Racism Stings, but we must NOT be Deterred

all powerWhile our ancestors marched, were lynched and imprisoned, they prayed for you because YOU were their hope for a better future. Our ancestors now await YOU to be their prayers answered. Don’t let them down. Don’t let us down.
I’m tired of seeing our black leaders curled up in the corner saying they’re tired. YOU DON’T GET TO BE TIRED; we have work to do. Let’s lick our wounds and get at it.

I felt the need to write this after seeing some of our leaders take to the news and various other outlets, to express how hurt and lost they feel. That is not the message we need to see and hear. Be hurt and shed your tears privately. What we need to see publicly is leadership, people willing to call bullshit on bullshit. We need leaders who are not afraid to put their political careers on the line, leaders who know we are looking to them for guidance, and are prepared to step up and lead. Don’t come around after things have calmed down and preach about how proud you are of your allies, who stood while you sat.

Our ancestors fought and died so that we can have the freedoms we have today. Shit ain’t perfect, I know. But our ancestors were born into slavery, and we have more than they had. We have a foundation to build upon – a foundation created by those who came before us.

We are acting surprised at what’s taking place in this country. WHY? This insanity didn’t start this month, this year, or this century. This insanity has been in place since forever. The methods may be different, but the tactics are the same. We’ve seen these acts before. Why are we acting as if hate groups are new or that a racist president is new?

The history of evilness in this country repeats itself because it has worked at its fear tactics and political sabotage from the beginning. The only thing that changes are the names; the faces remain the same. The avenues in place for us to pursue justice are the same. The polices in place that prevent justice are the same. The system is broken. We must fight for a better system.

President Obama was never in a position to lead alone; he always said that WE are in this together, that our collective voices will bring about change. Now stand up, be that body of change. Do not let fear bind our hands and silence our voices. We have too much to lose.

Every individual who is angered by the images of hate since Trump has taken office – stand up. Every company, organization, agency that gives a damn about justice in this country – stand up. Every institution of higher learning, this is your opportunity to lead, not just in the classroom, but out in public where your leadership is needed.

And for every Hollywood face and political pundit that has talked about how badly change is needed, don’t be silent now. This is not the time for you to retreat and be without a voice. Stop crying and ACT UP.

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Defend Our Monuments Day of Action

My Project 6-001What will you DO to defend our national monuments currently under attack by the Trump administration, under the Presidents Executive Order ? As for me, I’m calling for a day of action in support of our sacred places. It takes more than an online campaign, more than writing Op-Eds and more than sending messages to your congressmen and women, it takes physical action. So on June 3rd I’m asking people across the country to get out in to a national monument as a show of support for not just the Monuments under Review , but in support of all our national treasures.

Please note that while the EO says that the review will only cover sites 100K acres or larger, there is this clause that immediately follows: “…or where the Secretary determines that the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders…” That phrasing leaves the door open on every monument since 1996.

This day of action is not a protest nor a rally, but simply a way for the American people to send a clear message to the administration…rescinding any of our monuments will not happen without a fight from us all.

As a country, we cannot sit idly by and allow these proposed actions to take effect. We stand to lose much in the way of protected public spaces, spaces that took years to acquire. It took even longer to document the history of these areas and to prove their importance. It is no secret that this country has a record of denying history, and this attack on our monuments is no different. Most of the monuments on the list for review tell a story from the perspective of Native Americans, African Americans, and Latino Americans. They document the history of civil rights and civil unrest in this country, and to do away with any of them would be a slap in the face of all of who came before us. Too many fought for too long to ensure environmental protections, civil rights, and historical facts were preserved; we cannot give up now.

It will not be on my watch that these places are taken away without a fight through the courts, through civil protest or various other tactics. We must resist the current sitting president and administration, who wish to see these ancestral lands sold off to the highest bidders. The damage the president is proposing by undoing the protections currently in place for these designated monuments would be permanent and devastating. Time is not on our side.

So join me, the Next100 Coalition and various other community organizers and individuals as we venture out to national monuments to learn the history these places hold and to stand united in saying, no, not this time. And not ever.

Hands Off our National Monuments

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Photo by: Teresa Baker

I’ve often wondered what would push me to the point where I was wholly dedicated to the protection of our public lands. I reached that level today.

