PRESERVING ECOLOGY IN PEMBROKE TOWNSHIP
Located about an hour south of downtown Chicago, the Pembroke Township in Kankakee, IL is a rural African-American community that is home to rich biodiversity and culture with a long-standing tradition in agriculture. Though Pembroke has always been known for its incredibly diverse wildlife, there is currently no plan in place to ensure its protection. Various conservation agencies have interest in acquiring land, but no formal understanding existed between the residents and the agencies to determine what is best. In recent years, conservation land acquisition has become a pressing issue, along with other concerns such as opportunities for youth and threats to the environment. The Field Museum engaged the community in a process to find out what is important for both the land and the people by trying to link environmental conservation with human well-being. In spring of 2016, we led residents through a structured process to determine what well-being and sustainability mean within the community. We helped residents draw upon their core values and community strengths to develop recommendations to improve quality of life and access to natural areas through various community and youth focused programs.
Through our conversations with several members of the Kankakee community, we found that the cultural traditions in food and farming in Kankakee stem from the south (Mississippi, etc.), and in many ways, Pembroke Township is a connection to Black southern culture that provides the experience without having to physically be there. To learn more about the many different ways wellness is perceived by individuals in the community, check out the links above.