Matthew Slaats is a PhD candidate in the University of Virginia School of Architecture’s PhD program in the Constructed Environment. As a part of his research he is building a participatory action research initiative with community partners to study how grassroots social transformation is imagined and realized by Black communities in the Southern US. Based on this work, the group is thinking about how these ideas around assemblies and solidarity economies might be implemented in Virginia. Previous to this Matthew dedicated his career to supporting grassroots community-based decision making by implementing creative placemaking projects and participatory budgeting initiatives. This included developing unique collaborations that magnified the immense knowledge that resides in every neighborhood. This has led to projects focusing on environmental sustainability, affordable housing, community development, and food justice that have been supported through a range of foundations and federal grants.