Who We Are
Mistinguette Smith, Executive Director
When Mistinguette Smith began to notice that black people think and talk about their relationship to land and place quite differently from the ways mainstream institutions do, The Black/Land Project was born. As the founder and director of the Black/Land Project, she has travelled the country gathering black people’s stories about relationship to southern farmland, urban city-scapes, changing neighborhoods, and public green spaces since the fall of 2010. Blending her literary ear as a poet and playwright with her professional knowledge of women’s health, food security, and leadership development for social equity, Smith turns the gift of individual stories into a body of information that engages and heals black communities. Smith is a skilled analyst, trainer and facilitator, and a masterful speaker who captivates both academic and community audiences. A graduate of Smith College, she holds the MPA in Public and Nonprofit Management from New York University. She was the Twink Frey Visiting Social Activist at the University of Michigan Center for the Education of Women , and was named on e of YES! magazine‘s “People We Love” in 2013 .
Allison Guess, Program Consultant
Allison Guess graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a double major in Political Science and Hispanic Languages and Literature. At the Black/Land Project, she co-designed and runs the MyStory Campaign; she also supports our links to academic institutions and our research on transcending historical trauma. Her other research interests include redlining, voting rights, urban renewal, housing segregation, geopolitical struggles, land rights of Afro-descendants (both domestically and broad), gentrification, migration and the Black middle class, which she plans to pursue as a graduate student in Africana Studies
A North Carolina native, Tavia Benjamin graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011 with a double major in Anthropology and Global Studies. Having had experience as a campus activist, community organizer, facilitator and trainer, and a young nonprofit professional, Tavia brings a wealth of knowledge to her position. She has conducted original research and fieldwork in the U.S., Tanzania, Mexico, and Guatemala on issues of food justice, gender, race, and health. Her other research interests include food sovereignty, community economic development, and social justice movement-building.
is an independent communications professional who has worked in the private, government and nonprofit sectors. She offers Black/Land her knowledge of public affairs and resource development, and shares her many relationships in commercial and public media. A skillful intercultural communicator, Harvey-Akan has lived and worked in the midwestern and southern United States as well as internationally, most recently in Jiaozuo City, Henan Province, Peoples Republic of China. A native of Schenectady, NY, she currently makes her home in Greensboro N.C. but believes “your place in the universe is as big or as small as you make it.”
Frank Lowery, Jr.
offers The Black/Land Project board his expertise in business and finance related to land ownership. He is a licensed Illinois realtor with Weichert Realtors – Frankel & Giles, located in Chicago’s, South Loop location. Prior to life in Chicago, Frank spent two years living in Central Europe and 10 years working in the financial services industry in Ohio. Frank graduated from the University of Akron with a Business & Organizational Communication degree. His interests include travel, music and reading.
is very excited to be a part of the Black/Land Project as it is a marriage of her many passions: real estate, gardening, social justice, African American history, public policy, economic empowerment, food justice, green technologies, education and the lives of women. She is a clinician (BS, occupational therapy, the Ohio State University 1987) and management consultant (MS, non-profit management, The New School for Social research 1990). She has worked in those capacities in medical, educational, and philanthropic organizations in Ohio and New York for the past 25 years. Turner has a deep relationship to place in East Cleveland, Ohio, where she spent her childhood, and once again lives.
The Black/Land Project is a sponsored program of Community Ventures.