The Paradox of Hunger – Rural Mississippi

Mississippi has some of the richest soil in the country, with rivers such as the Mississippi, Pearl, Pascagoula, and many more flowing and supporting the fertile characteristics of the lands. The climatic conditions in this part of the country are favorable for growing during most of the year. These are the very reasons that settler colonists chose Mississippi and engaged in agrarian enterprises that led to the development of plantation economies powered by the labor of enslaved men, women, and children. As a result, Mississippi became a global economic force through its agrarian landscapes via brutal practices. The brutality did not end with the abolishment of slavery. It would continue through various strategies, including the legally sanctioned theft of farmland from Black farmers and political weaponization of food access as a means to fight against civil rights. These tactics continue today, and despite having some of the most versatile and arable farmland, Mississippi consistently ranks amongst the highest in the nation in food insecurity and poverty.  

This studio will explore socioeconomic justice by examining the environmental, economic, and sociocultural influences and implications of food insecurity. We will engage with: agents of change within the food system, from the national to the local level, to understand the interconnected dynamics that have caused disparate access to healthy food and wealth throughout the state; community members in Jackson and rural Mississippi; faculty and students of The Piney Woods School, the location of the studio project site.

The Piney Woods School is an independent historically African-American boarding school that sits on approximately 2000 acres in rural Mississippi, south of Jackson. The school was developed by Dr. Laurence Jones in a small sheep shed gifted to him by a freed slave in 1909 as a place to teach the poor and children of freed slaves how to read and farm. The school remains predominantly Black and accepts students from across the US, the Caribbean, and beyond. Students will work in pairs to propose a new space, based on a self-formulated program, on the campus of The Piney Woods School that will include a controlled horticulture component.

Travel to Jackson and Piney Woods, Mississippi is planned for early October.

The studio is open to students of all disciplines. Student performance will be evaluated through studio work and participation, pin-ups, and final review. Class will be 2pm – 6pm on Thursdays + Fridays. Cory Henry will be in residence Aug 30, Sep 15-16, Oct 20-21, Nov 03-04, Dec 01-02, plus two more weeks (TBD). Class will be held via Zoom on all other sessions.