Eve Project, A Farm, A Saturday Afternoon

What a lovely afternoon spent with the EVE Circle. LaVerne Baker Hotep, with the Center for Victims of Violence and Crime (CVVC), organized a retreat for a group of African American women at Wild Red’s Gardens, formerly known as Mildreds’ Daughters Farm. It is the only farm within the Pittsburgh city limit.

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The women spent a joyous day outdoors on the farm. When the skies darkened and it got cooler, they joined together for food and fellowship.

I shared part of the afternoon with the women sharing about African Americans and the environment, and leading a guided meditation focusing on faith, the environment, and health. I was delighted to see Lois McClendon with B-PEP/Coalition Against Violence and a Pittsburgh environmentalist. 

Photos by Dianne Glave

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Thomas Merton Center: Environmental Justice

The Thomas Merton Pittsburgh’s Peace and Social Justice Center continues to do the good work. The center started 40 years ago focuses on social justice based on the non-violent resistance.

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They serve the Pittsburgh community and beyond in the areas of economic justice, anti-war, and prisoner’s right. Just recently, the center launched another committee on environmental justice based in part on faith and spirituality. Wanda Guthrie, one of the Thomas Merton board members, was central in launching this new committee. Many thanks for her hard work along with the other committee members present at the first meeting.

Photos by Dianne Glave

2012 State of Diversity and the Environment Blog Carnival

Welcome to the third Rooted in the Earth Blog Carnival!

People of color faced many obstacles in 2010 and 2011 including higher rates of unemployment during the Great Recession and increased conservatism concerning diversity/ethnicity in the US. There has also been much to celebrate with an African American president and a growing Latina/o population. I wondered in 2012, the new year, if the same ups and downs are true, when it comes to those working and serving for diversity (people of color) and the environment. Personally, I can count more than twenty people of all ethnicities I can reach out to with expertise concerning people of color and the environment. Five years ago, the ranks were thinner. At the same, time I sense some (justice) fatigue among the ranks.

I am sending a call for blogs responding to a the state of diversity and the environment in 2012. I will include your name, organization, a personal/non-profit description, and blog/website. The blog carnival is broad enough to include stories about nascent environmental movements among and concerning people of color, projects-in-progress that will help to grow the movement, ideas for the future, and more. For those who do not blog, please contact me directly so we can work together to add your perspective to the blog carnival.

Submit your blog to 2012 State of Diversity and the Environment by January 19th. All blogs will be subject to review based on suitability to the topic.

Dianne Glave

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.

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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.

In Conversation with Philip O’Neal of Green DMV

GREEN DMV is a non-profit that promotes clean energy and green jobs as a means of diminishing poverty in low-income communities in the United States.  Philip O’Neal and Rhon Hayes are the co-founders.

Dianne: Philip, let’s start by writing poems that includes themes of nature.  I’ll write one too inspired by your verses.

Philip:

Winter’s magic in grandma’s garden, deep roots, moments of loneliness, feeling forgotten, and silenced.

While Grandma, warm, weaves her basket with the thoughts of strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes and egg-plant.

D: I like it. Grandma! Fruits and vegetables. Here’s mine . . . borrowing some style from ee cummings . . .

i dream

of stark trees through

eight window panes in a row

like sentinels

waiting

first glance desolation

future

spring hides under brown, grey, and silver bark

leaves wait for warmer days to unfurl

winter is not desolate

breath exhaled

spring

D: We spoke–a short conversation–for the first time a few weeks ago. I would like to know more about you.

P: I was born and raised in Elizabeth City, NC. Attended Elizabeth City State University. I’m married to my beautiful wife of 7 years Danielle, with one son Logan and a little princess on the way in May. Danielle and I lived in Atlanta for 4 years, before moving to Washington DC in 2004.

D: What led you to become an environmentalist?

P: The first person who made me realize I was an environmentalist was Dr. Robert Bullard, a long time educator and environmental justice activist who teaches at Clark-Atlanta University. In 2007 I heard him speak on a panel at a Congressional Black Caucus forum on Climate Change. A statement that I will never forget is when he said. “If you drink water, eat food or breathe air. Or any two out of the three, then you’re an environmentalist”

D: Ah yes, Dr. Bullard! He has clearly influenced your thinking. Any other influences?

P: I can’t pick one person that has been the greatest influence in my efforts. But I feel that my thinking was cultivated from academics such as W.E.B. Dubois and Dr. Julianne Malveaux, civil rights leaders such as Dr. King and Gandhi, to environmental leaders past and present from Dr. Bullard to Al Gore. Between each name, I can fit a hundred or more names, it’s that many! I represent the sum of many individual ideals mixed in with my own little individual flavor.

D: How did you and Rhon come up with the idea to launch greendmv.org?
P: It kind of organically happened, (no pun intended). I call it strategic intuition. We knew the green movement was going to be the next boom, and we knew historically low-income communities and communities of color typically don’t get the information early enough to take advantage of ground floor economic movements. So we made it our mission to insure the left out communities of the past, would be locked in the green economy of the future.

D: Tell me about the contributions of others working for and with Green DMV.

P: We have relied heavily on volunteers. For the first 2 years, Green DMV was funded from our own pockets. After out first two grant requests were denied, we just found creative ways to get things done, like organizing volunteers and making our organization attractive to supporters. Since then, we’ve received support from Home Depot, Whole Foods, Giant Foods, City Governments and more.

D: Yes, the hard work in environmentalism relies heavily on the work and good will of volunteers. Another question: why do you think clean energy and green jobs are important?

P: Environmentally, this is the most important work that needs to be done. Economically, because these are the jobs of the future. If you take a look around, it’s very rare that you see a solar panel on a person’s home. Now let’s take a look in the future. It will be very rare not to see solar powered home. Between now and then, somebody has to do this work and currently the workforce doesn’t exist to supply the demand of all those projects. Somebody has to train and hire this new workforce. So why not train the people who have had barriers to employment for this new industry?

D: How can environmentally conscious energy and jobs change our lives here in the United States?

P: A new industry will be created to boost our economy, which will support jobs in both metropolitan and rural cities and towns.

D: What is our responsibility as individuals and a nation to the rest of world when it comes to protecting the environment and its resources?

P: All I ask is that we be conscious of little negative acts. That’s all. If you can just ask yourself a question, “Am I doing the right thing?”, even if you do the wrong thing after that, I’d be happy.

D: Could you share something about Green DMV’s latest initiative?
P: In partnership with the District of Columbia and AARA, GREEN DMV is taking on the daunting task of educating the entire faith-based community of Washington DC, to take part in the efforts to fight poverty and pollution in our Nation’s Capitol. We’re calling this “The Green Faith Initiative- One Green City Through Faith.” The church is the backbone of the community and there is no way we can inform poor communities effectively without the support and efforts of the faith-based community.

D: Do you spend time outdoors? What is your favorite activity? Do you hike? If so where? A favorite park?

P: Honestly, My favorite activity is doing spontaneous things with my family. Living in Washington DC, there’s just so much history and things to do.

D: How is Barack Obama doing concerning the environment? Michelle Obama?

P: Well, President Obama just isn’t the first black president; he’s the first green president. Approving 500 Million dollars for Green Job Training, he get’s it and now after the State of the Union Address, he’s focusing on getting them all employed in the green sector. Michelle is focused on the greening of our bodies with the Let’s Move initiative. She’s ensuring that we have healthy schools and fit kids.

D: Thank you, Philip. I look forward to ways Green DMV will continue to change the green economy.

Photos Courtesy of Green DMV