Ashley Stewart

Ashley Stewart

2020 Urban Fellow

Research Topic: Socio-cultural and Ecological Interactions

Faculty Advisor: Amity Doolittle

Black. Women. Environment. Connecticut: Study of Black Female Environmental Leadership in Urban Connecticut

Historically, urban environments have been dynamic and interesting spaces for ethnographers and social scientists because of the mix of people and the cultures at the heart of the urban space. The patterns of how people come together, attempt to co-exist, and experience various forces create innumerable opportunities for research that is often underexamined by the environmental field. This ethnographic research on Black women’s environmental leadership in Connecticut pushes the current limits of knowledge in social scientific literature about race, gender, environment, and politics. Through recognition of these women and their oft-ignored hard work serving the people of Connecticut, a fuller picture of urban environmentalism is developed with specific focus on Black urban culture in Connecticut. Participants included grassroots activists, municipal and state leaders, environmental educators, urban farmers, lawyers, and engaged citizens, all seeking ways to improve the lives and health of Black people and the urban environment. This study of urban Black female environmentalists provided new research that enabled me to unearth novel details about their work. These interviews revealed a variety of concepts, including the use of politics in urban environmentalism, reframing stories of the urban environment, value of place and people, and how an intersectional perspective informs views of urban challenges. Through interviews on and observations of the participants’ cultural forms of leadership, political reliance within urban environmental practice, and urban conservation, I discovered that alternative methods of informing policy development, creating new value centers within environmental institutions, and coalition building within informal grassroots networks is essential in progressing the environmental field towards solving complex environmental threats.