Flower City Noire Collective was founded in Rochester in 2016 by Tonya Noel Stevens and Kristen Walker. They founded FCNC specifically as a corrective to the transphobia, classism, and elitism they witnessed in existing mainstream activist movements, and to cultivate practices of self-care, accountability, and radical honesty. Stevens has formal training in Agriculture and Food Studies, while Walker—has formal training in African American Studies and English. In addition, they have both developed extensive expertise in Black feminism and community-organizing through their work together since meeting in 2014. FCNC’s mission is to “elevate womxn of color,” and to center the experiences of Black queer folks in particular. According to their mission statement: “FCNC seeks to fill the void of safe, black centered spaces in Rochester, NY that center around black joy, black love, and understanding.” In the words of Walker, the work is fundamentally about “space-making.” Rooted in Black feminist politics and the Black radical tradition, FCNC emphasizes “the values of collective leadership, collective work and responsibility, collective education, and sustainability through skill-sharing.” Their interventions include a free Black feminist mentoring program for local youth called “Petals,” cultivation of green space for and with Black urban growers (B.U.G.S.), regular reading groups and other consciousness-raising efforts including a reading and discussion group, and most recently the founding of Noire House at the corner of Flower City and Dewey Avenue on the city’s predominantly Black west side in 2019. Noire stands for Neighbors Organized with Imagination for Resilient Emergence and is based on the model of Hope House in Detroit, which Stevens and Walker visited in 2017. Noire House is actually two houses, acquired by FCNC as “legacy properties.” Walker and Stevens are currently living in one of the houses, along with other tenants, and rehabbing both houses for cooperative occupancy.”
Meet the Founders:
A Rochester native and mother of two Tonya Noel is a self-described Planeteer, Black Joy, and revolutionary love enthusiast. She is a co-founder of Flower City Noire Collective (FCNC585). I am a 2018 alum of the Soul Fire Farm “train the trainer” BIPOC farmer immersion program. She was also a 2018 City Paper WaveMaker for her urban farm and community work.
FCNC was awarded the 2020 Anna Marie Douglas Award for their significant contributions to community building, on the legacy of one of Rochester’s greatest foremothers.
FCNC’s mission includes elevating women of color in their communities using a holistic approach; organizing with imagination, respect, and sisterhood; Tonya focuses on creating an intergenerational garden-based healing space in the community she serves.
As a community activist Tonya has worked on social justice campaigns that have shaped our current political scene; including organizing with B.L.A.C.K(Building Leadership And Community Knowledge), The Movement for Black Lives(M4BL), Fight for $15 and currently Rochester’s City-Wide Tenants Union and environmental justice movement.
Tonya founded CauseN’ FX Greenspace an Urban Farm, located at the corners of Jefferson Avenue and Flint St, in 2015. Tonya has been feeding and planting seeds of change in the community. Where there were once zero gardens on Jefferson now there are 5 including JeffSun a community healing and learning space created in 2019.
Tonya Noel’s passion for community, food and land justice is why she is one of RMSC 2020 Change Makers. RMSC describes Changemakers as “Breaking barriers in the arts and sciences. Amplifying the voices of those who deserve to be heard. Refusing to take no for an answer. These are the actions of Changemakers. “She will be featured in the RMSC exhibit opening November 2020.
Kristen R. Walker (she/they) is an avid reader, grassroots organizer, and a student of Black Feminism. A graduate from Franklin High School, Monroe Community College, and The College of Brockport, Kristen uses an intersectional lens to examine the root causes of social and educational issues. Using imagination and proximity Kristen works outside of the traditional classroom model to address and mitigate the effects of systemic oppression through mentorship for youth and family support in the City of Rochester. Kristen is inspired by Marva Collins and a personal legacy of Black educators. She embodies Ms. Collins philosophy, “Kids don’t fail. Teachers fail, school systems fail. The people who teach children that they are failures — they are the problem.”
Kristen is a former educator in the Rochester City School District and Brighton Central School District, (they) witnessed the educational inequities that Black students and students of color face, in a system that has not been optimized for their success. Kristen left the district to free herself of the daily violence and trauma of schools that disproportionately affect Black students, teachers, and leaders to work in the nonprofit sector. In the nonprofit world, they worked with students and families in a mentoring program and most recently included nonprofit management for an educational AmeriCorps Program in Buffalo, NY.
Kristen is currently the Young Adult Minister at Spiritus Christi Church, the second Black Woman to be hired by the church in a leadership capacity in its over 20-year existence. They work at Spiritus part-time and are a vessel of change and revolution, Kristen is most proud of the work that Flower City Noire Collective does in the community to “impose beauty on our future-Lorraine Hansberry” so that west side Rochester can nurture the next great Black woman playwright. The Collective centers Black Joy in their work and programs, and build and sustain meaningful relationships that change people and communities. Kristen is the co-founder of Flower City Noire Collective and facilitates a seasonal Book Club where they read the texts of Black Women (Trans, Cis, Non-Binary, and Gender Non-conforming) across the diaspora.