She-Wolf: Transitioning to the New Year of 2012

Tulips in Bloom, Chicago

Right now I’m caught up in series of novels titled Game of Thrones, and the HBO series based on the novels.  Creatures called dire wolves–from the Ice Age and now extinct–are central to one of many over-lapping  story-lines, with dire wolves in symbiotic relationship with young royals. 2011 transitioned so quickly cart-wheeling into 2012, and I am embracing my she-wolf. I don’t bite but am running hard and fast down two different paths: the environment and health. Like the story-lines in Game of Thrones, the two paths have and continue to overlap. I’m including some of my favorite photos from 2011 some with and without rhyme and reason in relationship to the text. Put simply, these photos like so many I took last year simply touched me.

The first path is environmental. I continued my life’s work, a ministry to people and the earth, sharing the gospel of African Americans and the environment. Back in 2010, I published Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage. Continuing into 2011, non-profit organizations invited me to do speaking engagements, some of the content based in part on the book:

At Barnes & Noble with a Little Fan

I also did a radio interview with Groovin 1580 FM and a book-signing with the Wildlife Federation at Georgia Tech. In 2012, I will continue to share an environmental gospel, speaking at the Tuskegee Institute Historic Site in Alabama and Getty College in Pennsylvania.

From Fall 2010 to Summer 2011 when I  continued my environmental opus, I was in an intensive Clinical Pastoral Education Program training for chaplaincy. I managed to complete the program, while still blogging.

Interestingly, the Rooted in the Earth WordPress Annual Report differs from my favorite blogs “penned” during part of the program. The highest ranking blog going back to 2010 was (drum roll please) Predators: Survival of the Fittest in a Busted Paradise. Perhaps not so surprising since my blogs on film and television ranked higher than some of the historical blogs. People like popular culture. Well, so do I.

Grand Isle, Louisiana, 2007 (ok, not 2011!)

I also love history and my personal favorites included Kentucky, African Americans, and the Environment, Harriet Tubman Working Nature, Barack Obama: An Alternate Environmental History, and 2011 MLK Day: Remembering Martin Luther King, the Environmentalist. Hey, I’m a historian. What can I say. I’m back on the steep happy hill–that’s the she-wolf in me on the move–blogging again in 2012 with a call for blogs for a State of Diversity and the Environment Blog Carnival.

So what’s that second path as I continue loping on winding path?  Back in 2010, I never imagined that graduating with an M.Div. in “Faith, Health and Science” at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University would be life changing concerning my health. Over the last year I lost 17 pounds and hope to lose about 20 more. No rush. One pound at a time. Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers . . . make it happen like Mariah belts out in the recent Jenny Craig commercial.

I continue being heart healthy with nutrition and exercise. I serve as a pastor at Crafton United Methodist Church and some of the members have followed my example joining Weight Watchers. Others have been serving healthy options like veggies at Coffee Hour after church. And yes, I found time to blog about spirituality and religion at BeingEphesus.com.

Korean War Memorial, Washington, DC

I am grateful to everyone in my personal life who patiently listened to my stories about being on paths of the environment and health. In addition, so many colleagues invited me into their institutions trusting me to share one vision of  an African American environmentalism. I did not take that trust for granted because many of the people in the audience were college students. I honored to continue working with young people, my favorite “demographic.”

Now I stand among many talented and committed in an environmental family with shared interests in diversity. One kind and generous person in stood out in 2011: Na’Taki Osborne Jelks. I knew Na’Taki for years going back to 2005 when I went on a hike with Keeping It Wild in Georgia. It wasn’t until she organized several events for me that I got to know her better. I am grateful for Na’Taki and so many others devoted to the cause.

I invite you to continue with me embracing your inner-she-wolf (or whatever creature works for you) on paths to protecting the planet and good health, with a dash of science. Thank you for coming along with me.

Photos by Dianne Glave

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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.

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.

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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

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Think of the following as pages torn from my journal . . .

It was a busy week. It ran from sharing about Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage to watching a grasshopper to seeing the Braves and the Rockies play at Turner Field.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010: For the first time, I shared at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University about Rooted in the Earth out in August 2010. I focused on African Americans, religion, and the environment, reading the introduction to my religion chapter as part of a Creation Care panel. I shared my “Owl” and “Boy Scouts” blogs on a screen in a smart room. Oh technology! And I closed out by sharing about Outdoor Afro and Keeping it Wild, a blog and organization, respectively, that have been sources of emotional and spiritual support through their work and service. I was grateful three friends–Norman, Jennifer, and Melissa–came out to support me.

Saturday, April 17: Onto the grasshopper–at least I think it was a grasshopper. I was waiting in a parking lot for Toni and Arlinda to arrive to go premium outlet shopping. I saw a lady walk by and she stumbled. The grasshopper–I’ll call him Fred–was big enough for her to feel under her feet as she let out a yelp. As she walked away, I took a closer look at the insect–brown with some green stripes. I kept hoping Fred would hop off. I think he was injured. Or maybe the chilly morning slowed him down.

And then my macabre side came out. There were several small birds hopping about and I thought one would grasp Fred in its beak. I watched for about 20 minutes. Perhaps this didn’t happen because of the grasshopper was almost the length of one of the birds. Pretty big. When my friends came I had to drive away not knowing the fate of the grasshopper: Did he hop away? Was he snatched up by a bird? Did he simply die to become a husk in a few days?

Sunday, April 17: My second time out with the book at Cascade United Methodist Church.

I really enjoyed meeting people and talking to them at Meet the Authors. And Ruth who had her own book and table, pulled people over to my table. Thanks Ruth! I also made friends with Jahbaar, a little boy. His mom had a table too and he was there to help her.

