Category Archives: Taking Nature Black

2021 Taking Nature Black® Environmental Champions

NEWS ALERT

Harriet Tubman, Today’s Trailblazers to be Honored as 2021 Taking Nature Black Environmental Champions 

ANS Earth Month Event Salutes Legacy, National, Regional, Youth Champions

For Immediate Release: April 8, 2021
For more information, contact Communications Director Caroline Brewer at caroline.brewer@anshome.org or (240) 899-9019, or lglisagoodnight@gmail.com, or (301) 523-5394.

CHEVY CHASE, MD – The Audubon Naturalist Society will salute 11 national, regional, legacy, and youth environmental figures for engaging in service that improves the quality of life for under-resourced African American communities in ways that are unique, groundbreaking, and pioneering. Taking Nature Black is ANS’s signature Black History Month event. This year’s Taking Nature Black Environmental Champions are being honored during Earth Month in a virtual ceremony that will feature music, poetry, and Q and A on April 15 at 7 p.m.

The 2021 Taking Nature Black® Environmental Champions are:


LEGACY CHAMPIONS

Harriet Tubman, a deeply religious woman often called the Moses of her people, who led African Americans to freedom through woods, rivers, and marshes. She used the environment and astronomy as guides, sustenance, and tools. Parks in the states where Tubman lived are named in her honor, a fitting tribute to the famed Underground Railroad conductor whose deep understanding of the natural world is now being recognized along with her other spectacular achievements.

Pamela Rush, the Lowndes County, Ala. mother who died last year after contracting COVID-19. Rush used her voice to bring national attention to the environmental injustices plaguing many poor people. Her fighting spirit continues to inspire the ongoing work to help rural Americans living without basic sanitation and access to nature. Delivering a powerful testimony before Congress in 2018, she told leaders about her family’s unsafe living conditions which included raw sewage in their yard, and a mobile home suffused with mold.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS

Congressman A. Donald McEachin (D), who represents Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. During his first term in Congress, Rep. McEachin co-founded the United for Climate and Environmental Justice Congressional Task Force and now serves on the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources, the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and serves as Vice-Chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition.

Catherine Coleman Flowers, an environmental health advocate and MacArthur “genius.” Flowers is widely credited for raising awareness around the appalling lack of proper sewage and waste disposal and treatment systems for lower-income communities across the United States. Flowers is Founding Director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (formerly the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise), and author of Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret.

Beattra Wilson is the Assistant Director for Urban & Community Forestry at the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C. Wilson served three years on the Forest Service Environmental Justice Board, promoting initiatives that improved access and awareness of federal programs to minority communities and stakeholders and generated a pipeline of new minority and millennial students pursuing forestry and natural resources careers.

Derrick Evans is a humanitarian, educator, historian, community builder and a sixth-generation member of the Turkey Creek community in Mississippi and the co-founding Managing Advisor to the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health. This fund helps direct monetary, technological, and collegiate support in the Gulf South. This grew from Evans’ work with Turkey Creek Community Initiatives, where he worked to conserve and protect the rich African American cultural history and ecological knowledge of his ancestral land and water. Evans stars in a dynamic Environmental Film Festival documentary, Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek, about the incredible years-long fight to save his historic Turkey Creek community from erasure.

REGIONAL CHAMPIONS

Drs. Candice Duncan, Akua Asa-Awuku, and Ebony Terrell Shockley make up the University of Maryland Geo-Sciences Research Team working to diversify the geosciences, a field where just five percent of the degree holders are women of color. They established the PEARLS (Providing Educational Access to Research & Learning in geoscienceS), a National Science Foundation-funded program to recruit students with non-traditional backgrounds.

Dr. Duncan is a lecturer in the Environmental Science and Technology Department at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her work focuses on the transport and characterization of organic contaminants in the vadose zone (the Earth's terrestrial subsurface that extends from the surface to the regional groundwater table).

