Revisiting Blood Diamonds From Sierra Leone

KJ, my Biggest Fan & a Future Environmentalist!

On Wednesday, March 23, 2011, the Environmental Science and Studies Program, and Sociology and Anthropology Deparments at Spelman College, along with Keeping it Wild invited me to speak at one of their environmental seminars. I had a fabulous time sharing about “Revisiting Blood Diamonds from Sierra Leone” at Spelman. I spoke before a wonderful audience of mostly young college women. And I enjoyed the seeing old and new friends and colleagues.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I shared background about the civil war in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2001 in what was an epic struggle to control the blood diamonds in the region. Blood or conflict diamonds refer to the gems forcibly mined by Africans and exported during the bloody civil war in Sierra Leone. During and after that period, some people around the world were and have been hesitant about purchasing diamonds. Moving into 2011, attitudes are beginning to change since the Kimberly Process–a means of certifying diamonds as conflict-free–is adhered to by most national and international jewelers including De Beers.

Based on my own experience and bias about diamonds, I walked into Kay Jewelers in my neighborhood, an African American neighborhood to get a watch battery replaced last week. The sales woman asked me if I wanted to see something in one of the cases. I responded maybe. I looked slyly at her asking if Kay was certified through the Kimberley Process, thinking she wouldn’t know what the heck I was talking about. To my surprise, she responded by whipping out a brochure proudly proclaiming that Kay only sells conflict-free diamonds.

Now keep in mind that the diamond world is not perfect because independent jewelers may not show commitment to selling conflict free diamonds compared to a national or international chain. De Beers an international diamond company, dominant wholesale and retail sales of diamonds, is committed to conflict-free diamonds in through their dealers. But what about the conflict diamonds that are still in their vaults? Some private collector might buy a large dazzling gem at an astronomical price from De Beers, unconcerned about the history of the human toll required to mine the stone in the past.

Unfortunately, there remains a long-standing ignorance: in 2010, former model Naomi Campbell, expressed an indifference concerning the civil war in Sierra Leone, blood diamonds, and Africa in general.

She was subpoenaed to testify at the trial of former dictator of Liberia, Charles Taylor. He supported the rebels in Sierra Leone, fueling the violence in the country in order to profit from the chaos.

To learn more go to to “Conflict Diamonds” linked from the United Nations website.

Many thanks to the organizers at Spelman College including Yvonne Prabhu and Nijah Burris in Environmental Studies, along with Erica Weaver and Na’Taki Osbourne Jelks at Keeping it Wild for being kind and generous hosts.

Advertisements

Holidays and the Environment

Some blogs and articles to get all of us thinking environmentally . . .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And a re-post of my holiday greetings.

2010 Keeping it Wild Gala

Sometimes it better, sometimes easier, to start with endings than beginnings . . .

 

With Shelton Johnson

 

I sat in the amphitheater at Zoo Atlanta listening to Shelton Johnson. He was the keynote speaker for the 6th Annual Keeping it Wild (KIW) Gala, and is a national park ranger and author of Gloryland. As I listened to Shelton, one row back from me I heard the rhythmic breathing of a six year old girl. Shelton’s passionate story-telling and cadence of that small child’s breathing mentally and spiritually took me outdoors.

I imagined being at Yosemite National Park, the source of many of Shelton’s stories. The adults–I was there too–were up late quietly looking up at the sky filled with distant stars and a crescent moon. We had tucked the children away in the tents and we could hear the distinctive breathing of each child, like different signatures on many pages.

So to beginnings. KIW hosted a wonderful gala. It began with a reception filled with people from so many cultures eating from their bamboo plates. Later, more guests filled their plates from a buffet with cornbread, black-eyed peas, and more.

In the amphitheater, the latter part of the evening, I felt love and joy seeing so many people of color listening to Shelton tell his stories. The Buffalo soldiers also drew me in. I cried when one of the soldiers stepped forward and affirmed Shelton in honoring the ancestors. Towards the end, a young woman strummed her guitar singing. We sang along with her about fighting pollution.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I hope that KIW continues to grow and expands their good work. I may not always express my feelings in the moment but my heart was bursting and full last night, full of Yosemite National Park.

