Posts Tagged ‘Black History Month’

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By Dajah Massey

In recognition of Black History Month, DC EcoWomen celebrates the following eight women for their accomplishments in environmental spaces, their advocacy for the African American community, and their continued impact in the Washington, D.C. area.

Josephine Butler

Josephine Butler confronts DC Mayor Marion Barry, 1978 – photo and caption from https://washingtonparks.net/josephine-butler/

Josephine Butler was born in 1920 in Maryland. She was the daughter of sharecroppers and granddaughter of slaves. Butler moved to D.C. for medical treatment and then became a community leader, environmental activist, and social change agent in the District. Butler started America’s first union of black female laundry workers and was a major contributor to the desegregation of schools. Butler helped to transform Malcolm X Park, also known as Meridian Hill Park, from one of the most dangerous parks in D.C. to a beautiful oasis by planting trees, providing nighttime neighborhood watches, and hosting community education events. 

In a time when environmentalism was not popular, Butler served as a community health educator for the American Lung Association in D.C. and taught thousands of children about the effects of air pollution. In 1995, she served on the D.C. Coordinating Committee for the International Women’s Year. Butler also became a representative on the Mayor’s Health Planning Advisory Committee and served on the D.C. Human Rights Commission. Today the Josephine Butler Parks Center, which overlooks Meridian Hill Park, stands in her honor. 

Click here to learn more about Butler. 

Rue Mapp

Photo from https://outdoorafro.com/team/

Rue Mapp is the founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a nonprofit organization that connects African Americans with outdoor experiences and aims to change the narrative of who engages in the outdoors. Outdoor Afro has offices in Washington D.C. and Oakland, California. The organization has selected and trained 80 national volunteers and created leadership teams in 30 states – building a powerful network to nurture a community of black outdoor enthusiasts. Mapp first launched Outdoor Afro as a blog in 2009. The organization now has national sponsors and worldwide recognition. Mapp serves on several conservation boards, was part of the team that launched Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, and was appointed program officer for the Stewardship Council’s Foundation for Youth Investment.  She also organized the first all-Black U.S. expedition team to climb Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest freestanding peak. Her proudest accomplishment is being a mother of three. 

Brittany Leavitt

Photo from https://www.britleavitt.com/

Brittany Leavitt is a D.C. influencer — not the social media type, but a real-life changemaker. Leavitt is influencing her community and shaping the minds of D.C.’s youth by teaching preschoolers at the Smithsonian Museum about the natural world. She has also partnered with the North Face and the Girl Scouts to create a new adventure badge that young girls can earn. In addition to mentorship, she is a REI instructor and leads climbing, backpacking, and hiking classes. Her purpose is to build spaces for Blacks, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to enjoy the outdoors. Brittany was part of the Outdoor Afro first all-black climbing group to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. Through her variety of partnerships, she is diversifying the climbing community. 

Kari Fulton

Photo from https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4693971/user-clip-climate-change-protest

Kari Fulton may be young, but her accomplishments and contributions to the environmental movement are not adolescent. She co-founded the Loving Our City, Loving Ourselves (LOCLOS) campus and community initiative, to build stronger campus and community solidarity on issues of concern in the Washington, D.C. area. She served as the Energy Action Coalition Campus Climate Challenge Coordinator for the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative. She supported and trained hundreds of young people at more than 50 universities, and has become a pioneer organizer working to build up the youth climate movement amongst young people of color, in particular, students at historically black colleges and universities. She is currently a Class of 2020 National Urban Fellow at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, and a Master of Public Management candidate, as well as a Policy Fellow with the Climate Justice Alliance. 

Fulton said: “My hope was for people of color and low-income individuals to get information that will help them take advantage of the growing green movement so that they are not left behind economically or environmentally.” 

 

Lisa Perez Jackson

 Photo from https://archive.epa.gov/epa/aboutepa/administrator-lisa-p-jackson-2009-2013.html

Lisa Perez Jackson is a Princeton University alumnus and a chemical engineer who served as the Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2009 to 2013. She is the first African American to have held that position.  According to the EPA, she “outlined principles to modernize our nation’s 30-year-old chemical management laws, called for unprecedented innovation in drinking water protection efforts, and announced tough standards to clean the air we breathe.” During her time with the EPA, she improved environmental regulation policies and supported communities that were historically underrepresented in environmental initiatives such as low-income areas and vulnerable age groups. Today, Jackson works as Apple’s Vice President of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives. Each day, she strives to transform Apple into a more environmentally conscious company. 

Dr. Adrienne Hollis

Photo from https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/adrienne-hollis

Dr. Adrienne Hollis has always been an academic with a passion for the environment. She holds a doctorate degree in biomedical sciences and a law degree with a concentration in environmental law. Dr. Hollis worked on environmental issues in her postdoctoral studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, was employed as a Supervisory Environmental Health Scientist and Toxicologist (Section Chief) at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, worked as a Project Attorney at Earthjustice, a premier non-profit public interest law firm, and was the Director of Federal Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, in their Washington, D.C. office. Her positions have allowed her to make great contributions and changes within various environmental fields. Today, Dr. Hollis is the Senior Climate Justice and Health Scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). She leads the development, design, and implementation of methods for accessing and documenting the health impacts of climate change on communities of color and other traditionally disenfranchised groups. 

