As Black History Month comes to a close, we celebrate the work of the African Alliance of Rhode Island (AARI), one of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society (IBES)'s community partner organizations.
AARI was established formally in 2004 to provide programming and resources around health, food, literacy, and culture to Rhode Islanders of African descent, and African immigrants and refugees settled in Rhode Island. AARI’s programs include education initiatives; pop-up produce markets around New England to increase the availability of culturally-relevant fresh crops; youth programs; facilitating access to resources; and the establishment of a six-acre community farm in Johnston, RI. The organization advocates for and fosters unity within African communities in Rhode Island, and aims to educate the public about African cultures.
AARI has been a long-time partner of IBES over the past decade, working with faculty and students enrolled in environmental studies and sciences courses to facilitate community-engaged scholarship opportunities. In courses like Professor Dawn King’s Humans, Nature, and the Environment (ENVS 0110) and Local Food Systems and Urban Agriculture (ENVS 1555), students engage with local food systems through the African Alliance of Rhode Island, and have completed over 15 projects with the organization.
For instance, students in Professor King’s Local Food Systems and Urban Agriculture course collaborated with AARI on The Okra Project, where they studied the health benefits and nutritional content of okra. Students also explored creative and efficient uses for the crop (including powdered okra), identified how to source it, and helped develop a new product and packaging for the organization’s pop-up farmers’ markets: pickled okra.
To learn more about the mission of the African Alliance of Rhode Island and their work, visit their website: https://africanallianceri.org/