Photos by Dianne Glave

Sampling of Diversity and Environment Blogs and Websites

This is an exciting time with many blogs and websites focusing on diversity and the environment.

Here is a sampling of the ones I visit the most with some amazing people behind the sites:

Brown Girl Going Green

Chocolate & Arugula

Eco Soul Wisdom

Jarid Manos (Ghetto Plainsman)

Legacy on the Land

Outdoor Afro

What are some of your favorites? Which blogs and websites do you visit regularly? I’d love to learn more.

African American Woman Speaks Out on the BP Gulf Disaster

I was at Art of Diva’s Hair Design, my hair salon, in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The salon is filled with stylists and clientele who are African American. As is always true, many conversations were swirling. I caught a word here and a word there.  I heard a few bits of conversation about the Gulf Oil Crisis.  

So I asked my hair stylist to share her thoughts about this frightening and monumental disaster. 

Stephanie, Photo Courtesy of Stephanie

Dianne: How do you think BP is handling this crisis? 

Stephanie: I think they are doing the best they can because they are losing money. They are losing money as the oil pours out the pipe in the Gulf. They are losing money on the stock market. They will have to pay out money to all the people in the Gulf who are suffering emotionally and financially.

Is there another method? Does anyone else have the expertise to do something different and better? I don’t know of any company who wouldn’t make a fix if there were simple solution to save the company. 

D: What about the government? Are they doing enough? 

S: I don’t think they are. They are not supervising to make sure the job gets done. They need to step up! 

D: Should locals in the Gulf get involved? 

S: What the heck can they do? BP does not need to be thinking about the safety of fisherman in boats with no experience going out into the Gulf trying to skim the oil. If something happens—illness from the oil fumes, a damaged boat, or physical injury–to a local without experience then BP will be made responsible. If the local people make things worse, then what? BP and the government need to monitor all this, cap the hole in the pipe, and lead clean-up. 

At the Beach, Photo Courtesy of Stephanie

D: Is President Barack Obama being visible enough during the crisis? 

S: Yes, he has spoken up. I have seen and heard him on television in few instances. 

D: How are you feeling about the environmental impact? 

S: I am so scared for the wildlife. I’ve seen images on television of seagulls covered in oil. People were cleaning the oil off the birds. I remember seeing the seals dead in the water back with the Exxon Valdez spill. I am so sad and worried for the wildlife and the people affected down in Gulf. 

A few minutes after we finished talking, Stephanie said, “Look. there’s Obama.” 

Photo by Dianne Glave

To all the creatures who have died in the Gulf in the last month or so — Rest in Peace.

How I Got Into African American Environmental History!

That's Me on the Right

I have been doing diversity and environment since the  early 1990’s. It started for me in the M.A. program in the History Department at Stony Brook University. When I transitioned to the Ph.D. at Stony Brook, I said to my dissertation advisor that I wanted to write my dissertation on African Americans and the environment. She gave me a blank look and said there was no one in the department, probably the whole country, who could advise me concerning my topic. Well, I forged ahead, struggled really. I finally finished my dissertation with some help from Mart Stewart, an outside advisor on my dissertation committee.   

————-   

 What is African American environmental history? 

Carl Anthony gives us a definition: “African American environmental history is concerned with questions of environmental justice in the past; patterns of exploitation within society that have limited African American access to nature and the fruit of the community engagement with the environment; African American resistance to that exploitation and mobilization to confront environmental injustice; ways that African Americans have acted on the environment and have been affected by it in everyday life; the historical environmental health exposures and risks to African American communities; the role African Americans have played in helping to build sustainable societies. (ASEH News, American Society for Environmental History, Spring 2006, 9)    

————-       

When I began doing the work on African American environment there were no definitions. Even today, if you google African American environmental history, a definition does not pop up. That’s so unlike google.  One of my early efforts in working towards defining African American environmental history was an article on African American women and gardening

In  my personal and professional struggle, I have been an academic for many years. There were few people of color I could count on, and that I knew of who working in various areas concerning diversity and the environment . So my cohorts and primary audience were mainstream academics. I was frustrated and alone, often asked, “Where are the white people?” in my narratives and analyses. 

