Meet the Outdoor Baby Network

I recently discovered the Outdoor Baby Network. Wait, let me get this straight: they found me. And I’m glad they did. I do love children. I talk about my godchildren and the children in my family with great passion and love. I have also written about children in Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage.

So why is this important to me? Well, I have been encouraging African Americans to get outdoors along with the voices of Legacy on the Land and Outdoor Afro. If the parents and adults are not getting out, then the babies are not making it to the woods and beaches either.

Here’s an answer to this dilemma. Meet Outdoor Baby Network through the lens of it’s founder Heidi Ahrens:

Yes, I am a white woman. That said, I have long been interested in connecting people of color to nature. My first-hand experience was working with New York City Outward Bound and leading field trips with my classes in Brooklyn. I remember a conversation about the environment I had with a friend in Brooklyn many years ago.  When I asked her about joining Outdoor Baby Network, she responded with “Why should I join that site?” She echoed the sentiments I’ve heard from other African Americans: “Black people don’t do that.” It’s been my understanding that most African Americans live in urban places and are disconnected from nature. Also, time and money is necessary, a luxury both impoverished whites and blacks don’t have. Economic barriers are a reality to nature including outdoor play spaces for babies and children.  There is a connection though for many African Americans in their roots in Africa and bond through visits to family members still in the South.

I am aware as a white woman, that there is a divide between blacks and whites, and that it widens even further when it comes to nature. In a small way, I’d like to diminish that divide with Outdoor Baby Network. With my heart and soul, I want all families, including African Americans, to experience the joys, challenges and excitement the outdoors can bring in a connectedness to the living world.  I invite you to come join in the conversation, if you have not already done so. I know many African Americans, Dianne counted among them, are already experienciencing nature. I understand the negative aspects but also wish to embrace positive aspects of the African American experience. Through Outdoor Baby Network and Rooted in the Earth, I offer my support to families to enhance their health and personal well-being through nature exploration and adventurous travel.

This new connection with Rooted to the Earth and Dianne Glave feels like a positive way for people to reach out to one another, and to nature.

Learn more about Outdoor Baby Network. Read  one of Heidi’s blogs: Snow-Filled Bathtub.  Visit Dianne’s African American and the Environment Group linked from Outdoor Baby Network.

Photos Courtesy of Heidi Ahrens



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South Georgia: A Dashboard Picturelogue

I headed down to Tallahassee last weekend. To get back to Atlanta I drove through South Georgia. I think this was my first drive through the pine nurseries and stands, pecan groves, and cotton fields in the region. I snapped a few photos during a drive that took about five hours but turned into seven hours because I was fascinated by every little thing I saw on the road:

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I saw–smelled it too–prescribed or controlled burning of the pine on the road. The burn reduces the fuel to limit larger uncontrollable fires. The pine is fire resistant but can still burn. Yes, this stuff is delicate and is best left up to the professionals.

Later, I picked up a sack of pecans in the shell at Ellis Brothers. I shared some with co-workers and am still enjoying cracking a few open every day. There’s something powerful about eating food in the form closest  to the the earth, in this case from the branch to the limb to the tree to the trunk to the earth.

The trip is over but the pecans keep giving.

Photos by Dianne Glave

Being Black & Green: SoGreen Network Summit at Florida A&M

I was so touched to see so many gathering together on sustainability, and being black and green in Tallahassee, Florida. On February 18-19, 2011, the Southeastern Green Network (SoGreen) with Florida A & M University (FAMU) organized and met for the “Embracing Our Tradition of Partnership” Summit. Together we focused on “climate change, alternative fuel sources, sustainable agriculture, and the role our farmers and landowners play in becoming partners that will work toward changing our regional environment.” (http://www.sogreennetwork.org/guyc/)

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Some of the participants included:

  • Shirley Sherrod, the keynote speaker
  • Mayor John Marks, City of Tallahassee
  • Representative Alan Williams, Florida State Representative District 8

I was honored and privileged to share the stage with Dr. Owusu Bandele from Southern University. His talk was “Our Deep Roots in Agriculture: The Role of the 1890 Land Grant Institutions,” filled with the history of African Americans and the land with references to Paul Cuffee and George Washington Carver. He even wove in musical references to Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” and Dinah Washington’s “This Bitter Earth.” He was a tough act to follow but I did my best sharing on “Being Green in the African Diaspora” emphasizing blood diamonds in Sierra Leone.

Many thanks to the organizers including Cynthia Hayes (SoGreen), Kwasi Densu (FAMU), and Lynn Pinder.

Photos by Dianne Glave

African Americans, California, and Place

An article titled “Black Population Drops to 3.9% in San Francisco” in the February 4, 2011 in the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper, got me thinking.

The percentage of African Americans in California was never very high even when I lived in Los Angeles more than a decade ago. My sense was you were either very poor or extremely rich. A handful of us lived somewhere in the middle. Where you lived and the type housing you lived in was and is defined by your socio-economic status.  Not so nice neighborhoods were more concrete than grass and trees. Nice neighborhoods had more access to recreational amenities like local and state parks, and even the ocean. This dichotomy was true for African Americans living in that sprawling city I once called home.

Director Michael Mann made even the gritty poorer neighborhoods look good soaked by electric lights, stars, and the moon in the story of a white hit-man played by Tom Cruise and a cabdriver portrayed by Jaime Foxx:

Based on the article, I considered  African Americans in urban/suburban place/environments. For example, people across ethnic lines yearn(ed) for suburban McMansions, as noted in the article, where African Americans have been increasingly migrating from San Francisco to places like Antioch to sprawl out on larger tracts of land. In another example, gentrification has long redefined cities including those in California for impoverished blacks. Historically, they have been forced out of the only places they have known, their cities of concrete, asphalt, a few struggling trees, and some patches of crabgrass. Upper middle-class people often come in and replaced the former occupants of  public housing.

Socio-economic status does define where you live, the meaning of place, and what your urban and suburban environment look like. I am constantly reminded by this issue of social justice when it comes to these landscapes and African American people.