When Chelsea Frazier, Ph.D., came from Chicago to Ithaca in August to start her professorship at Cornell University, she brought with her a long history of research and skills in black feminism and ecology.
In late November, she used those skills to create Ask an Amazon, a platform and website that aims to connect community members with tools to better approach the issues of feminism, the environment and everything in between.
Frazier is a black feminist eco-critic, which means that her research, writing and teaching sits at the intersection of black feminism and ecology. It’s a set of skills she’s been building for nearly a decade, but for a long time, it was confined to scholarly and academic settings.
“It’s work I’ve always been deeply passionate about,” she said. “I wanted to start expanding that and really make a lot of the work that I was doing more readily available to a wider variety of people.”
Though Frazier is from Chicago, she saw immediate value in integrating herself in the Ithaca community. Through this, she saw value in being able to share her knowledge and tools with the Ithaca community and communities all over the nation.
“My job brought me here, and Ask an Amazon gave me an outlet to further connect with my new Ithaca community,” she said.
Ask an Amazon has a blog and a listing of community events curated by Frazier. It provides a platform so users can have the chance to expand their perspective on the environment in order to find a better path forward.
“We’ve gotten ourselves into some very dicey things ecologically, and so, Ask an Amazon aims to provide tools for people to think about, strategize, conceptualize and take action in order to get us away from some of that trouble that we got ourselves in,” Frazier said.
The name of Frazier’s website comes from growing up in a family full of very tall, inspiring women, colloquially known as “Amazons.”
“I wanted [Ask an Amazon] to really reflect a lot of those values that were instilled in me in the community of Amazons that raised me,” she said. “It’s an invitation to ask me about the things that I have expertise in and hone in order to serve the communities that I love most.”
Frazier said Ask an Amazon is geared toward anyone who’s interested in continuing to build their creative thinking skills.
“It’s for people who want to build a community with folks who have all different kinds of educational interests but want to just keep learning and want to do so in an environment that is invested in and dedicated to building warmth and respect and accountability,” she said.
For many people Frazier has encountered, feminism and ecology can seem rather disconnected. Issues like sexism and racism can get brushed under the rug in favor of paying attention to the environmental crisis. But, Frazier said, properly addressing climate change cannot be done without tackling all these other issues, too.
“All of these things are interrelated and reinforce each other in order to functionally reinforce and intensify the effects of climate change, environmental toxicity and pollution,” she said.
And that is exactly why Frazier wanted to start Ask an Amazon in the first place – to bring light to the connections between these issues that had largely gone ignored.
“One of the ways for us to start conceptualizing our way out of those interrelated problems is to have analytics for looking at them,” she said. “That’s why black feminism in particular and themes of ecology and the environment have to be theorized together.”
Ask an Amazon’s first event was “On Spirit and Creativity,” the first chapter in Frazier’s “Race, Gender, Nature” series, held on Dec. 9 at Argos Inn. It featured a panel of speakers in an intimate setting where attendees could actively talk with and ask questions of the speakers, Frazier and other attendees. Frazier said the event quickly sold out and was a big success.
Local businesses like Your CBD Store and Home Green Home sponsored the event. She said the fact that these businesses are led by women aligns with her personal drive and mission, and she’s glad she was so accepted by the community she was trying to appeal to.
“I felt that Ask an Amazon was in line with a lot of the values of the businesses that, just as a regular person, I’ve been patronizing,” she said. “And for me to be able to come in, say what I’m trying to do and be immediately met with this community of super strong, super awesome women entrepreneurs … was incredible.”
Ithaca is a diverse community, so Frazier said there are bound to be some people with whom her message doesn’t sit well, but she said the results of the event prove her message is resonating with plenty of others.
“What I see from the event selling out is that there is a strong interest in people wanting to come together and build up their toolbox for withstanding and adjusting to and evolving with the cultural and economic changes that are coming through Ithaca pretty rapidly,” she said.
Since launching in late November, the website has gained a steady following. Frazier said that she’s working on creating a place on the website where people can connect with her directly to schedule lectures and other events for her to share her knowledge and skills. In addition, she is in the process of securing funding and hiring a team to help stabilize the process and make the project more sustainable.
“It’s been a joy, really, to do this work and to really see the positive response to what I have tried to curate for folks and to really get an idea of what people are interested in and what they would want,” she said. “On the horizon is continuing to learn and continuing to provide beautiful, hopefully sold-out, events where people walk away with their spirits, their minds and their creativity fed.”
No matter how the website and resources change and grow, Frazier said she will continue to provide educational resources to those in the Ithaca community and beyond. It is her passion, she said.
“This is something that I see as my responsibility to the work that I came here to do and to the ways that I desire to enrich the community that I also need so much from in terms of support and folks to be with and laugh with,” she said. “Keeping my eye on that priority, that gives the impetus to write my reflections for the blog and to keep the website up and going.”
Check out Ask an Amazon at askanamazon.co or on Twitter and Facebook (@AskanAmazon).
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