I capped my Sunday off with an afternoon at Turner Field watching the Braves and Rockies. Can you beat weather in the 70’s, sunshine, and Astro Turf on Family Day at the ballpark? Look at that little guy surrounded by the umpires!

It’s been a great week . . . a busy week.

Keeping it Wild’s April 2010 Earth Day Summit

Come out for an Earth Day Summit on Wednesday April 21, 2010 at 6:30p at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia. The event is sponsored by Keeping it Wild and Agnes Scott College.  

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Frank Peterman, Laura Seydel, Felicia Davis (Moderator at the Summit) - KIW @ EcoManor

 Learn more at: KIW Earth Day.  

Keeping it Wild has served the community in Georgia since 2005. It was launched “by several Atlanta citizen-advocates who perceived the need to bring together members of diverse conservation communities in order to promote better stewardship for the natural lands in our area.” (keepingitwild.org) Ther goal is to connect “people to the land and to each other in order to protect and restore the natural and wildlands of Georgia and the Southeast.” (keepingitwild.org)   

Check out Audrey Peterman in red and KIW’s service with the community in the outdoors:  

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KIW has been good to me over the years. It’s been a great experience participating in their outdoor outings. When I first moved to Atlanta back in 2005, they were one of the first organizations I connected with in the area. I didn’t know many people but still wanted to get out hiking while feeling safe with a good group of people. I have gone to Sweetwater Creek State Park and Cascade Springs Nature Preserve with them and enjoyed every minute of my time on the hikes.

 On behalf of KIW, I invite you to their Earth Day Summit and their outings! 

  

Hiking: Not That Complicated

I have been hiking on easy to moderate trails for about twenty years now. I started hiking in the Atlanta area by myself until my mother and brother made me promise to stop going out alone. I’ve hiked in Malibu, California, Washington, D.C., and Upstate New York.

If you plan to stick to easy trails, well any trails, find a friend to go along with you. There are also organizations like the Sierra Club that do hiking outings. They even organize nature trips for youth. I get email updates from Keeping it Wild, a multicultural environmental non-profit for outings and an alternative to the larger mainstream organizations. You get to hike in a group and meet new people! I’ve gone on several hikes including Sweetwater Creek and Cascade Park in the Atlanta Metro area.

To hike on easy trails all you will need are:

  • Sturdy comfortable sneakers or hiking shoes/boots
  • A knapsack
  • Water
  • Nutritious snacks
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Repellent
  • Cell Phone

Also consider bringing (optional):

  • A Camera – for the memories
  • Binoculars – closeups on birds, animals and plants
  • Hiking pole – more for moderate to difficult hikes
  • Rain resistant jacket or poncho – a sudden storm can catch you unawares
  • A little first aid kit – if someone suffers a minor injury
  • A whistle – if you get lost
  • Toilet paper – sometimes you find empty rolls in park bathrooms!

For cold days consider: a cap, gloves, and wool socks. I’m looking to purchasing some of this items in material that wicks perspiration.

I like REI when shopping for some items. The staff is kind to someone like me who often walks in with newbie duh questions!

Please do stretch before and after hiking to avoid and diminish injuries to the muscles.

ENJOY YOUR FIRST/NEXT HIKE!

Black and Birdwatching

That's Me in the Blue and Black Jacket With Students , Louisiana Coast Marshland, March 2005

I once birdwatched. In 2004, when I lived in New Orleans, I saw so many waterfowl in the springtime. One day, I spotted a bird with white feathers, yellow toes, and a black beak at Audubon Park in uptown New Orleans. A small part of the park, had a bit of marsh filled with birds, if I remember correctly. The Mississippi River wasn’t too far away either–probably less than a mile–another draw for birds. So it made sense that I spotted this waterfowl uptown. So ok, the bird had me intrigued: it was pretty.

I quickly ordered a laminated chart of southeastern birds and a bird guide. I learned that it was a Snowy Egret!

Snowy Egret

I kept the guides in my car so when I saw a bird that caught my eye while driving around southern Louisiana, I could identify it. Who knows where my guides ended up when I moved from New Orleans to Atlanta. I tried rooting around some closets to find them. No luck.

I had completely forgotten about my brief interest in birds until I picked up John C. Robinson’s  Birding for Everyone: Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers. Although the book is for everyone, Robinson does focus on African Americans. Many people often ask why African Americans do not enjoy the great outdoors, why they don’t embrace nature. Robinson gets more specific detailing why people of color, including African Americans, are not birders or birdwatchers.

He offers several reasons:

  1. Rejection of black culture: If blacks appreciate the outdoors, what is perceived as a white activity, then they are rejecting their own people and values (Robinson, 47)
  2. Lack of participation: If blacks do not see other blacks at birding clubs or organization, they generally won’t join (Robinson, 47)
  3. High cost: If blacks spend money on equipment like binoculars and hiking gear then who will buy the baby’s shoes and pay junior’s school fees? (Robinson, 51)
  4. Limitation of time: Blacks have little time for leisure activities because they are hustling to cover basic expenses like the electric bill  (Robinson, 52)
  5. Company and training: They cannot find company to go birding, nor is there anyone to teach them this outdoor activity (Robinson, 52)

Robinson also alludes to fear of wild places. And I would add a form of racism on the trail when whites stare at blacks who actually make it outside is a deterrent. And perhaps some would say birds were meant for plucking, cooking, and eating not watching.

Photo from early 1900s.

I say give it a try. Hey, I identified a Snowy Egret all on my own steam.