Jaline McPherson, MLA 2021

Summer 2020

Organization: Destination Design School of Agricultural Estates

Sponsor: Doebele Community Service Fellowship

Welcome to the Destination Design School of Agricultural Estates

“The Destination Design School of Agricultural Estates (DDSAE) is an organization committed to changing narratives and stories about the Black Belt south. This region covers the southeastern United States and with it comes to a deeply layered history and land which is home to years of extractive practices and depletion of resources from the natural environment. Early practices of plantation economies produced a rigid system of inequality and violence on the land. As a result, this region still faces high rates of economic poverty.

What often gets placed on the backburner is that this region is also home to people. These people and their communities are often left out of traditional design narratives and areas of focus in our design pedagogy at the GSD; hence the necessary commitment of DDSAE to center community voices as a pathway to increase equity in this region. The school implements a reparative justice framework that is rooted in the ancestral and ecological understanding of the land and bridges education, local economy, and sustainable practices together to change patterns of persistent inequity. To practice these equitable and just goals also requires the reckoning and confrontation of the deeply racist history of this region and country. Thus, the work of the school is constantly in motion to understand the past while also looking to create an equitable future. Therefore, connecting and forming strong relationships with people who live in this region, is central to this work.

These practices produce a dynamism that is central to the type of work and conversations that took place with the DDSAE during my first few weeks of the internship. From the very beginning, it became clear that this organization was different at its core both in the process of learning and also in its process of design. In contrast to western thinking that often utilizes linear thought models, the work of the school embodies a circular practice that constantly seeks to revisit history, local communities, and issues of equity before arriving at a solution. Typically in design work, communities are shown a result and then asked for feedback. Very early on, founder and principle Euneika Rogers-Sipp said to me: “We need to re-write this story”. Euneika is my supervisor for the summer. She and I have been working very closely to focus on how we could create a different type of design practice and also communicate the story and mission of DDSAE.

During my first few weeks, I was tasked to produce visual graphics and website content that began to tell this deeply rich and layered history. The school builds on Euneika’s many years of work and expertise in working directly with communities in rural Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia and larger design and sustainability practices. During these initial weeks, it was crucial to understand the guiding goals of the organization through discussion and design-narrative work that set up the framework for future summer projects. This work was then translated in the above image from the first phase of the website. The website work ignited the beginning of my internship and set up early conversations on how this work could be told to produce new stories. On the backend of the website, I worked on designing a website architecture that will further show the work of the school. As DDSAE is in its initial launching phase, it has

been really critical to focus on how we synthesize all of the years of experience to tell our story. This summer has lots to unravel!”