Themed “Belonging: Engaged and Empowered,” this year’s event takes place during two virtual days; one in-person conference day at the Silver Spring Civic Center in downtown Silver Spring, MD; and one day of free, outdoor nature experiences at locations TBA. Nature Forward’s Taking Nature Black Conference will offer presentations and discussions focused on the needs and interests of Black nature professionals, environmental justice advocates, educators, and outdoor enthusiasts. Attendees will be inspired, energized, and connected to a growing community of people working to achieve real environmental change. The conference continues the celebration of Black Americans in nature highlighted in 2022’s Belonging ebook (available here).

Keynote speakers include:

Rue Mapp

Outdoor Afro

Presented by REI Co-op

Rue Mapp founded Outdoor Afro as a social enterprise in 2009. Today, the not-for-profit celebrates and inspires Black leadership in nature by reconnecting Black people and communities to lands, water, and wildlife through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Nationwide, 60,000 people participate in Outdoor Afro events annually. Rue is also the author of Nature Swagger, a book of stories and photographs showcasing Black joy in the outdoors.

Alan Spears

National Parks Conservation Association

Alan Spears is the Senior Director of Cultural Resources for the National Parks Conservation Association. In a career spanning more than 23 years, Alan has helped win the designation of the Fort Monroe, Harriet Tubman, and Birmingham Civil Rights National Monuments and, in 2022, managed the campaign that helped pass the National Heritage Area Act. Alan is a DC native and a Nature Forward Board member and quite proud of both those things!

Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome

Dr. Jalonne L.
White-Newsome

White House Council on Environmental Quality

Dr. White-Newsome has tackled environmental challenges from a wide range of positions and perspectives, including in the grassroots environmental justice movement, environmental philanthropy, state government, private industry, and academia. She serves as Senior Director for Environmental Justice on the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) advising on environmental justice policy to advance environmental justice.

Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

National Climate Strategist

A problem-solver, bridge builder, and thought leader, Tamara Toles O’Laughlin is an environmentalist focused on equity, access, and community. She develops skill-building programs and multimedia campaigns designed to dismantle privilege and increase opportunities for vulnerable populations to access healthy air, clean energy, and a toxic-free economy at the local, regional, and national levels.

Dr. Mamie Parker

Trailblazing Conservationist

Dr. Mamie Parker spent a career as a fish and wildlife biologist and senior executive service member in the federal government and made history serving as the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s first African American FWS Head of Fisheries and Regional Director of the 13 Northeastern states. She is well-known for her public speaking throughout the environmental community across the country and around the world.

Caroline Brewer

Author and Literacy Activist

A celebrated communicator and author, Caroline Brewer is currently collaborating on national and international forums to address environmental crises and writing books about nature. She is the former Chairwoman of the Taking Nature Black Conference. Caroline’s new children’s book is Say Their Names, a picture book inspired by the George Floyd protests and her desire to elevate children’s voices in social justice movements.

LaTreice V. Branson, MFA

Radical Adventures in Wellness

“I guide those seeking wellness through the rocks and dirt, welcoming them to slide down tree trunks and giggle to the soundscape of bugs and crunchy, dry leaves. Our conversations are held sacred amongst the trees. There, we become well.”

LaTreice V. Branson, MFA, GISFA is an award-winning educator, speaker, musician, interdisciplinary artist, disability advocate, and founder of Radical Adventures in Wellness, an ecotherapy and consultation organization enriching diverse communities through wellness programming. LaTreice enriches her community through interactive, performance lectures, wellness programming, and public events. The founder of Drum Like a Lady, a non-profit drumming collective, LaTreice is also an internationally recognized drummer with Tycoon Percussion.

Panelists include:

Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali
Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali

National Wildlife Federation

Beattra Wilson
Beattra Wilson

U.S. Forest Service

Dr. Sacoby Wilson
Dr. Sacoby Wilson

Center for Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health (CEEJH)

Fred Tutman
Fred Tutman

Patuxent Riverkeeper

Dr. Karen Wilson-Ama'Echefu
Dr. Karen Wilson-Ama’Echefu

Storyteller and Teaching Artist

Queen Zakia Shabazz
Queen Zakia Shabazz

Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative
& United Parents Against Lead

Tykee James
Tykee James

Amplify the Future/DC Audubon

Cheriss May
Cheriss May

Portrait and Editorial Photographer

Alex Smith

Division Street Landscaping

Brenda Richardson
Brenda Richardson

Chozen Consulting, LLC

Absalom Jordan, Jr.
Absalom Jordan, Jr.

Friends of Oxon Run

Jaren Hill Lockridge
Jaren Hill Lockridge

The Well at Oxon Run

Curtis Bennett
Curtis Bennett

National Aquarium

Lydia Lawrence
Lydia Lawrence

Healthcare Professional and
Environmental Justice Advocate

Ronnie Webb
Ronnie Webb

The Green Scheme

Alfie Chambers
Alfie Chambers

Temple X Schools

N'Toya Thompson
T’Noya Thompson

Conservation Nation

Ashley Drakeford
Ashley Drakeford

Black Church Food Security Network
A.R.C. Program

Melissa L. Jones
Melissa L. Jones

Edible Activist Podcast

Tamara Rasberry Harris
Tamara Rasberry Harris

Environmental Justice League

US Forest Service logo
Howard Hughes Medical Institute logo
REI Co-op logo
Trust for Public Land logo
The Campbell Foundation logo
The Nature Conservancy logo
Potomac Conservancy logo
Montgomery Parks logo
Maryland Department of Natural Resources logo
Chesapeake Bay Trust logo
Chesapeake Bay Program logo
American Bird Conservancy logo
National Wildlife Federation logo
Southern Environmental Law Center logo
Rock Creek Conservancy logo
Piedmont Environmental Council logo
One Montgomery Green/Safe Healthy Playing Fields logo
Casey Trees logo
Montgomery County Green Bank logo
Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection logo
Fairfax County Park Authority logo
Choose Clean Water Coalition logo
National Parks Conservation Association logo
Chesapeake Bay Legal Alliance logo
Sierra Club Maryland Chapter logo