Today, a sitting president announced that the Secretary of the Interior is to reconsider the protection of monuments that were set aside under previous presidents. Most of the monuments speak to the cultural heritage in this country. Bears Ears National Monument, Native American sacred ground, was controversial and its designation was celebrated throughout the conservation community.

The annual Outdoor Retailer show abandoned the state of Utah because the governor refused to stand against the call to do away with the monument. Also on the list are the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers Monument and the Pullman National Monument, both of which are very important to me personally because of the work I do to engage a more diverse audience in the outdoors.

As a country, we cannot sit idly by and allow these proposed actions to take effect. We stand to lose much in the way of protected public spaces, spaces that took years to acquire. It took even longer to document the history of these areas and to prove their importance. It is no secret that this country has a record of denying history, and this attack on our monuments is no different.

Most of the monuments on the list for review tell a story from the perspective of Native Americans, African Americans, and Latino Americans. They document the history of civil rights and civil unrest in this country, and to do away with any of them would be a slap in the face of all of who came before us. Too many fought for too long to ensure environmental protections, civil rights, and historical facts were preserved; we cannot give up now.

It will not be on my watch that these places are taken away without a fight through the courts, through protest or various other tactics. We must resist the current sitting president and administration, who wish to see these ancestral lands sold off to the highest bidders. The damage the president is proposing by undoing the protections currently in place for these designated monuments would be permanent and devastating. Time is not on our side.

Man continues to be the greatest threat to the environment. We build without borders, we drill without sanctions, we act without care for the land around us. This is not sustainable for future generations. As a member of the Next 100 Coalition , I will do my part to persuade all acting interests to do the right thing and combine our efforts with others to stand up to this action by the president and say no, not this time. And not ever.

Ken Brower: the environmentalist talks diversity in outdoor spaces.

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Ken Brower at Point Reyes

I didn’t know much about Ken Brower until a recent connection made possible by Robert Hanna, great great grandson of John Muir. I did know that he is an environmentalist, that he has written several books on the environment(my current read)Hetch Hetchy:Undoing a Great American Mistake ,and he is the the eldest son of prominent environmentalist David Brower. That was it. And then I met him. We communicated first through emails, then by phone, and then, and most importantly, in person.

We met at Point Reyes and walked along one of the local trails. We talked about my work, his work, his life, and his thoughts. We also talked about his father and his environmental efforts. Then we talked about the subject which led to our meeting: diversity and inclusion in the outdoors

What I got from our meeting was more than I was prepared for. I’d always thought of the “environmentalist” type as being overbearing, strong in their convictions, and unwavering; he was not at all like that. He was very open to hearing my thoughts, he listened, and he didn’t try to force his opinion on me. As a matter of fact, I don’t recall there being a single point that he was adamant about.

I really wanted to get his take on matters of diversity and inclusion in the outdoors and within environmental agencies, which is what we spent the majority of our time together discussing. He allowed me the opportunity to pose a few questions…Here are his thoughts.

How do you feel lack of diversity in the outdoor arena, effects overall efforts to protect the environment?

We need people of all types and persuasions in the movement to protect the environment.  Right now, we’re losing the battle; we need all the troops we can get.  People of color should be at the forefront, as they are always the first to suffer from environmental degradation.  Their voices–the voices of experience–are crucial.  As European-Americans become an ever-smaller minority in America, the importance of diversity in the environmental movement grows in inverse proportion.  Because that’s where the numbers will increasingly be.

But my main regret about the lack of diversity outdoors has less to do with efforts to protect the environment than with simple equity.  The natural world is fundamental to all of us; it’s a fundamental right.  Our species evolved as hunter-gatherers in the wilderness of Mother Africa. Wild nature is where we humans come from; it’s where all our instincts and behaviors formed.  Long before the invention of agriculture, we had evolved into just who we are today.  We were shaped in nature.

If you are Hmong American, or Guatemalan American, or African American before the Great Migration, then your people had a very close and very recent connection with nature. If today, in cities, you are unable to find your way out into nature, then you are cut off from your roots.  You are separated from roots deeper than any of those tribal or ethnic markers that we tend to identify as our identities.  You are cut off from a more essential identity.

