Operations of Care (2023 - Ongoing)

Co-founded by Luis Vasquez La Roche & LaRissa Rogers // Visible Records, Charlottesville, VA 

LaRissa Rogers and Luis Vasquez La Roche's Operations of Care (OoC), is an alternative monument, community garden, and gathering space at Visible Records (VR). Operations of Care, reposition a long tradition of reaping from the ground and sustaining oneself from ground provision to offer what Vanessa Agard-Jones articulates as “going to ground” or “ground thoughts” as a birthing place for something we urgently need now. Stemming from Calvin Waren's text Black Care, Operations of Care offers new possibilities surrounding memorialization, community care, and reciprocity through a community garden and gathering space.

This alternative monument consists of raised community garden beds shaped like plinths and constructed from tabby– a material bulletproof by nature and made from a mixture of lime, sand, and water historically used by enslaved Africans and Black communities as a substitute for concrete. The beds frame the pre-existing Common Field Community garden at Visible Records and use soil from the locations of former Confederate monuments in the area that have been pulled down. In the beds, fruits, vegetables and herbs are harvested and made available for the Charlottesville community via the Little Free Fridge at Visible Records. Some Plants and herbs were medicinal and essential for enslaved Africans to survive off the land as a self-liberatory act. Other vegetables and fruits were crucial in maintaining African culinary traditions for enslaved Africans, freedom seekers, and free people of color. Borrowing from Saidiya Hartman, the project prompts us to consider “how can we refuse to silence the ongoing past and foster a radically different kind of care to bear the present?” The plinth-like beds are also made for lounging– and act as seating for those to gather and rest. 

This project aims to create a new language around what a monument can be, that does not rely on singularity or permanence. Through ecological attention, we aim to name another method in which we may view what it means to memorialize Black lived experiences, and Black archival lives when trying to understand how lives have been lived in spaces of impossibility. We turn to land –a living and breathing archive that transforms with time. 

Operations of Care collaborates with Visible Record's pre-existing internal networks to sustain itself. Visible Records has three areas dedicated to gardening, Common Field, Solitary Gardens, and Operations of Care. A group of Charlottesville members, Common Field Crew, come together weekly to grow food. Solitary Gardens writes letters to incarcerated people who have experienced solitary confinement, asking what plants they are interested in growing in a garden bed the size of a confinement cell. Operations of Care is the third garden under “VR gardens” and grows produce that aids in the self-liberation of Black diasporic people to facilitate healing. Produce from all of the gardens goes towards feeding the local community.

Visible Records is located in the Belmont-Carlton neighborhood and is an ethnically, culturally, and economically diverse community that is under constant pressure to gentrify. It is now one of the last remaining neighborhoods with non-state-supported housing for low-income families. 12% of families experience food insecurity in Charlottesville compared to 8% statewide (Countyhealthrankings.org), suggesting the gap in access to food is particularly wide. Operations of Care addresses these issues head-on, by collaborating with Solitary Gardens, Commonfield Crew, and Freedom for Felons for community gardening days, food distribution, and a Social Practice Fellowship. The Social Practice fellowship is for a Charlottesville community member who is in the process of re-entry from prison. This fellowship is in collaboration with Freedom for Felons and Visible Record. It aims to foster financial security and creative freedom for someone as they reacclimate into society.

The lack of access to resources particularly impacts those going through reentry and increases their chances of re-incarnation up to 75% in the area. Between 2012 and 2016, one of three people in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail were re-arrested. Operations of Care is an opportunity to turn away from patterns of harm and toward patterns of healing. We recognize that the prison system acts as a modern plantation system, and often individuals returning home struggle with basic needs like food, housing, and employment. Operations of Care believes in forefronting care as a method, and the Social Practice Fellowship will provide resources and help harvest OoC to help our community members feed themselves. This project also helps foster connections between Visible Records, and the surrounding area by providing an outdoor gathering space where differing opinions and ideas can communicate. 

Operations of Care emerged collectively through conversations between Rogers and Vasquez La Roche as they shared about their experiences living in Virginia, and their interest in Virginia ecologies impacted by the legacy of slavery. Examining the complexities of the spaces we live in, the land we build on, and who gets to reap benefits off the land through agriculture and ideologies, Rogers and Vasquez La Roche found it necessary to recenter community care as an antidote to violence by creating a living monument that tends for people and their bodies. Born in Charlottesville, VA, Rogers’ work looks at the intersections of culture, identity, and embedded forms of colonization. Often asking the question, who and what survives? She simultaneously engages violence and care as co-constructive forces that structure Black life. By using materials that reference colonial histories Rogers re-contextualizes them to grapple with the entanglements of belonging and fugitivity, beauty and horror, life and death, opacity and transparency, care and resistance. Vasquez La Roche is a visual artist and educator born in Venezuela, from Trinidad and Tobago, and now living in Richmond, VA. Their practice is interested in aspects of the transatlantic slave trade that repeat themselves in varying ways in the present. An essential part of the research is an inquiry regarding material. They employ these materials to articulate aspects of race, identity, culture, politics, and spirituality.  

This alternative monument is made possible thanks to the support of Reclaiming the Monument, Visible Records, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and The Mellon Foundation. Also, thank you Freedom for FelonsCommon Field, and Solitary Gardens for collaborating with us!

Thanks to everyone who contributed in the creation and the continuation of this project:

Morgan Ashcom, Emmy Thacker, Mahanoor Samee, Kellyn Kusyk, Jackson Taylor, Lucas Martinez, Whitmore Merrick, Bryan Ortiz, Taylor Pisano, MaKysha Tolbert, Walker Bankson, Lisa Draine.

 To learn more about Operations of Care or get involved follow @operationsofcare on Instagram or email operationsofcare@gmail.com

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