Black Environmentalists to Share Joy and Pain that Open Spaces and Their Jobs Bring

Taking Nature Black Virtual to Draw Highest Attendance

Runs Tuesday, February 23 – Saturday, February 27, 2021

For more information, contact Conference Chairwoman and ANS Director of Marketing and Communications Caroline Brewer, [email protected] or 240-899-9019, or Media Outreach Specialist [email protected] or 301-523-5394

CHEVY CHASE, MD – Tykee James, board member of the DC Audubon Naturalist Society Society, is especially conscious of how he dresses before he goes out birding in the wilderness. As a Black man entering wild (also known as “white”) spaces, he recognizes that each trip could be his last.  So before he indulges himself in the beauty of birdsong, he contacts friends to tell them what he’s wearing so that, if necessary, they can help authorities find his missing body. “Going outside is an opportunity for racism. I can’t get too comfortable,” James says.

When doctoral forestry student Jasmine K. Brown first invited her father to go on a hiking trip in the woods, he was elated. As they followed trail markers and took father-daughter selfies, he became overwhelmed by discomfort, fear, and a reluctance to keep going. He explained that the history of African American victimization in the woods was haunting him. Brown was able to help her father re-imagine forests as a healing space, which allowed them to finish the hike.

For Blacks environmentalists, as for most people, parks, woods, and other open spaces are places to play, explore, rejuvenate and refresh. But the great outdoors can also be unwelcoming and even traumatic for Blacks (as we saw in the Central Park attack last year), and so can being a rare person of color in their fields. The Taking Nature Black® Conference is a place where audiences Black, white, Asian, Latinx, and Native American flock to hear stories like James’ and Brown’s –raw, unvarnished tales of what it’s like to be Black in green spaces and hold jobs as environmentalists. Black birders, foresters, waterkeepers, urban gardeners, park staff, and others who go hard at green careers, tell their stories of joy, pain, tragedy and triumph as if they are in the comfort of a friend’s living room. Because, to them, they are.

And when they tell the stories only they can tell, they, literally, breathe easier. This is why participation in Taking Nature Black has soared since the first conference to 700 this year from 100 in 2016.  “I get to be my full Black self (here),”  teen climate activist Jerome Foster II, who was later featured in the Washington Postand New Yorker Magazine, proudly and emotionally boasted to the 2020 audience during his acceptance speech as the Youth Environmental Champion.

A 2018 participant wrote, “I’ve spent much of my 19-year career in environmental conservation trying not to highlight my Blackness… This conference has made me feel so proud to be a part of a community of Black environmentalists. Thank you…I loved this conference!” 

The virtual Conference runs Tuesday February 23 – Saturday, February 27, 2021. Interviews can be arranged with many of the 50 speakers, panelists, performers and artists. Click here for the Conference Agenda, Speaker and Panel Descriptions.


Follow ANS at: Naturalist SocietyNaturalistSociety, 
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.