From Black Enterprise

I still teach. I still think like a historian. In many ways, I still write like a historian. What’s different though is I have more people to connect with now that I’m writing for a broader audience with the upcoming book and my ongoing blog. 

I have Rue Mapp, Jarid Manos, Rona Fernandez, EcoSoul, James Edward Mills, Evonne Blythers, Phoenix Smith,Danielle N. Lee,  Audrey Peterman, Dudley Edmondson, and so many more. And thankfully, I have all of you!

As an African American, Am I Afraid of Nature?: Guest Blog by La La

Dianne with La La

La La and I were at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit for a weekend retreat.  We came to spend contemplative moments with the monks, our fellow retreatants, and most importantly God. Walking through the paths of the monastery grounds we were also treated to nature.   

Read more about the retreat and La La’s feelings about nature from an African American woman’s perspective. She grew up in an urban predominantly black urban neighborhood and I think her background is reflected in some of her words and thoughts:   

All around me at the monastery was nature with the geese near the pond, the trees in the garden, and the bugs just about everywhere (I thinks something bit me!).  I was on a journey, a short one for the weekend taking the time to embrace, feel, and hear God, and take in creation.  I sought a connection between being spiritual and living in nature. Being there made me think of all the ways I have been trying to connect with nature in the past. It has not been easy.   

  

I arrived and realized that the place was going to be GREEN when I drove down a long strip with magnolias on both sides. I saw ducks and geese; snails and spiders; just beautiful green life. It was lovely to look at and experience.   

La La at the Gazebo Near the Entrance

Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t all perfection. I love the flowers and trees but I’m not all the way there with the creatures. Some are pretty and cute. Yet I prefer the swans, ducks, and geese kept their distance. When they got close, I panicked because of the fear of them biting me.

I didn’t get bitten but somebody else did.  A couple, a woman and a man, came down the hill to feed the ducks and geese. She had a bag of food and she fed the birds by hand while her partner took pictures.  When she ran out of food a swan flapped its great wings, arched its neck, and attacked her. I was shocked as it grasped her ankle in its yellow beak gnawing away.  She backed away and started shaking her leg. It had such a hold, a grip on her ankle. Well, the moral of story is the monks and the rest of the staff told us NOT to feed the birds. I would not have fed them anyway because just the thought of them coming close to me terrifies me. I know this much: geese and ducks are still wild animals at the end of the day and should not be messed with at all.   

So where did it all begin, this tension between an appreciation and fear of nature? When I was a young girl at age 13, I went to visit my aunt in Atlanta. I was not afraid of bugs prior to that visit. I was sitting on the side of the house on the porch and a big wasp stung me. The pain hurt so bad I jumped off the side of the house. It wasn’t a small leap because you had to take several steps to get up to the porch. I don’t remember if it hurt when I landed because the pain of the sting was so intense, more intense than the fall. After that, I stayed in the house because I was so afraid of getting stung again. So much for nature.   

Since then I can be around animals more than bugs. The insects that fly and crawl really bother me. Of course, I won’t run if I see an ant. It can’t catch me. The worst are spiders and bees, any stinging insect or creature.  If I hear zzzzzz, the buzzing, I’m running. Keep in mind that the wasp makes a buzzing sound so it all goes back to when I was 13 and stung. I know a fly won’t do me any harm but I can’t stand the noise.   

Ok so long after the wasp sting incident, I met my husband who LOVES the outdoors including the beach and mountains. So we are outside regularly. Since I met him, I have been going outside a little more. Again, baby steps. I have come a long way because of my husband. When I first met him, he was always outside working as a mechanic. He would not see me until he came inside. Now I can go outside to be with him. He makes me feel safe. My husband says, “I got you. I got you. Nothing will happen to you.” He teaches me about different insects. They are not all in one category. Each has its purpose. Though it is contradictory, I would prefer bugs to keep their distance but these days I’m not so quick to kill them as I did in the past. Thanks baby—that would be my husband.   