Dr. Akua Asa-Awuku, a chemical engineering professor in the A. James Clark School of Engineering. Her work focuses on particles in the atmosphere and how these particles influence air quality and climate.

Dr. Ebony Terrell Shockley, the College of Education's Executive Director of Teacher Education and the Associate Clinical Professor for the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership. Her expertise is in teacher education. She studies the academic experience of marginalized learners, using her research to center their cultural, ancestral, and historically-divergent knowledge profiles.

Donald Belle is the Environmental Outreach Educator at the William Schmidt Outdoor Education Center, which serves the entire school district in Prince George's County. He builds pioneering programs around the county focused on environmental literacy, connecting students to green careers, and allowing them opportunities to innovate and create.

YOUTH CHAMPION

Kwesi Osaze Billups, an Urban Garden Manager, Garden Builder, and Community Organizer who has brought healing and hope to his fellow community members by working the land and helping to build and manage Project Eden. Billups recently graduated from American University with a degree in International Studies and was profiled by the Washington Post.

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Follow ANS at: www.Facebook.com/AudubonNaturalistSociety,  www.Twitter.com/ANStweet 
and @ANSNature on Instagram.

 About ANS: Throughout its history, ANS has championed nature for all by playing a pivotal role in conserving our region's iconic natural places from development including the C&O Canal, Dyke Marsh and, most recently, Ten Mile Creek. Past ANS member and board president, Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, is credited with launching the now global environmental movement. ANS's nature experts provide hundreds of opportunities each year for children and adults to enjoy, learn about, and protect the environment.

TNB Conference Starts February 23rd

NEWS ALERT

“WE’VE KNOWN RIVERS AND STILL WE RISE”

Black Environmentalists to Tell Stories of Disrupting Narratives and Changing the Game in Outdoor Spaces at “Taking Nature Black” Conference

Interviews, including tours in the DC area, available throughout the week (Plus video)

For Immediate Release: February 22, 2021
For more information, contact Caroline Brewer, caroline.brewer@anshome.org or (240) 899-9019, or lglisagoodnight@gmail.com, or (301) 523-5394

CHEVY CHASE, MD – Black climate activists, birders, foresters, urban gardeners, naturalists, biologists, creatives, and the nation’s only Black waterkeeper are among the 900 attendees who will convene Tuesday, February 23 – Saturday, February 27 at the 2021 Taking Nature Black Conference.

These environmental professionals and advocates are uniting out of a love for the planet and to join in a rare national celebration of the work of others like them. Hosted by the Audubon Naturalist Society, the conference is a reflection of the tremendous diversity that exists among those fighting to protect the environment – faces that are rarely seen and voices that are rarely heard. The Conference exists to elevate them, their stories, and calls for action.

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Tamara Toles O’Laughlin served on President Biden’s Climate Task Force and is a highly sought-after climate activist who creates multimedia campaigns to dismantle privilege and increase opportunities for vulnerable populations to access healthy air, clean energy, and a toxic free economy. She is disrupting the narrative and changing the game around climate action by arguing for “climate reparations.” She recently said on the futurehuman.com podcast, “There is not a single thing that exists in America that isn’t built on Black people’s bodies or Indigenous people’s suffering and relocation.” She’ll be on Wednesday’s “The Politics of the Environment Panel” and will talk about what the Biden Administration needs to do to incorporate climate reparations. Toles O’Laughlin is the chair and state representative on the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Air and Climate Public Advisory Committee and co-chairs the Green Leadership Trust. Formerly, she was the North American Director at 350.org, where she drove regional climate strategy in the United States and Canada.

Fred Tutman is the Patuxent Riverkeeper and a hell of a one-man-band grassroots community advocate for clean water. The Patuxent is Maryland’s longest and deepest intrastate waterway. Tutman, a vice-chair for the conference and moderator of the two panels on Friday, is among the longest-serving waterkeepers in the Chesapeake region and the only African American waterkeeper in the nation. He has disrupted narratives and changed the game in fighting for environmental justice by showing that he is unbought and unbossed in taking on big businesses for polluting the river and adjoining communities, winning hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties, and much respect.

