Disaster management strategies typically focus on the ways in which governmental and non-governmental agencies work to recover and repair physical damages following disaster events. In North Carolina especially, disaster recovery – namely, after hurricanes – is connected to both ecological and sociohistorical factors that relate to racial and ethnic marginalization, power and grassroots action.
Focusing on the aftermath of Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018) in Robeson County, N.C., my research examines the relationship between vulnerability, resilience and adaptation in African-American and Native American (Lumbee) neighborhoods. Using interviews and photography, I document the social aspects of living within African-American and Lumbee communities in Robeson County in the wake of disaster. These neighborhoods are situated in more flood-prone areas, as well as subjected to less financial aid and fewer resources in response to hurricanes; this dual form of ecological and social erosion of local response capacity makes it harder for them to successfully recover.
My research demonstrates that African-American and Lumbee communities note the gap between government assistance and their needs and strategize beyond narratives of vulnerability to provide for themselves and their communities in order to recover from hurricanes. I then examine grassroots action and mobilization as a mode of adapting to changing climates that is under-examined. Grassroots organization following disaster is a key component of these communities’ recovery and resilience strategies. Modeling an approach that emphasizes this creates more comprehensive, sustainable plans for communities of color in North Carolina, and potentially across the United States.