Dr. Kaia Shivers

Ark Republic, Black Farmers Index

Dr. Kaia Niambi Shivers describes her work in three words—academia, artistry and activism—because these aspects of her life often intertwine. A recognized media studies scholar for her work in identity, media and the African diaspora; currently, she teaches journalism, writing, global food systems and environmental sustainability in Liberal Studies at New York University

In 2017, Dr. Shivers launched Ark Republic, a member-fueled, multimedia news media site that uses both traditional and non-traditional newsmakers to cultivate rich and robust stories. There, she serves as editor-in-chief. Through this collective, Ark Republic explores issues, peoples and topics that either go under-reported or are absent in mainstream news cycles. 

Ark Republic is committed to innovatively developing features, series, and collaborative projects from a global lens, all the while, using solutions-based and social justice approaches. Included in its style, the woman-owned news media company employs the time-honored traditions of storytelling by Black Americans and the African/Black diaspora. To date, the newsroom has worked with over 90 contributors in four countries, including starting an internship/apprenticeship program for high school and college students. Additionally, they host community town meetings or events around issues that matter such as cohosting the “I Believe Women: Sexual Assault Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” to explore Black women who are a part of the MeeToo Movement, but were left out.

Ark Republic was named “company to watch” in 2018 by NYU’s entrepreneurial institute, and has won several awards including the following: Comcast RISE (2020), Newark Creative Catalyst (2021), Philadelphia Media Founders Exchange (2022), Center for Community Fellow at the Newmark J-School (2022), Google News Initiative Fund (2022), and the Valentine Foundation (2022).

While teaching at NYU’s Florence campus in Italy during the 2020 pandemic, Dr. Shivers started covering the global epidemic for Ark Republic as the only Black reporter in the country. It was during her coverage, she noticed growing issues with food availability. As a Black American, she knew that when a food shortage would hit the U.S., those farthest from food would be the most impacted, which meant her communities.

As a response to seeing food insecurity while reporting on the coronavirus pandemic in Italy, she launched an online database to connect consumers to Black farmers in the US in 2020. The listing, known as the Black Farmers Index, is the largest free, public and most comprehensive digital database with over 1,200 traditional and non-traditional growers. It is the largest, free directory of its kind in the world, and has been used by the U.S.D.A. to major food suppliers such as Cargill and King Arthur Flour company. Black Farmers Index partnered with the Organic Trade Association in its efforts to get more Black farmers certified organic.

Between teaching at NYU, Ark Republic, and Black Farmers Index, she writes a number of political, cultural, tech and media critiques. In 2016, she began a 15-part docuseries called, “Pulling Heaven from the Sky: An Òrìṣà in the Ghetto experience,” a filmic exploration of the Black experience in the United States, using the West African pantheon of deities called orisa (pronounced, o-ree-sha).