Jaren Hill lives in Ward 8 in Southeast DC, a community of 80,000 people who suffer from high crime rates, high poverty rates, and limited access to healthy and affordable food. Ward 8, in fact, has just one grocery store. In contrast, Ward 3, DC’s whitest and wealthiest ward, has nine grocery stores. Hill is the Director for The Well at Oxon Run, a new urban farm and community wellness space. The Well will change the food insecurity narrative by becoming home to season crop production, a pick-your-own flower garden, a farm stand, an orchard with chickens, a green house, herb and pollinator gardens, and a large youth garden with outdoor classroom. Hill is speaking on Tuesday’s 12:00 -1:00 p.m. panel, Living On and Off the Land.

Chanceé Lundy co-owns and is principal of Nspiregreen, a firm that combines engineering and urban planning with community organizing, which is a narrative-disrupting and game-changing move in the engineering communityNot to mention that she brings the lens of being a black woman into a field dominated by men. Lundy has spearheaded projects providing technical support and/ or public outreach services to environmental clients on projects such as the District’s Comprehensive Energy Plan, Solid Waste Management Study, and Consolidated TMDL Implementation (Stormwater Management) Plan. She is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Water Environment Federation, and is Mayoral Appointee to the Chesapeake Bay Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee. Lundy is speaking on Saturday’s 11:20 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. panel, Going Hard at Green Careers.

Dr. Karen Wilson-Ama’Echefu, a D.C.-based singer, storyteller, and scholar from Harlem, will present an original work called Ain’t You Got a Right to the Tree of Life?,  a music, dance, and story exploration into an African American Environmental Bill of Rights. Dr. Wilson-Ama’ Echefu is disrupting narratives around the African American experience in the outdoors by linking wildlife, conservation, and nature spaces to artistic expression in ways that heal, uplift, educate and excite. Her research interests include African cultural and religious history and the philosophies and theologies of Africans and their descendants in the Western Hemisphere as identified through their song, story and dance.  Ain’t You Got a Right to the Tree of Life? will debut Tuesday, February 23 10:40 a.m. -11:40 a.m., featuring Ysaye Barnwell, renowned vocalist and instrumentalist, formerly of Sweet Honey in the Rock, and will be broadcast a second time, Friday, February 26, 7:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.

Tykee James, Government Affairs Coordinator for the National Audubon Society, organizes bird walks with members of Congress and congressional staff. He has disrupted the narrative around birding and is changing the birding game as co-founder of #BlackBirdersWeek, created in response to the racist attack on Central Park birder Christian Cooper which occurred on the same day as the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020,. He is also a co-founder of the #BlackandLatinxBirders Scholarship Fund. James speaks frequently about how he experiences birding differently as a Black man and will share remarks during the closing session of the conference. He recently said, “I was proud to work alongside my fellow organizers to show that the Black experience goes beyond trauma and pain, that it includes joy, strength, pride, resistance, and style. That's part of what made the first #BlackBirdersWeek so special.”

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Follow ANS at: www.Facebook.com/AudubonNaturalistSociety,  www.Twitter.com/ANStweet 
and @ANSNature on Instagram.

 About ANS: Throughout its history, ANS has championed nature for all by playing a pivotal role in conserving our region's iconic natural places from development including the C&O Canal, Dyke Marsh and, most recently, Ten Mile Creek. Past ANS member and board president, Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, is credited with launching the now global environmental movement. ANS's nature experts provide hundreds of opportunities each year for children and adults to enjoy, learn about, and protect the environment.