On the Grounds of the Monastery

I think the next important experience was when I went camping overnight with black Boy Scouts from my church. The deacons who came on the trip were like wow our wives wouldn’t come because there was no electricity to curl their hair. At the time, I was paralyzed from the waist down in a wheelchair from a terrible car accident so the trip was even more complicated (I’m healed and walking now!). My husband was a Boy Scout leader. On the trip, I slept outside in nature. There was a spider in the tent. My husband freed it. He was with me and I felt safe. I was THERE in nature. That’s one of many pluses marrying a good ole country boy from the South.   

The Pond

I also went to Pine Mountain in Georgia to the Wild Animal Safari. I do love animals but I don’t want to be that close. We were in a Chevy Tahoe, a BIG truck. The animals were bigger than the truck. A zebra and buffalo came up to the truck. I thought the buffalo was a bull it was so humongous. My husband said different. Mind you, I had never seen wild animals like these—only in the zoo closed in. I saw a big black pig and learned later it was a wild boar. They had tusks and were dirty. I like baby pigs that are pink not dirty boars. I also saw a camel, a llama, foxes, and ostriches. I wondered why the smaller animals were in separate sections. I learned later that foxes would prey on other small animals if let loose. And of course you can’t leave the smaller animals with the lions and tigers. The giraffe was beautiful. They were all beautiful except the buffalo and the boar. There were so many different animals I’d never seen before. It was like the Lion King come to life, except they weren’t talking. Maybe because of my height—4’11”—everything was bigger than me. Even the ostrich was taller than me.   

We also do stuff as a family. I remember a trip to Callaway Gardens. We went to the Butterfly Haven. I love butterflies. They are so pretty. All these big butterflies landed on us. The butterflies were from all around the world which was nice but they still freaked me out. My son said, “Don’t panic. They are just butterflies.” I said, “I know.” It reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds except I was surrounded by butterflies. Can you imagine pecking butterflies? Thanks Alfred! Beyond the fear and sarcasm, I stayed and did not run. I felt uncomfortable. I did not want to hurt them. I didn’t want them close either.   

Burial Site of the Monks: Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Now at home I have a garden. Well ok, I went to Home Depot to buy the seeds and seedlings; my husband planted everything and tends the garden. Hey I paid and he tends: we both had a part.  I anticipate the beauty of the garden.  I planted the flower seeds, while my husband has planted the fruits and vegetables, bell and hot peppers, tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and grapes, cabbage, romaine lettuce, green beans, corn, watermelon, watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumbers. We planted a peach tree three years ago. We just planted an apple tree. I am proud of myself because I went to Home Depot to buy the plants and seedling, however I must say that my husband has but a lot of hard work into the digging, planting and creating a beautiful garden. I’m taking baby steps to get closer to nature.   

I love animals and nature. I would prefer some distance. I know I said this already but it’s important enough to be repeated.  The closer I draw to God the more I am able to see the beauty of all of God’s creation.  This was just the beginning of many beautiful and learning encounters with God and nature, my experience as an African American woman outdoors.   

La La Typing the Blog

   

   

    

Guest Blog By La La  

Photos by Dianne Glave

Inaugural Blog Carnival: Challenges of Doing Diversity and Environment

Welcome to my Inaugural Blog Carnival focusing on the joys and tribulations of doing diversity and the environment.

As an African American woman, it has been a long lonely difficult journey sharing the stories of African Americans and the environment. It has also been one of my greatest joys. My goal in my inaugural May 2010 blog carnival is for diversity/environmental bloggers to share their successes along with their trials and tribulations. We have been doing the good but difficult work of getting the word out about diversity and the environment. I invite and challenge you to come join with me to connect with people and find support in one another. Some are connected and others are not. For those who are connected, continue with me creating community. For those who are not, please do join in.

Please submit your blog at my Inaugural Blog Carnival: Diversity and Environment Challenges. The submission deadline is Friday, May, 21, 2010. The blog carnival will be posted on Monday, May 24, 2010.

Dianne Glave

Change: The Slug and the Lizards

For those facing change . . .

