During senior Ariyana Smith’s Honors Project research, she distinctly remembers meeting a man who owned a vegan kitchen in the heart of the Chicago neighborhood Nazareth, even despite its characterization as a food desert.
It is this man and others who Smith was able to encounter during her time researching with Depository Resident Association of Wider Nazareth, or DRAWN, an organization that works to highlight the positives in a neighborhood that has been labeled as predominantly African-American, low-income and hit by deindustrialization. The Integrated International Studies major set out to explore the process of community formation and how members decide to solve neighborhood issues.
“One of the major theories I looked at to understand this process of social movements were boundary work which require some sense of internal composition, or this is ‘us’ and this is ‘them’,” she said.
Her work in Nazareth uncovered both advantages and disadvantages. She says that communities create solidarity and a sense of pride but also exclude those who do not fit into the ideal category of the neighborhood. Smith’s scientific research consisted of writing field notes and using analytic coding. Yet, she credits most of the work to a more grassroots approach.
“I can intellectually understand that the depiction on the news is false but it was only when I had one-to-one experiences to hear their life stories that I really got it,” she said.
For example, she spoke of a young woman, native to Nazareth, who was in the middle of college when she had to withdraw from classes to watch over a sick relative. Despite the pressures of leaving school and caring for a loved one, the young woman still found time to support her community.
Additionally, her year-long research set out to answer how the members of a group identity expand their message and respond to outside actors. Smith says that DRAWN is a key player in these tasks.
“DRAWN is instrumental in mobilizing residents, gathering resources together, and creating a strategic plan,” she said.
As she moves forward, Smith would like to continue working with this organization, with the intent on answering the political ramifications of the work being done in Nazareth.
Before this, she still has to graduate from Knox and leave Galesburg. Smith said that throughout her work in Chicago, she thought of Galesburg, too. Smith believes that some aspects of DRAWN can be applicable to any town organization. Yet, she says that during her time at Knox, there were chances to get involved with the greater area of Galesburg but didn’t know where to begin.
“I wish I had known the spots in town that create boundaries and connections,” she says.
In Nazareth, Smith hopes to spread civic engagement and involvement so that the separation she found in Galesburg isn’t repeated.