Yolanda Ackles

Yolanda Ackles is a senior member of the Kankouran West African Dance Company, established in 1983 in Washington, D.C., with founders Assane Kounte, Artistic Director, and the late Abdou Kounta, Musical Director. She is the featured dancer in Ain’t You Got a Right to the Tree of Life?” ARTScape, which included the African American traditional tale The People Could Fly. Ackles’ dance experience spans decades and has graced national and international stages in education, performance venues, and wellness centers.

Yolanda Ackles is a senior member of the Kankouran West African Dance Company, established in 1983 in Washington, D.C., with founders Assane Kounte, Artistic Director, and the late Abdou Kounta, Musical Director. She is the featured dancer in Ain’t You Got a Right to the Tree of Life?” ARTScape, which included the African American traditional tale The People Could Fly. Ackles’ dance experience spans decades and has graced national and international stages in education, performance venues, and wellness centers.

She has worked with the renowned Melvin Deal of African Dancers and Drummers, Carol Foster, who has established a tremendous archive of Black Dance in the DMV with youth and adults. Ackles also has worked with the late Sherrill Berryman-Miller of Howard University through her experienced workshop training with greats such as Louis Johnson and Katherine Dunham.

Ackles has created introductory dance courses at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and lent her skills and talents to dance therapy.

Angel Bethea

Born and raised in Washington D.C., Angel Bethea has been seen playing drums and percussion at various venues in the DMV area such as the Brixton, Epicure Cafe, The Kennedy Center, Mr. Henry’s, Blues Alley and others. She has been heard all around with groups such as Shannon Gunn & the Bullettes, Terra Firma and the Jeffrey Greenberg Quintet. Some of Bethea's greatest influences consists of great drummers like Terri Lyne Carrington, Kim Thompson, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Bryan Carter, Jamison Ross, David Garibaldi and others. She is also passionate about helping non-profit arts organizations like "The Washington Jazz Arts Institute" located in D.C. as a performer and mentor to the young students in training.

Born and raised in Washington D.C., Angel Bethea has been seen playing drums and percussion at various venues in the DMV area such as the Brixton, Epicure Cafe, The Kennedy Center, Mr. Henry’s, Blues Alley and others. She has been heard all around with groups such as Shannon Gunn & the Bullettes, Terra Firma and the Jeffrey Greenberg Quintet. Some of Bethea's greatest influences consists of great drummers like Terri Lyne Carrington, Kim Thompson, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Bryan Carter, Jamison Ross, David Garibaldi and others. She is also passionate about helping non-profit arts organizations like "The Washington Jazz Arts Institute" located in D.C. as a performer and mentor to the young students in training.

Bethea is currently a student at George Mason University in Fairfax, V.A. studying to receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music with a Minor in Jazz Studies & Arts Management. Angel has also performed with several university ensembles like the Mason Jazz Big Band, Mason Jazz Workshop Band and Steel Pan ensemble. She's spent time performing with the Latin American Ensemble as well, which has earned its members a place in Downbeat Magazine as "Outstanding Performers".

Bethea has been working at mastering the drums for more than twelve years now and is looking forward to a lifetime of continuing to play, mentor, teach and work with non profit arts organizations.

Freedome Nsoroma Lee-El

Freedome Nsoroma Lee-El’s music always pours forth with improvisational style and soul-searing messages that uplift and inspire reflection, amusement, and deep appreciation. Her vocals travel great depths and heights and exude spirituality, sensibility, creativity, and masterful skill. She commands lyrical content to transform the listening and the listener, like the proverbial showstopper. She has sang lead with or done background vocals with Ralph McDonald, Kimati Dinizulu, Joe Cocker, Sekou Sundiata, Valerie Simpson, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Roberta Flack, Najee, Freddie Jackson, and a host of others.