<><><><><><><>

There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse!  As I have often found in travelling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one’s position, and be bruised in a new place.  ~Washington Irving

<><><><><><><>

It is fitting that I am sitting in my dining room tapping away at the computer, working on various things and still blessed to be connecting with nature.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I came downstairs yesterday having just awakened and saw something moving so slowly across my carpet. Upon closer inspection I saw a slug–at least I thought it was a slug. You decide. I watched its slow progress for a bit, lifted it gently up in some tissue paper, and set it free. It’s probably living another day to conquer someone’s tomatoes as I type.

That very afternoon I noticed that a green lizard was living his/her life like it was golden in a little triangle of an ecosystem by my door of earth filled with some shrubs. It’s also the spot where plenty of water drains when it rains. The next day I saw a few lizards out in the sun near my little safari. The lizards were also moving at such an incredible speed.

As many changes creep up on me like the slug and whiz by like the lizards, I continue to do my best to embrace all aspects of life. Slow motion and fast forward–the bumps and bruises have been time well spent, and lessons learned.

Photos by Dianne Glave

 

Hatched from the Same Egg: A Jarid Manos Interview

I’m excited because the second edition of Jarid Mano’s book Ghetto Plainsman is out and available at amazon.com and your local bookstore. Jarid is also busy with Restoration Not Incarceration, a program for teens that is part of the Great Plains Restoration Council.  

When I opened up Ghetto Plainsman I was struck that he was often asked, “What are you?” I get that too. I remember being in an elevator in Century City in Los Angeles. Some guy blurted out, “What are you?” I don’t remember what I said but was disturbed by that intrusive moment with a stranger. Jarid also looks like people in my family. Genetically we could be hatched from the same egg. Culturally too.  

Read more . . .  

Emdangered Fort Worth Prairie Park

DIANNE: Hello, my brother. Jarid, how about we interview one another? You first.  

JARID:  That sounds good. I love that mutual.  Hope it’s all going down good out there in the ATL! You know I can’t wait to come back there.
D: When you come to Atlanta, you can be the tour guide so I can see the city through your eyes! Ok, how come you can’t keep your shirt on? I don’t see what that has to do with the plains.
J: Hahahaha…   You know, we crazie like that.
D:  We . . .  ha?! I keep my shirt on. Based on the “What are you?” question, what does being and feeling different define how you have related to the environment, nature?
J:  It seems that a lot of the time, people really want to put things (and others) into boxes, but that is so constraining and diminishing.  I’m not even sure this is done intentionally, it’s just become custom. For example, even the words “environment” and “species” sounds so objectifying, so separating, to me. Like they’re objects. I understand their usage, but on a personal, spiritual tip, it’s Earth and animals to me.    

Evita Tezeno, GPRC Board Member

My organization Great Plains Restoration Council does its ecological work through its social work, and when our Plains Youth InterACTION team is out  working to save the Fort Worth Prairie Park, we know this is a place of refuge, and the wildlife that thrives and flies and migrates and breeds and rests though this place is fam — family. We are proud to produce serious, high value conservation work, with the help of some of your best master naturalists and restoration ecologists, but our personal approach is different.  

Protecting the Earth and our children’s health and future is a civil right and responsibility. And ecology is a cultural and social movement. And animals are now objects and quotas, they are lives and cultures with stories and histories and yearnings that course like a creek through the prairie and our own lives.   

We belong, instead of being separate. Being different, opening new ways of looking at things that may have, beneath them, significant suffering,  sadness, and/or loss, yet immense opportunities for new millennial exhilaration, takes us to a new day where we can begin a deeper healing. In my opinion, without that, we are not moving forward.
D: You currently live in Houston, Texas. What’s it like for you in the city during the spring?  

J: I love Texas. I actually live in both Fort Worth and Houston, though I’m spending more time in Houston now as we develop new programming.  Houston is located in the original coastal prairie of Texas. It’s where the prairie meets the sea, two halves of a whole, the place of original fertility, and where it all began in 1528 when the Moorish slave Esteban the Moor washed ashore on Galveston Island with the ragged conquistadors Cabeza de Vaca, Dorantes, etc. 