What is the greatest barrier for conventional outdoor organizations, in reaching audiences of color? ( lack of concern, lack of know how)

I feel strongly that every time we ask this question, we also must turn it around: What is the greatest barrier to people of color in reaching outdoor organizations?  It’s a two-way street.  It does no good for outdoors organizations to reach out to people of color if people of color are not interested.  There is much talk of minorities being excluded from organizations fighting for nature.  I don’t see it.  Once it was true, surely, but no longer.  I have worked with, and for, several environmental organizations, and all are deeply troubled by the lack of diversity in the movement.  All of them understand that diversity is going to be vital if their work is to succeed.

I am a white man who married African American women. (Two of them!  But serially–not at the same time!)  My children came out dark.  Forty-something years ago, I ran for the board of the S.F. Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club on the principle that we needed more diversity.  The Bay Chapter, almost entirely Caucasian, liked the diversification idea. They elected me!  My problem was in recruiting people of color.  I struck out even with my in-laws.  There is no mystery as to why this was.  African Americans in the 1960s had other priorities.  My first wife, Marion, was secretary for the Black Veterans of Merritt College in Oakland, one of the student groups that morphed into the Black Panther Party. THAT is the sort of thing that was going on in those days. This was the time of Selma and voting rights institutional racism and police violence and German shepherds and water cannons.  A time not unlike today.  My guess is that the closer our society moves toward racial equity; the more time people of color will have for environmentalism.

What are your thoughts on the new administration soon to take office, regarding environmental efforts?

Donald Trump is an unprecedented threat to the republic, to American democracy, and an unprecedented effort will be required to stop him.  The best hope I see is to go to the example of Dr. King in civil rights and the other organizers of the protests against the Vietnam War (which ended the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.)  Great masses of citizens mobilized in the streets.  If any recent development is encouraging, it is what is happening at Standing Rock. There is tremendous power in gathering in a cause and standing firm.  If Trump, being the racist, misogynist, xenophobic, climate-change-denying, know-nothing warmonger and demagogue he is, can’t unite people of color, women, religious minorities, environmentalists, pacifists, and decent Americans of all other stripes, then it will never happen.

Mr. Brower’s final thoughts.

We need to unite. The environmental movement suffers from too much internal bickering.  Environmental justice advocates tend to grow impatient with the old guard of tree-huggers, and vice versa.  Foodie environmentalists often diss wilderness advocates.  Enthusiasts for urban parks and those for national parks tend to think that their own special interest is the true and correct path.  In fact, it’s all the same movement.  To succeed we need to advance full speed down all these paths.

Privilege, Perception & the Environment

IMG_5676Outdoor organizations, agencies, and retailers who care about the natural world cannot ignore the urgency now facing environmental protection. With the election behind us, the fight that lies ahead is unprecedented. We will have a sitting president who has made it clear that the environment is not on his agenda.

The progress we have made regarding clean air, water, and climate change will soon be tested. Our public lands may be offered to the highest bidders. We must step up our collective efforts and fight harder than ever to guard what we claim as sacred. We need more faces in this battle, faces of color who for the most part have been absent from your advertisements, in your board rooms, and on your staffs. We will all be impacted positively or negatively based on your actions or inaction’s.

While we all inhabit this planet equally, there is a void in your organizations, brands, and agencies. This must change and it must change now. What is at stake if we continue to wait for the “right time” is an attack on the planet that will not be reversible.

Diversity and inclusion must be on your agenda. There must be budget line items for the work and Diversity and inclusion training must be part of your overall staff training. Equal representation in advertising sends a message, that people of color represent the outdoor world and your brand.

You might think that you have the privilege to wait it out, but that privilege is not extended to our planet. As a matter of fact, it suffers from your acts of privilege. The planet cannot wait until it’s financially beneficial to you to act. It needs for you to act now, to try new concepts, take risks, make mistakes, lose public support, celebrate occasional victories, and still be brave enough to do what’s right.

I don’t have all the answers, but what I know without a doubt is that come January 2017, we need to be in the thick of change, just like the man taking office will be. We must be prepared to bring new soldiers into this fight for environmental protection. Those new soldiers (people of color) have been sitting at the door, waiting your acceptance, your invitation to join your boards, organizations, and staffs. Are you prepared to welcome them in or will you continue to fear what those around you will say if you’re among the first to take up the fight?
1493361_10202810260993578_37607114_oAccording to the results of the recent election, there are now 59 million people across this country that I must add to my list of people to convince that the environment is worth fighting for, that diversity and inclusion is worth fighting for. Will you stand with me in this fight, or will you stand with that 59 million and watch our planet die?

Open Letter to the National Park Service. Thank you.