Freedome Nsoroma Lee-El’s music always pours forth with improvisational style and soul-searing messages that uplift and inspire reflection, amusement, and deep appreciation. Her vocals travel great depths and heights and exude spirituality, sensibility, creativity, and masterful skill. She commands lyrical content to transform the listening and the listener, like the proverbial showstopper. She has sang lead with or done background vocals with Ralph McDonald, Kimati Dinizulu, Joe Cocker, Sekou Sundiata, Valerie Simpson, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Roberta Flack, Najee, Freddie Jackson, and a host of others, and sang on the theme songs of Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America and Moscow on the Hudson with Chaka Khan.

She has been acclaimed for her vocals on jingles for commercials. A writer, artist, educator, wholistic health practitioner and CEO of Library Cafe Ghana, this is Freedome Nsoroma Lee-El.

Sean Terry

Sean Terry is a seasoned urban planning and community development professional with 15+ years’ experience across multiple business frameworks: non-profit organizations, municipalities, public-sector agencies and private businesses. Terry has successfully thrived while pursuing the execution of capital improvements that upgrade the physical environment and enhance the quality of life for residents. In these roles, Terry has worked to administer project management of infrastructure and related capital improvements; facilitated stakeholder engagement and public input processes with an emphasis on project coordination, stakeholder management, and external communications; and has delivered research and technical assistance across complementary park design areas such as bike/pedestrian advocacy, Placemaking, environmental sustainability, and economic development.

Sean Terry is a seasoned urban planning and community development professional with 15+ years’ experience across multiple business frameworks: non-profit organizations, municipalities, public-sector agencies and private businesses.

Terry has successfully thrived while pursuing the execution of capital improvements that upgrade the physical environment and enhance the quality of life for residents.

In these roles, he has worked to administer project management of infrastructure and related capital improvements; facilitated stakeholder engagement and public input processes with an emphasis on project coordination, stakeholder management, and external communications; and has delivered research and technical assistance across complementary park design areas such as bike/pedestrian advocacy, Placemaking, environmental sustainability, and economic development.

As the Ohio Parks for People Program Director, Terry is directly responsible for local (Cleveland) goal alignment and execution of The Trust for Public Land’s 10MW initiative to ensure that every person in the country, particularly every child, lives within a 10-minute walk to a park, playground or open space.

In his current role, Terry provides leadership and input to further The Trust for Public Land local efforts around parks planning in Ohio by utilizing stakeholder facilitation and capacity building to broaden reach of 10MW, administer programming with emphasis on local park development opportunities in/around Cleveland, deliver equitable access to functional park spaces.

Donna Kirkland

Newark native Donna Kirkland joined The Trust for Public Land in 2006 as an intern for the Parks for People - Newark program and became a full-time staffer a year later. Kirkland engages youth and community members in participatory design and long-term stewardship of The Trust for Public Land’s completed and future parks and playgrounds. She works closely with community-based committees at project sites to help them grow into their role as local stewards. She is also a liaison with schools, local government, police, and other organizations. Kirkland’s experience includes hospice work, running summer art programs, teaching children with behavioral challenges, Art Director for Street Warriors, Inc., Girl Scout team leader, and American Cancer Society Relay for Life team leader.

Newark native Donna Kirkland joined The Trust for Public Land in 2006 as an intern for the Parks for People - Newark program and became a full-time staffer a year later. Kirkland engages youth and community members in participatory design and long-term stewardship of The Trust for Public Land’s completed and future parks and playgrounds. She works closely with community-based committees at project sites to help them grow into their role as local stewards. She is also a liaison with schools, local government, police, and other organizations.

Kirkland’s experience includes hospice work, running summer art programs, teaching children with behavioral challenges, Art Director for Street Warriors, Inc., Girl Scout team leader, and American Cancer Society Relay for Life team leader.

Fred Tutman

Fred Tutman is one of the longest serving riverkeepers in the Chesapeake region and the only African American riverkeeper in the United States. He is a grassroots community advocate for clean water in Maryland’s longest and deepest intrastate waterway. He holds the title of Patuxent Riverkeeper, which is also the name of the organization that he founded in 2004. He was recently featured in the national magazine, Waterkeepers, and explained that, “In some ways, Patuxent Riverkeeper is a cross-cultural bridge between the have and the have-nots in this watershed, fighting some of the most controversial battles and, frankly, the hardest to fund.”

