9 Black Environmentalists You Need to Know

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There are far too many Black environmentalists doing important work to list in a single article. But in honor of Black History Month, here are just a few that make a huge difference in the world, from scientists to vegan chefs.

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Walter McDowney

From the time he was just a boy living in the Washington, DC area, Walter McDowney was fascinated by Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. He enjoyed learning about both the history and the natural world at Kenilworth, which is now preserved by the National Park Service.

In 1967, he became Kenilworth’s first African-American park ranger. He took local urban kids on their first camping trips and shared his enthusiasm for nature. In 1985, he won the National Park Service’s highest honor, the Freeman Tilden Award for Excellence in Performance. Through his involvement in the development of the Junior Ranger program, he has transformed unprecedented numbers of children of all races into emerging environmentalists.

Related: How to Support Environmental Justice

Erika Boyd

Erika Boyd has always loved food. Her mother was a nutritionist who ran a community food service program for the city of Detroit. Her grandmother taught her how to cook soul food dishes and her father was a co-owner and cooks at a Detroit cafe. But after losing her father to cancer in 2010, Boyd began to reconsider her family’s diet. She veganized soul food recipes.

In 2012, she partnered with entrepreneur Kirsten Ussery to open Detroit Vegan Soul. Since then, the two fellow Detroiters have been educating about the health and environmental benefits of veganism.

As they say on their website, “Detroit Vegan Soul helps people lead healthier lives by providing excellent, high-quality, nutritious vegan food that appeals to everyone, and at the same time does our part to make a to support sustainable earth. “

Dr. Beverly L. Wright

Dr. Wright founded the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, a community / university partnership that helps people along the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor. The center examines health and environmental inequalities in the area and trains a new generation of underserved populations for environmental justice.

Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill kept the center busy. Wright co-authored two books, “Race, Place & the Environment After Hurricane Katrina” and “The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response Endangers African-American Communities.”

Genesis Butler

Fourteen-year-old animal rights activist Genesis Butler has been making international news for several years, most notably because he called for Pope Francis to become vegan for Passion in 2019. Disappointingly, he did not do so – even with a consortium of celebrities supporting Butler and offered. one million dollars goes to a charity of the pope’s choice. Butler has been identified as an animal rights activist since the age of six.

“But once I learned about the devastating effects of animal husbandry on the climate and the environment when I was ten, then I became a climate activist,” she says on her website. She leads the Youth Climate Save group and is one of the youngest people to ever give a TEDx talk.

Rue Mapp

Resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, Rue Mapp, founded Outdoor Afro to encourage black people to develop their connection with nature, and to learn to love hiking, fishing, camping, biking and kayaking just as much. . For almost a decade now, she has been conducting volunteer training to teach other people how to lead nature walks and promote conservation.

Justin Dunnavant and Ayana Flewellen

Drs. Ayana Flewellen and Justin Dunnavant co-founded the Association of Black Archaeologists and are involved in creating more sustainable archaeological practices. They are collaborating with Diving With a Purpose and the Slave Wrecks Project to document and interpret the maritime heritage of the African diaspora.

Their respect for ecology and local residents’ involvement in community-based archeology introduced many Saint Croix youth to scuba diving, archeology, and historical preservation at the Little Princess Estate, an 18th-century sugar plantation in the Virgin Islands.

Venice R. Williams

As executive director of Alice’s Garden Urban Farm in Milwaukee, Venice R. Williams oversees garden plots, farmers’ markets, and events that bring together gardeners from many lands.

The garden’s objectives are to provide “models of regenerative farming, community cultural development and economic agribusiness for the global landscape,” according to its website. Williams sees herself as a cultural and spiritual midwife for this green, peaceful oasis in Milwaukee. She strongly believes that “she was placed in Creation to help bring forth all that is good and whole in people and places.”

Major Carter

Property developer Majora Carter combines urban renewal and environmental awareness. She grew up in the South Bronx in the 1970s, where she saw a neighborhood destroyed by leveling buildings in favor of highway construction and other urban problems. As an adult, she tried to revive her community. At the forefront of the development of Hunts Point Riverside Park is just one of her many accomplishments. She also founded Sustainable South Bronx to improve environmental and economic conditions and provide green job training. Her consulting firm The Marjora Carter Group tackles issues of the intersection of technology, environment and business.

John Francis

An oil spill in San Francisco Bay in 1971 profoundly changed John Francis’ life. After scrubbing beaches and trying to save petroleum-covered birds, he decided to give up all motorized transportation. Instead, he walked.

Even though he made a 17-year vow of silence, he still became known in environmental circles. He walked through the US and South America for 22 years, earning him the nickname Planet Walker. When a car hit him in 1990 – just after he started talking again – he managed to convince the ambulance drivers to let him walk to the hospital.

“Part of the mystery of walking is that the destination is inside us and we really do not know when we will arrive until we arrive,” he said.

He is the author of Planetwalker: 22 Years of Walking. 17 years of silence. ” He has a PhD in soil resources and teaches environmental studies at university level.

Guide image via Pexels



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