, and the Kennedy Center College Theater Festival.
She is the recipient of the 2018-2019 Lenz Residential Fellowship at Naropa University for her project, “Visioning the Eightfold Path: Liberatory Contemplative Practical Empowerment for African-American Faculty,” addressing the inequities in predominantly white institutions and creating a series of trainings using community-based practices that contextualize Buddhist and African/African-American spiritual wisdoms. In 2016-2017, Stephanie received a grant from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society for “Practical Empowerment: Building Contemplative Communities With Students of Color,” a think tank for faculty of color focusing on the development of contemplative communities informed by African/African-American practices on college campuses.
Barbara George Johnson (bio coming soon)
April De Simone is a transdisciplinary design practitioner with over 20 years of experience. Her work navigates the intersectionality of architecture, planning, and systems thinking to develop contextualized frameworks advancing more equitable, humane, and just representations of spatial authorship.
Personally experiencing the collateral consequences of Redlining, urban renewal, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, homelessness, and beyond, grounds a first-hand understanding of the long-term impact on those who tow the front line. These experiences have been translated into professional engagements, addressing society’s most pressing and interconnected challenges. Ms. De Simone, has worked on numerous projects demonstrating the equitable, humane, and just capacities of architecture and design mediums, including a supervised visitation site at the Bronx Borough Courthouse and the social enterprise venture Urban Starzz.
In 2015, she co-founded designing the WE (dtW), where she co-created the nationally recognized Undesign the Redline (UTR) platform. More recently, she transitioned into new roles as a Principal at Trahan Architects and Co Director of the research and design studio, Designing For Democracy (launching in 2022). Both platforms will support her interdisciplinary work in investigating the implicit and invisible relationship between architecture and human condition, connecting a deeper understanding of how inequity, supremacy (in its various forms), and dehumanization become spatialized and proliferated. From this context, opportunities for new pedagogy, process, and practice will expand the agency of design to interrogate and deconstruct existing paradigms, while simultaneously advancing an emergence of projects within the built environment centered on equity, justice, and inclusion.
Ms. De Simone continues to be an invited lecturer, speaker, and facilitator at numerous institutions. She sits on progressive boards, including that of the American Sustainable Business Council, and works closely on a local and national level with diverse stakeholders within the design sector, like the Urban Design Forum, on issues of race, equity, and new economies. A Dean Merit Scholar recipient, she received her Master of Science in Design and Urban Ecologies from Parsons School of Design. Currently, she is pursuing her Master’s in Architecture.
Angeline Dean has been called a “life saver” and a “breath of fresh air” for her ability to bring different perspectives to challenging situations. She is an entrepreneur who is not afraid to take risks, and possesses a keen sense of recognizing and responding to the call for the change. Her book Not Just A Slave was an answer to her fourteen-year-old cousin’s question as well as so many other melanated children– “Am I just a slave?” Her book was submitted for the Coretta Scott King award in 2013. Yet, little did Ms. Dean comprehend that this book and an incident while teaching would be one of the tools that would transcend her thinking and navigate her journey as a catalyst for change. In her quest for a metamorphic transformation, she recognized that power lies in shared enlightenment and in the shaping of mindsets and healing; identity formation.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Science and a Master’s degree from the John S. Watson School of Public Policy at Thomas Edison where she studied Community/Economic Development in her bid to continue to be effective and innovative. Presently, Angeline is a Ph.D. candidate in a program addressing Access, Success, and Equity in Education with a social justice caveat. Her primary focus is the interconnectionality of systems and the predatory, intentional, innate nature of enslavement along with the political economy of Black/Brown bodies. Here, she built an Oppression/Plantation Paradigm Model© (OPP-Other People’s Property) and a healing model to be used in centering her dissertation and future social justice work in both education and healing as well as in her overall systems work.
Ms. Dean served as an activist, organizer, and liaison to the Faith-based community in her quest to bring White House aid to the City of Trenton and a consultant for Faith in NJ/ People Improving Lives through Organizing (PICO) as the Statewide Transportation Coordinator. Her work was instrumental in changing 1.7 million lives in NJ. She was chosen by PICO to go to Ferguson, Missouri to assist the youth as well as clergy in self-advocacy and civic education during the Michael Brown case. Ms. Dean has ministered in the largest all male federal prison system for 12 years, sat on the Child Placement Review and Supervised Parent Visitation Boards for five years, and served as the Committeewoman of District 2 for two terms. She hosted her own radio show, has been a featured speaker in many venues to include the largest Christian TV program – Trinity Broadcasting Network. Angeline has facilitated and presented on a myriad of conversation topics and was selected to discuss the bridging of communities for the Harwood Institute of Public Innovators. She was appointed to the Governor’s Human Relations Commission, and in 2015, named the NJ Assistant State Coordinator for the Whitehouse Iniative on Prayer in NJ. Her nonprofits van guard work in reentry afforded the nonprofit an opportunity to meet President Obama in Newark, NJ. Presently, Ms. Dean is an adjunct professor at both Hofstra and Rowan University, and facilitates the Institute for Community Justice’s anger management program in Philadelphia where she is privileged to go back in the prisons to speak and serves on the MANN UP board. She also hosts town halls addressing systems as plantations and recently launched a new project at www.Intersystemz.rocks. Angeline serves as Board Chair of the Agrihood Project in Trenton, NJ-an Urban agricultural project directly linked to the disrupting, dismantling, and educating of eco systems and the “ghettoization” of cities via the intentional and predatory use of policies.
Favorite Saying: As a child of God we should never live our lives in an average state; average should never be our normal, for if we do not live our lives in an uncommon manner, than our very existence is unnecessary. (author unknown)