MODERATOR

Fred Tutman is one of the longest serving riverkeepers in the Chesapeake region and the only African American riverkeeper in the United States. He is a grassroots community advocate for clean water in Maryland’s longest and deepest intrastate waterway. He holds the title of Patuxent Riverkeeper, which is also the name of the organization that he founded in 2004. He was recently featured in the national magazine, Waterkeepers, and explained that, “In some ways, Patuxent Riverkeeper is a cross-cultural bridge between the have and the have-nots in this watershed, fighting some of the most controversial battles and, frankly, the hardest to fund.”

In the same piece, Eagle Harbor, MD Mayor James Crudup spoke to Tutman’s significant impact on his small community. “Before Fred we didn’t have anyone that we could turn to and find out what was going on in regard to the town’s waterfront. Recently he was very instrumental in our receiving grants from the Department of Environmental Resources, including a $100,000 grant to help creek flooding and erosion.” Over 16 years, Patuxent Riverkeeper has litigated 19 cases and prevailed in eight of them, winning nearly a half-billion dollars in judicial penalties, fines and reparations from polluters. Tutman is known as a thoughtful listener, skilled strategist, and dogged fighter for what’s right.

Fred also lives and works on an active farm located near the Patuxent that has been his family’s ancestral home for nearly a century. Prior to river keeping, Tutman spent nearly three decades as a media producer and consultant on telecommunications assignments across the globe. In 2020, he was named a Taking Nature Black National Environmental Champion.

Darius Johnson

Darius Johnson is a native of Maryland's Eastern Shore and the Communications Manager for Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. He is a 2021 National Fellow for the Environmental Leadership Program and he serves on the Board of Directors for Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area, Alumni Board for Washington College, and other organizations around the Eastern Shore. Johnson has worked for Prometric, The Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Maryland Center for Construction Education and Innovation. He is an alumna of Washington College's Class of 2015, where he studied Business Management, Economics, Philosophy, and Political Science.

MODERATOR

Darius Johnson is a native of Maryland's Eastern Shore and the Communications Manager for Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. He is a 2021 National Fellow for the Environmental Leadership Program and he serves on the Board of Directors for Stories of the Chesapeake Heritage Area, Alumni Board for Washington College, and other organizations around the Eastern Shore. Johnson has worked for Prometric, The Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Maryland Center for Construction Education and Innovation.

Johnson is an alumna of Washington College's Class of 2015, where he studied Business Management, Economics, Philosophy, and Political Science.

Jesse J. Holland

Jesse J. Holland is the Saturday host of C-SPAN's Washington Journal and an assistant professor of media and public affairs at The George Washington University. He was a longtime political reporter for the Associated Press covering Race & Ethnicity as well as the White House, the Supreme Court and the Congress, as well as state politics in the South and in New York state. He is the editor of the upcoming Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda prose anthology and the author of the Black Panther: Who Is The Black Panther? prose novel, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 2019. Jesse is also the author The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves Inside The White House and Black Men Built The Capitol: Discovering African American History In and Around Washington, D.C.

MODERATOR

Jesse J. Holland is the Saturday host of C-SPAN's Washington Journal and an assistant professor of media and public affairs at The George Washington University. He was a longtime political reporter for the Associated Press covering Race & Ethnicity as well as the White House, the Supreme Court and the Congress, as well as state politics in the South and in New York state.

He is the editor of the upcoming Black Panther: Tales of Wakanda prose anthology and the author of the Black Panther: Who Is The Black Panther? prose novel, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award in 2019. Jesse is also the author The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves Inside The White House and Black Men Built The Capitol: Discovering African American History In and Around Washington, D.C.