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Photo by: Teresa Baker

Thank you for your 100-year commitment to the service of our amazing national park sites. I know that it isn’t easy to manage such beauty, but through shortfalls in budgets and cuts in personnel, you’ve managed to maintain the majesty of our wild places, the truth of our historic and cultural sites, the freedom of our recreation areas, and the memories held by our battlefields, museums, cemeteries and heritage sites. You’ve protected national river- ways, seashores, and lakeshores, managing them for all of us to enjoy. Over 400 special places are now under your care, and all are better for it.

You are held to higher standards than we place on ourselves as stewards of these great spaces, yet you continue to keep the beauty of what we’ve come to expect, a priority in your daily management of America’s wild spaces. Thank you for that.

When I stand in the valley of Yosemite, I see your efforts. When I walk through a grove of Redwoods, I see your commitment to these majestic giants. When I float down the grandest of rivers, I see your efforts. It can’t be easy to keep America’s greatest landscapes standing at the ready for all their visitors, but you do it, year after year, and your efforts are appreciated.

Yes, there are issues you face as an agency that at times overshadow the great work you do in keeping America’s parks beautiful, but over time, with renewed commitment, I know that you will work through those issues and continue to stand as a symbol of pride in workplace and work stations.

So as we move into the next 100 years of the National Park Service, let us all embrace our responsibilities to these lands and to one another and work even harder to provide funding and proper resources to keep America’s wild spaces shining bright for generations to come.

Nature’s Grace

Bay Area Hikers Celebrate the “100th” in Yosemite.

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Our group shot from the day.

On August 27, just a couple of days after the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, I traveled to Yosemite with over 150 bay area hikers, diverse members of our community. There were black and brown faces galore, and what a beautiful array it was!

The day had been in the making for some time. When Stan Miles, one of the founders of the Bay Area hiking group, Hike Every Available Trail (HEAT), reached out to me about doing a hike in Yosemite, I thought it would be amazing. Having followed the activities of this group for a while now, I saw the number of people that participated and thought that it would be wonderful to recreate one of their hikes in Yosemite. Then I found out another Bay Area hiking group, We Are Family Wellness, would be going, and knew that it would be epic. So began the campaign “Hike for the 100th,” in honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. I put a call out via social media and invited hikers from across the country to participate in a hike honoring the 100th anniversary of the park service.

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Photo by Katrece Avery

Our day began by hopping on buses at a local BART station. There were two busloads from this location alone, followed by carloads of folks that we met in Yosemite. The final numbers are not in, but we know that there were at least 180 of us. It was diversity at its finest. As we made our way to Yosemite, there was a lot of laughter and conversations about how excited many of the people were to be going to Yosemite for the first time. Folks were ready to make it to the park and get their hike on!

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We arrived in the park around 11:00 am, after departing the Bay Area around 6:00 am. As we stepped off the buses, stretching from the long haul, you could feel the excitement.  We were met by Ranger John Jackson of the National Park Service. The staff at Yosemite had reached out to me earlier in the week to ask if we needed anything. They were notified of our visit by the DC office. I asked if they could provide a ranger just to greet us and give us a short introduction to the park, as this would have been the first visit for many along on the trip.

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Photo by: Kie Dawson

Ranger John mingled among the crowd and waited with us while we boarded the park shuttle to head over to the Mist Trail. It took three shuttles before we were all able to crowd our way on to the already packed shuttles. Eventually we made our way to the trailhead where we met up with the other group from the Bay Area. We greeted one another and gathered for our group photo. There were so many of us that we had to rearrange ourselves several times to get everyone in the photo. After the group photo, folks headed off to the trail, excitement still in their eyes.

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Photo by: Katrece Avery

Having a group this size is truly a feat to manage, but the leaders of these hiking groups, Stan, Stayce, Sharlene, Katrece, Kevin Nichols and Kevin Benson, did an amazing job of pulling us all together.  It was also great to have the National Park Service reach out to us to ask if they could help.

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This was an amazing trip in so many ways, but for me seeing such a huge representation of diversity in the park at one time was overwhelming. The park service cannot do the work of inclusion alone; it will take grassroots efforts such as this one to help. So the next time YOU ask what is the park service doing to bring more diversity to our parks, also ask the same of yourself.

Thank you HEAT (Hiking Every Available Trail) and WAFW (We Are Family Wellness.)