‘Get your rest, eat your greens, smash the patriarchy’: Introducing our new editor

anna

It’s a new year, and we welcome a brand new editor! Anna Hamilton, a storyteller of many talents, will join our editorial team. We asked Anna a few questions–some serious and some not-so-serious. Read on to hear Anna’s insights into Florida, food and the skeleton from Google Chat. 

Welcome to the Renaissance Woman team, Anna! Can you tell our readers a bit about where you have been and what you have done over the past few years?

Thanks, Hannah! I’m so pleased to be joining the Renaissance Woman. I am a radio producer, oral historian and communications coordinator, so I’m kind of a Jane of All Trades! I received a BA in Humanities from New College of Florida and an MA in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. I lived abroad for a year on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, and have since worked for organizations like NOAA, the Southern Foodways Alliance, and NPR. Currently I am a communications assistant at UF’s Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, and am the project director of Matanzas Voices, a multimedia oral history project sharing the stories of life along northeast Florida’s Matanzas River. And of course, I freelance for radio shows whenever possible!

You are also the editor of Watershed Radio, a podcast on Florida’s environmental issues. Can you tell us about this project–how it started and why it’s important?

The premise of Watershed is to use audio storytelling to explore how we shape Florida’sstatic1-squarespace environment and the environment shapes us (a byline I often use is “exploring Florida in Flux,” which is a pretty good summation). That’s intentionally broad—with that mission I can highlight a huge breadth of stories on the environmental topics continuum: policy, history, foodways, activism, art, etc. We’ve told stories of potato farmers, bat biologists, longleaf pine enthusiasts, political controversy, conservation photographers, cultural landscapes, and more. I really think that diversity is one of its strengths.

On a very basic level, I created Watershed because I didn’t see local radio outlets publishing and promoting the engaged, deep, and sustained kind of environmental work and coverage I thought was important. So I started Watershed to address that need! To be sure, it has a long way to go before it matures into a serious and permanent outlet, but it is certainly a model to build on.

On the more abstract side, I’ve always been fascinated by how “environment” and “environmental” have become loaded, stigmatized words. What happens to our natural spaces, resources and commons impacts everyone, no matter where you are, what you believe, or your political persuasion. Part of what I’m trying to do with Watershed is to see if we can explode those negative connotations and bring to them more nuanced, complicated, and universally-relevant understandings. I would like to be able to have adult conversations about the environment. There’s a great film called the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition by a team of documentarians who traverse the length of Florida through wild, contiguous corridors, documenting the whole way. At one point they interview a rancher about his conservation efforts and he talks about the moment he realized ranchers and environmentalists were saying—and working for—the same things. Those are the moments I’m looking for in telling stories of our environmental and cultural landscapes. Moments when we realize, “hey, maybe we’re not so different from other groups. Maybe we can see eye to eye on this.” Moments of common ground.

“Storytelling is an important form of activism, and telling these stories puts a human face on issues that can seem far away and irrelevant.”

On a more personal, reactionary level, Watershed is a response to the unprecedented growth we’re seeing in Florida. I hardly recognize where I grew up, and though that’s become a common Floridian refrain, it breaks my heart. But this also has implications beyond my immediate, emotional experience. St. Johns County, where I live, has grown so much that the county is financially underwater and the infrastructure has started to fail the residents. I’m not anti-growth, but I’m a huge proponent of sustainability and smart planning. Watershed is always kind of quietly asking the questions, “is this the best way to do this? Is there a smarter way we could be addressing these issues?” Environmental degradation is not just an aesthetic issue. It’s a civil rights and social justice issue, too. We’re already hearing about people who don’t have access to clean water, or who are being poisoned by pesticides, or who can no longer work as a fisherman/shrimper/crabber/oysterman because waterways are too toxic and polluted. Storytelling is an important form of activism, and telling these stories puts a human face on issues that can seem far away and irrelevant.

The last thing I’ll mention is climate change. Floridians don’t have the luxury of deciding whether or not it’s real and whether or not it’s man-made. “Nuisance flooding” is code for sea level rise, and many of our communities (not just our coastal towns) have started to feel the effects. It’s not just rising waters, either. Sea level rise is bringing more and more salt water intrusion into our stores of fresh water. This has implications for municipalities, agriculture, etc. One of the latest sea level rise models predicts a 10 foot rise in the next 30 years. If that proves true, my home—literally where I grew up and where I live now—will be underwater within my lifetime.

I love where I live. I am a grossly proud Floridian. We’re full of weirdly contradicting cultures, overlapping regions, and incredible wild spaces; it’s just a big, beautiful mess. And when you love something like that, you fight for it.

We are excited to have your fresh perspective on our team. What do you think are some of the most important issues women currently face?

In terms of women’s issues, we have so far to go in so many arenas (not just here in the US but internationally), so I’ll just name a few that I can’t believe we’re still fighting for: paid maternity leave and equal pay for women. The recent election was troubling, disappointing, and jarring for so many reasons, but for one, it was a painful reminder of how limited we as women actually are. It reminds me of a pre-election episode of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” an NPR quiz show. It was around the time critics of Clinton started attributing her rising number of supporters to her “woman card.” Faith Salie had the best (read: saddest and most true) response: “I have a woman card because I am a woman…and when I whip it out, I get 78 cents on the dollar.”

The core mission of our site is to empower women by sharing women’s stories. Can you talk about a time where you have felt empowered with the help of other women?

Every day! In my personal life I feel very privileged to have some strong women I know I can call on in times of need and in times of celebration–and who, conversely, I can support along the way.

Recently a friend started a monthly women’s support group, which has been immensely helpful in connecting with other women on issues of personal and professional importance. It’s a small, casual gathering, but it has made a world of difference to remember that–especially in the face of what the next four years has in store–we’re all in this together, and that together we can process, survive, and thrive.

In my professional life, I’ve had some wonderful mentors who’ve taken me under their wings, helped guide me in new territory, and helped me navigate through uncertain times. One of these is Amy Evans, storyteller and artist extraordinaire. She was one of my supervisors at the Southern Foodways Alliance during my graduate fellowship at the University of Mississippi. Amy is the total package: a good listener, an ethical documentarian, creative spirit, and life of the party. She knows when to reign it in and when to dish it out; I often try to channel Amy’s wisdom, strength and talents.

What’s your spirit animal (or, in other words, what animal do you feel represents your personality)?

The skeleton from Google chat.

What’s your favorite way to tell a story (photo, writing, radio, fireside chats)? Why?

If I can’t say all of the above, then radio/audio. I am a staunch believer in the power and intimacy of radio/audio storytelling–so much so that I wrote a super nerdy thesis about the field of audio documentary, produced an audio documentary about the struggles of writing a thesis, and then co-choreographed a dance to said audio documentary.

So many people have written about the power of audio as an effective storytelling medium, so I’ll just reiterate the point that sound grips us in a way that other mediums can’t. The unique qualities of spoken word, the dynamism of the voice, and the immediacy of sound in general communicates so much more than any flat, written word can. And on the production side of things, I love the challenge of telling stories in audio. Each story feels like a puzzle, with different elements that can and will fit together if you can figure out how to assemble them.

Can you describe your perfect Sunday morning?

Wake up early, drink a mug of Sweetwater coffee (Freight Train light roast or bust), tend my garden, go to yoga with my husband and best friend, lounge at one of our area springs. Easy question.

If you could share one message with the world, what would it be?

Get your rest, eat your greens, smash the patriarchy.