Jacqueline Patterson

Photo from https://collegian.com/2016/09/jacqueline-patterson-speaks-about-environmental-injustice-at-diversity-symposium/

As Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Environmental and Climate Justice program, Jacqueline Patterson helps the organization achieve its three major goals: to reduce harmful emissions, particularly greenhouse gases, advance energy efficiency and clean energy, and strengthen community resilience and livability. Patterson has worked as a researcher, program manager, coordinator, advocate and activist for women’s rights, violence against women, HIV&AIDS, racial justice, economic justice, and environmental and climate justice.

Leslie G. Fields, Esq.

 Photo from https://www.sierraclub.org/environmental-justice/staff

Leslie Fields, Esq. is another D.C. environmental powerhouse serving multiple organizations to bring environmental improvement and social justice to our nation. Fields is a graduate of Cornell University and the Georgetown University Law Center and the current senior director of Environmental Justice and Healthy Communities for the Sierra Club. She is the former international director of Friends of the Earth-US in Washington, D.C. and is currently an adjunct law professor at Howard University School of Law. Fields serves as a Commissioner on the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies’ Commission to Engage African Americans on Energy, Climate and the Environment. In a recent interview with The Trouble, Fields said: “What we’re trying to do is work with all kinds of communities to push reducing carbon emissions and remedying in an equitable way, not just marketing solutions that are going to leave communities of color behind. We’ve got all kinds of problems, food justice issues, gentrification—all the stuff in this direct line. We can’t create any kind of solution without dealing with the legacy pollution.”  

Dajah Massey is an environmental engineer and STEM advocate who is passionate about improving our environment and informing underrepresented communities about career options within engineering and STEM fields.  She is also involved with brand management, print modeling, and women empowerment initiatives. 

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Three Names to Remember this Black History Month

By Kyaira Ware, Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy

During Black History Month, we honor the vast and diverse spectrum of black experiences, perspectives, and cultures that exist throughout the world.

Environmentalists pay homage to greats such as Harriet Tubman, political activist and expert navigator of the forest, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader and early advocate of the environmental justice movement.

While Tubman and King have been justly revered as some of the greatest activists of our time, there are countless other lesser-known black leaders whose significant contributions to the environmental movement have been largely forgotten.

This Black History Month, take some time to learn about black individuals who’ve influenced and advanced the movement. Scroll down to read more.

Ota Benga

Ota Benga’s legacy serves as a painful, yet necessary, reminder of the long history of racism and injustice within the conservation movement.

Benga was only 21 years old when his wife, two children, and other tribe members were killed during a raid by a police force under King Leopold II of Belgium in 1904. Benga was eventually captured, sold into slavery, and later purchased by Samuel Phillips Verner, a missionary and explorer from South Carolina, for a “pound of salt and a bolt of cloth.”

After traveling the Congo and appearing as the premier exhibit at the Saint Louis World’s Fair, Verner temporarily housed Benga in the Bronx Zoo as the newest addition to the zoo’s primate house. Each afternoon, spectators awaited to watch Benga share a cage with an orangutan, chimpanzees, and a parrot. The exhibition became the zoo’s most popular and controversial attraction. In September 1906, nearly after its opening, the exhibit was closed due to extreme backlash from the public.

Following the exhibition’s closing, Benga was invited to Lynchburg, Virginia to attend seminary school. After failing to assimilate into his new life and “becoming increasingly hopeless about his future,” Benga committed suicide on March 20, 1916.

While Benga suffered immensely throughout his entire life, learning about Benga’s story affords us the opportunity to remember our past, so we may do better for our future.

Matthew Henson

Matthew Henson’s legacy serves as a source of empowerment for people of color who do not always see themselves represented in the environmental movement.

Born on August 8, 1866, Henson became an orphan at a young age. He spent his early childhood working as a cabin boy on a ship, traveling the world to trading hotspots such as Africa, China, and Russia. Through the instruction of the ship’s captain, he also learned to read and write.

Upon moving to Washington, D.C., Henson became a store clerk before meeting Robert Peary, an American Navy officer and explorer. Peary initially hired Henson as a valet. However, Henson’s experience and navigation expertise soon proved to be far too valuable. He eventually became Peary’s most trusted accomplice on epic voyages across the world. Among many expeditions, the dynamic duo traveled to Greenland. It was also reported, although never confirmed, that they were the first people to reach the North Pole in 1909.

Perry largely overshadowed Henson’s accomplishments. But in 2000, the National Geographic Society posthumously awarded Henson the Hubbard Medal. His experience as an expert explorer continues to inspire people of color to become environmentalists.

Buffalo Soldiers

The “buffalo soldiers” remind us of the early role that African American men played in protecting America’s greatest treasures.

After the Civil War in 1866, Congress passed the Army Organization Act, which created six African-American army regiments. From there, the “buffalo soldiers” were born. While these soldiers are mainly known for their time spent scouting and patrolling the vast terrain of western states and territories, many people don’t understand the extent of their contributions to national parks. As some of the earliest park rangers, they handled everything “from evicting poachers and timber thieves to extinguishing forest fires” throughout great national parks such as Yosemite.

While their accomplishments as top-performing Calvary regiments and expert forest men were not always appreciated during their lifetimes, today we appreciate their service, sacrifice and position in the history of environmentalism.

Kyaira Ware is the current Community Conservation Manager at Potomac Conservancy. She is passionate about connecting urban communities to environmental sustainability and looks forward to the day when we can all agree that climate change is real.

Photo Credits: carmichaellibrary CC BY 2.0; public domain