Octavia E. Butler, Harriet Tubman Advocate and Other Trailblazers to Receive Awards February 28 at Taking Nature Black Conference

Black Environmental Stars Align at ANS’s Environmental Champions Ceremony

For more information, contact Caroline Brewer, [email protected] or 301- 652-9188 x 23, or cell, 202-830-5115

Chevy Chase, MD – The Audubon Naturalist Society will salute 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 during the second-ever Taking Nature Black conference.

The 2018 #TakingNatureBlack Environmental Champions are:

MacArthur “Genius” Award-Winner Octavia Estelle Butler is the 2018 Taking Nature Black Legacy Environmental Champion. Butler, who died in 2006, was a writer, cultural critic, and literary force of nature. The Washington Post called her “a master storyteller and one of the finest voices in fiction, period.” Calling attention to environmental degradation and its effects on humanity was a theme she repeated in many of her science fiction novels.

Alan Spears, who played a crucial role in the campaign and designation of the Harriet Tubman Underground National Monument from 2011-13, is a National Environmental Champion. Alan is currently the Director of Cultural Resources at the National Parks Conservation Association. He helped gain passage of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Funding Re-authorization Act of 2008.  Recently, Alan led, co-led, or supported five successful national monument campaigns including Fort Monroe, Charles Young, Pullman, and Harriet Tubman.

Pioneering Environmental Justice Advocate Vernice Miller-Travis, a former program officer at the Ford Foundation, who created the foundation’s first-ever environmental justice grant-making portfolio, and who served as a member of the EPA’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, is also a National Environmental Champion. Vernice, in 2017, helped published a report on recommendations for how the EPA could more thoroughly integrate environmental justice considerations into core permitting functions.

Vince Leggett, an expert on the Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries, and the history of African Americans on the Bay dating back to the Underground Railroad, is a Regional Environmental Champion. Vince has served as historical consultant for several documentary film projects focused on the Chesapeake’s diverse history, including the nationally broadcast PBS documentary, The War of 1812. He also has served on the Advisory Committee for the Harriet Tubman National Park.

Award-Winning and Trailblazing Researcher and Environmental Health Scientist Dr. Sacoby Wilson, Director of the Community Engagement, Environmental Justice and Health (CEEJH) Initiative at the University of Maryland, is also a Regional Environmental Champion. Wilson, an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in College Park, works in the areas of exposure science, environmental justice, environmental health disparities, water quality analysis, air pollution studies, sustainability, and more.

Kari Fulton, an award-winning environmental and climate justice advocate and organizer, who recently served as Interim Director of the Environmental Justice Climate Change Initiative, the first domestic coalition for Climate Justice, is being honored as a Regional Environmental Champion as well.

The conference’s first Youth Environmental Champion is DaJuan Gay, a college student who has fought for low-income citizens to have access to the Chesapeake Bay, and stresses the importance of expanding environmental education to low-income and predominantly minority communities.

The Taking Nature Black Conference is a signature Black History Month event that celebrates African Americans in the environmental space, and provides educational, career-building, and networking opportunities.


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About ANS: ANS is the oldest, independent environmental organization in the DMV. Throughout its history, ANS has played 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.