I'm a writer and sociologist from Mississippi. I've been practicing that first one my whole life. The second one took school—I earned my Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
My public writing and research focus on questions of race and place. I write about how places—especially Black communities—change; how those changes are curbed and spurned on by systems and policy; and how local people explain, contest, and live amidst it all.
In August 2021, I will join the Department of Sociology at the University of Virginia.
Since 2014, I have been chronicling what's going on in the town of Clarksdale, Mississippi, a place known widely as the "birthplace of the blues" and that has, since 1980, tried to use that title to kickstart local economic revitalization and community development efforts. My book I Don't Like the Blues: Race, Place, and the Backbeat of Black Life tells the story of those efforts and, for the first time, details how local Black folk feel about them. How they feel is in the book's title: they don't like it.
I also serve as Director of the Mississippi Hill Country Oral History Collective. Established by Ms. Dottie Chapman Reed and Dr. Jessica Wilkerson in 2019, The Collective is a community of scholars, students, and local people committed to recording and archiving the histories of Black (and other marginalized)
communities across the 30-county Mississippi Hill Country region.
My work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and American Sociological Association, among others; and I have written for local, regional, and national platforms, including Washington Post, CNN, and Bitter Southerner, among others. I have also co-directed and collaborated on two short films.