Dr. Annalise Fonza: Courageous Womanist Rebuilding Community

Fostering community evolution through intentional love and change.

Oh, love. The reservations that have been placed on the concept has restricted Black people and communities from so much. Our evolution remains stagnant as a result from its misuse and suppression. Its come to the painful realization that our understanding has been wrong far longer than most of us would like to admit. The fear of the unknown, keeps us from the truth we say we are seeking. Stuck in a triage cycle of mistrust not just in society but within ourselves and the remarkable things we are capable of. This points to how integral our historians and writers our to our lives and community. Specifically, the observant and insightful, Dr. Annalise Fonza.

Fonza has been writing as long as she could remember, she tells me in our interview over this summer.  It started as a way of protesting as a child and improved through degrees as her learning and societal reflections came along the way.  “I’ve always have been a student to the social movements that came before me”, she stated.  Although she her formative years were spent in Illinois, both of her parents had a lot of family that resided in the Kansas City area. In 2015 is when the writer found herself getting a more in depth look at the Black midwestern experience and community. I saw a strong similarity between us, when she emphasized how this may not be her “final destination” as she remains open to change.

Advice to new writers:Be courageous! It’s a dangerous and political thing to do. Let go of sharing too much.” -Dr. Annalise Fonza

We did however discuss some of the interesting changes that has brought her to the point of wanting to her insightfulness and examination to the black community here in Kansas City. Fonza she has a bachelor’s degree  in political science (from an HBCU), three master’s degrees, and a PhD (or doctorate) in regional planning with a concentration in urban renewal. The dynamic mixed in academia drove her thirst for understanding and the need to share her findings. She expressed that one of favorite piece that brought certainty to her life personally was one that allowed her to be open with her atheist beliefs. Understandably, Fonza stated that initially she was fearful calling herself an atheist but quickly moved into a place of acceptance. “we have the march for ourselves first”, she affirmed. A powerful sentiment that each of us could be encouraged by.

What’s a key piece to your writing process? “I’m not afraid to take risks. Those changes can realign you to who you are.” -Dr. Annalise Fonza

Realizing the importance of finding that personal acceptance played a critical role in how she spoke of and researched urban planning and development when it came to the spaces and communities that Black people occupy. Over 20 years she has invested her time in unraveling what seems to be a secret to the evolution of our urban societies. “It can’t just be about financial or economic development. The species will evolve but only for the people who are willing to make the necessary changes”, says Fonza. That evident change she presents is love. Love for ourselves, each other and loving our community from the ground up and not just certain aspects of it.  

“I believe that it is time that we start thinking about the redevelopment of Black communities in a way that values and affirms black culture and black people. What have we to lose by doing this? (Fonza 100) This photo was captured by Ntwa Dulema in Atlanta, Georgia.

As she moved her research to Kansas City these past 5 years, she has focused her writing on her recently published book, “Rebuilding Black Communities, With Love”. The piece includes insights from an interview with the well-known entrepreneur, Ollie Gates, Owner and Founder of Gates BBQ. Emphases is placed on the reasons why Gates chooses to stay and invest in the community that raised him. There was a sense of love that Fonza spotlights as a driver to his growing business. It also brings in the specific question from Fonza, “How do we find a way to heal and work with each other?”.

The topic of love has been a very important topic for me. I find myself writing about it often, and in resistance to the expressions of lovelessness and hopelessness that I see and hear in my lived experiences and in urban places” (Fonza, 62).

Dr. Fonza’s writing invites the audience to see a perspective that forces the Black community to question what is causes us to become resistant to working together and the detrimental effects that it has had on us. “The result is a profound sense of apathy where many who live in today’s predominantly black urban communities do not think of themselves and other spaces as worthy of redevelopment and thus change” (Fonza 100).

Order your E-Book of Dr. Fonza’s “Rebuilding Black Communities, With Love: HERE

 It reinforces the idea that is much easier to shame and blame than it is to share and care with one another. I found that connection to worth and value in relevant to one of the previous writers on our series, Sociologist Donna M. Jackson. This again begs us to really evaluate how we place value on ourselves and the spaces we occupy. Fonza’s stance presents us with the beginning steps on rebuilding with love, now that we have identified just how the community has been restrained, by others and by our own distorted views.

Dr. Fonza’s travels, personal experiences and academic pathways has brought on a perspective that is destined to be shared. The concept of love is meant to evolve and encompass the distinct personalities in our lives. When we envision our communities, they become flowers in a sense. Yes, the water is important, a certain amount of sunlight is needed and of course the fertilizer is one to be conscious of. But it is the hands of the gardener that infuses the love into the roots and the delicate care it takes to bring life into each specimen. Now is the time to realize that the power is in our hands. It always has been and always will. It is when we join that we begin to strengthen the community we hope to see grow.

Edited 10:06am 10/14/22

Join us next week for our upcoming artist review: Sheri Hall

Michelle L. Hill
Michelle L. Hill

Explorer of new worlds. Lover of Black Music, Art and Culture. Editor and Writer for the Black Sunflower.

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