Houston has changed dramatically over the last ten years — I think people elsewhere think of Houston as this big, polluted city, but while it still has work to do, I’m finding myself amazed at how livable and beautiful the city is. There are a lot of parks in the city, not least of which is Buffalo Bayou, the river that runs to and and through Downtown. They’ve kept it wild, and it’s like a linear little wilderness right through the city. Texas can get seriously cold during the winter when those frigid winds blow down across the plains from Canada, but winter doesn’t last too long, and we’ll warm up for days here and there even in the middle of the winter when the north winds don’t blow.  In spring, Texas all over bursts with wildflowers backed by lush green grasses, and you can watch them start to ripple northward from Houston to Fort Worth delayed by a few weeks. Also, since we’re less than an hour from the beach, you know we’re back out there in the water in  March, (though the ocean temps might still be a little uhhh cool.). 🙂  

Wild Flowers in the Foreground and Houston in the Background

D: Your book titled Ghetto Plainsman is in its second edition which was just released. Congratulations. Speaking of your book, hat is it like in April, in the spring on the plains?  

J: Thanks. That book took me over 8 years to write. What’s interesting about the plains is that we’re defined by sun, wind, grass and blue sky — and weather. In the winter, it’s a constant battle of the northerly or southerly winds. When a cold front comes down across the plains from Canada, you can track it as it causes a serious blizzard in South Dakota or Colorado and, while it modifies as it passes toward the lower latitude landscapes, you know you’ll be getting at least some very cold temps. In March, the winds pick up, as the increasing solar energy warms things, and by April, while we’ll still have some swings, we’re pretty much into the beginning of the long warm season by then. Neotropical migrant birds are nesting, in late April the Monarchs have come back up from Mexico, buffalo (where they exist, though there are still no truly “wild” buffalo except in Yellowstone and even there they are shot or hazed the minute they cross the Park boundary) will be calving, and out on the western High Plains we’re all looking forward to pronghorn antelope having their babies in May.

Kaiden, Jarid's Son on a Remnant of Coastal Plain on Galveston Island

D: I know there’s a focus on the plains in your non-profit Restoration not Incarceration? Tell us more.
J: Great Plains Restoration Council is the non-profit, Restoration Not Incarceration is our new program in planning and design now. RNI is emerging out of the successful practices and principles of our signature program Plains Youth InterACTION which basically has damaged young people healing themselves through healing our damaged native prairies and plains.  In Fort Worth, with the Fort Worth Prairie Park, our work is largely a preservation issue, since these 2,000 acres on the backdoor of 5 million people are part of the most endangered major ecosystem in North America.  

Restoration Not Incarceration. based in Houston, and addressing the coastal prairie, entirely a restoration issue, as averse to preservation, because there is less than 1% of the original native coastal prairie left and it’s on the verge of extinction. This work is being accomplished in partnership with the Harris County Attorney’s Office, Fifth Ward Enrichment Program, and Katy Prairie Conservancy. We are setting up a program where temporarily incarcerated individuals and probationers can enter a Three Tier program that will a.) provide skills-training, b.) social work in a trust and motivational environment, properly implemented, and c.) work in nature as a therapeutic modality.  We hope to have the first pilot effort up and running, with boots on the ground, by the end of December.  

Part of this initiative is also stimulating new green jobs in wildlands restoration– a whole new sector in the emerging Green Collar Economy.  Carbon pricing alone will be one of the economic drivers, because native prairies soak carbon from the atmosphere and their deep roots can sequester that carbon for 8,000 years or more in the soil.
D: April 22nd was Earth Day. What does the celebrations surrounds this day mean to you?
J: Sigh. I’m like that cartoon I saw once of a seagull looking over a pile of trash on the beach and saying, “What about the 364 other days?” 
D: Let’s shift a little. What does April smell like?  
Sun warming the waxy green out of live oak tree leaves.
D: From an environmental perspective, what’s next for you?  J: I’ve been involved in environmental and social justice work for a long time. GPRC passed its ten year anniversary this past October. It’s taken a long time to grow this non-profit from nothing, and now with my team in place, I am looking to grow exponentially and wield some real health for prairies and people on a scale that was only a dream when I first started.
J: Now it’s your turn.
D: Ah Jarid, we are out of time. Your turn will come. Let’s do this again over the summer. By that time we will be little brother and sister chicks with more to say about the great outdoors . . .  

Photos by Jarid Manos