“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
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.
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 community. Not 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 Naturalist Society 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.”
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.