by Bashira Muhammad & Alyssa Leavy | Zoom Out Mycology
According to Daryl Michael Scott, Professor of History at Howard University and Vice President of Program for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Black History Month grew our of Carter G. Woodson's belief that publishing scientific history would transform race relations by dispelling the wide-spread falsehoods about the achievements of Africans and peoples of African descent. Woodson wanted to popularize the findings that were published in his scientific journal, "The Journal of Negro History". He teamed up with Black civic organizations and his fraternity brothers, in Omega Psi Phi, to make the information more widespread than ever and they achieved that goal. With Black people migrating North and West in the United States, demand for Black History in bigger and more progressive cities and the schools increased. In 2018, Zoom Out Mycology, a Black owned company, is keeping up with that tradition of popularizing the history and scientific achievements made by Black people as a whole because they've impacted and inspired us in so many ways. But remember, Woodson wanted Negro History Week to be a culmination of what was learned all year. We post articles related to the progression and sustainability of the Black community year-round in our Environmental Justice Column! Check it out here.
Have you read the precursor to this post? Read Part 1 here.
10. Ibrahim Abdul-Matin helped found the Brooklyn Academy for Science and the Environment. He has served as the sustainability policy advisor to Mayor Bloomberg and as the Director of Community Affairs at the NYC DEP. Mr. Abdul-Matin wrote “Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet”, which explores how faith and environmentalism intersect. He has worked with Green for All, Green City Force, Interfaith Leaders for Environmental Justice, the NYC Mayor's Office of Long Term Planning & Sustainability and the International Living Future Institute.
Fun Fact: He is a former instructor for Outward Bound, a global program that brings inner city students out to the wilderness, teaching leadership, resilience and communication.
11. Denzel Thompson co-founded Philadelphia Urban Creators (PUC) at 16 years old to transform abandoned city lots into urban farms, bringing fresh produce to North Philly. Last summer PUC hosted Hood Stock, which featured a farmer’s market, community clean-up, art and performances by local artists. Thompson was named one of The Root’s 2014 Young Futurists and has helped build food security in the inner city.
Fun Fact: Denzel was a TeenNick HALO (Helping And Leading Others) award honoree in 2013.
12. Nikki Silvestri co-founded Live Real, is a former Executive Director of People's Grocery and Green for All and currently sits on the board of directors of the Business Alliance of Local Living Economies (BALLE). Nikki places a strong focus on social equity for underrepresented populations and fights for change in food systems, social services, public health, climate solutions, and sustainability. Her current venture is as founder and CEO of Soil and Shadow, a project development firm. Silvestri views soil as the greatest tool for building community, resilience, social equity and ecological restoration; something we’re definitely on board with here at Zoom Out Mycology!
Fun Fact: Nikki’s many honors include being named one of The Root's 100 Most Influential African Americans. She has been featured on BET.com, the Huffington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, All In with Chris Hayes and the Melissa Harris Perry Show.
13. Tanya Fields founded the BLK ProjeK in 2009 to help women fight inequality and the poverty cycles that make it tough to support a family. Tanya started her journey with environmental organizations in the South Bronx like Mothers on the Move, Sustainable South Bronx and the Majora Carter Group. She now stars in Mama Tanya’s Kitchen, teaching subscribers to cook delicious, affordable meals.
Fun Fact: Fields has received the "Women Stop Hunger Award" from Stop Hunger in Paris, France and the Food Bank of NYC's "Can Do Award."
14. Norris McDonald is a legend among environmentalists and his impressive impact, scope and involvement spans over 40 years. Most notably, he is the founder and president of the African American Environmentalist Association, an organization that embodies his passion and focus. In his career Norris has advocated for environmental justice, pushed for green jobs programs in poor and minority communities, led visits to toxic waste sites, power plants, drinking-water plants, and sewage treatment facilities, to expose living conditions for poor communities of color. McDonald has served on various advisory committees in the public, private and non-profit sectors, showing his range and commitment to attacking environmental issues from all angles.
Fun Fact: He drafted the New York City Environmental Justice Bill 886 that was signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio last year.
15. George Washington Carver was born in 1864, the year before the abolition of slavery in the U.S. George learned to read and write at a young age and continued his schooling, attending college to obtain both his bachelors and masters in botany. Carver quickly put his degree to work, pushing the idea of crop rotation during a time when Southern sharecroppers, many of them former slaves, were struggling with barren cotton fields. This was a huge success, because Carver invented hundreds of products from peanuts (milk, plastics, paints, dyes, cosmetics, medicinal oils, soap, ink, wood stains) and sweet potatoes (molasses, postage stamp glue, flour, vinegar, synthetic rubber) that persuaded farmers to shift their focus from cotton.
Fun Fact: Carver was a professor of Tuskegee University and founded the Jesup Wagon, a mobile classroom that traveled to farmers.
16. Audrey and Frank Peterman are naturalists and fierce advocates for our National Parks, particularly for African Americans who don’t feel connected to them. The Petermans recognize the value of our parks in preserving nature’s beauty. They want black Americans to reap that benefit as tax-paying citizens and to be future advocates as a growing voter base. The Petermans operate Earthwise Productions and started the program “Keeping It Wild” to diversify parkland visitors.
Fun Fact: Audrey, Frank and Shelton Johnson were featured on a radio show called “The Promised Land” hosted by Majora Carter, our environmentalist of the day on Feb, 7th.
17. Shelton Johnson has been a park ranger for over 20 years and is currently Yosemite’s only permanent black ranger. Originally from Detriot, Shelton has always felt a strong connection with nature and loves sharing his joy with visitors. His passion is clear in his portrayal of fictional Buffalo Soldier, Elizy Boman, which teaches park goers about the original African American stewards of Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.
Fun Fact: Shelton is an avid flute player and keeps a few on hand at all times made of cedar, elderberry and ceramic clay.
18. Rev. Dr. Dianne Glave is a strong proponent for environmental justice and focuses on the health implications of climate change for impoverished and marginalized people. Dianne is a nature lover and author of Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Heritage, one of the 100 most read books about national parks. Glave has a Ph.D. in United States social history with an emphasis on African American and environmental history.
Fun Fact: She has taught at Morehouse College, Tulane University, and Loyola Marymount University.
19. MaVynee Betsch (January 13, 1935 - September 5, 2005) was the granddaughter of Abraham Lincoln Lewis, a millionaire from Jacksonville, FL, who founded American Beach on Amelia Island, FL. MaVynee, affectionately called the “Beach Lady,” dedicated her life to the preservation and protection of American Beach, a black-only community during the Jim Crow era. The Beach Lady gave away her entire savings, totalling over $750,000, to 60 environmental organizations.
Fun Fact: She was posthumously honored as an Unsung Hero of Compassion by the Dalai Lama.
About the Author
Alyssa Leavy graduated from Lehigh University's bioengineering program with a concentration in pharmaceuticals in 2012. Since then she has pursued her passion for renewable fuels at a biodiesel plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In her free time she enjoys gardening in her NYC apartment, acting as sous chef to her fiance, and speaking entirely in Simpsons quotes.
Zoom Out Mycology’s Environmental Awareness blog strives to explain and expose environmental topics and concerns to a wide audience. Our team consists of a diverse group of scientists, policy experts, and engineers that help describe the science behind environmental issues that you see in the news and experience in your daily life. We hope that this knowledge will help all of our readers embrace a healthy and sustainable lifestyle! If you are interested in being a guest contributor, please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org