Exploring Ruins and Playing in Waterfalls

Outdoor Afros in Los Angeles explored local African American history and nature over the weekend – read on!

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Alisha Pye here, I’m the Outdoor Afro Leader for Los Angeles. This week we decided to celebrate Spring by hiking at Solstice Canyon in Malibu which is located in the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s a beautiful hike with flowers in full bloom, waterfalls to enjoy, valleys and canyons to climb and picnic areas. We started on the stairs and continued on a steady incline until we came to an area of ruins that we felt compelled to explore.
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If you look closely between the trees you’ll see the ruins of a burned out house. It’s now a historic park of the Santa Monica National Recreation Area. According to the story this house was built by a renowned African American Architect Paul R.Williams in 1952. The area is susceptible to many fires so Paul designed the home for his clients with a fire protection system that would protect the home against fire damage. The waterfall and pool were designed to pump water in case of fire as a protection to limit damage. Unfortunately after the owners death the pumping system wasn’t maintained and the home was damaged by fire in 1982.
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The backyard of the home was a beautiful waterfall that was breathtaking. We decided to stay and climb a little. We ended up staying for 45 minutes exploring, climbing and playing in the waterfall. At the very top was an outdoor fireplace the family used.
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The view was so amazing we decided to take our group picture there along the rocks. If you look at the picture you’ll notice we had a very diverse group ranging from an 11 year old to a grandfather with a cane who served as motivation for us to keep climbing.
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Getting to the top we were able to see exactly how far we’d come. It was a great sense of accomplishment to get out explore and enjoy the ruins of the Santa Monica National Area. We plan on doing more exploring in the coming months so join us in our adventures.
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And Let the Church Say Amen – To Nature

Just recently, I had the privilege of being invited to my Levias family church, St. Paul Church of God in Christ, to speak on the topic of community health. I was raised in the sanctified COGIC tradition, where I learned how and was encouraged to become a public speaker. That girl sure can talk, I would hear the saints say, and felt then a sense of pride in a skill that serves me well in my work today.

While my traditional church participation has fallen off considerably as an adult for many reasons; like most African Americans, I still consider the church an important, sacred space and source of support.
It felt great to share the work of Outdoor Afro as a native daughter of the community, but it was even more energizing to exchange ideas about how people can begin to re-activate their connections to the outdoors. We talked about memory – historic traditions from the South to easy things to do today in the city, such as noticing birds, or investigating local parks, and getting to know neighbors better. The reception of this discussion was warm, punctuated by many Amens!  that reinforced the fact that people are already engaged with the topic, and it led me to imagine what is possible if we deliberately included the church more in the quest to connect more people to nature in ways that mattered to them.

For many, the church is not only a place of worship, but also our town hall. There we receive the most relevant and discerning messages from the larger community. Thus, the church can be a key influencer of African American social structure and behavior.

In this work of connecting more people to nature, I find myself in many rooms, advisory meetings, and email threads with the discussion of relevancy of the outdoors for African Americans (and other less represented populations) in the center. How can we connect the outdoors to more audiences people ask. With 87% of African Americans who associate themselves with a church (Pew Center for Research), the church must play a key part in our planning and partnerships.

While some mainstream environmental organizations and programs shy away from the topic of religion, other non-profits are connecting the church to environmental concerns and nature as a part of congregational values and activities – and we can learn from their success. For example, Chicago’s Faith in Place, an important partner of Outdoor Afro, works across several denominations to inspire and support environmental education within the common value of stewardship. From their website:
Our mission is to help people of faith understand that issues of ecology and economy—of care for Creation—are at the forefront of social justice. At Faith in Place we believe in housing the homeless, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. But even if we do all those things, and love our brothers and sisters with our whole heart, it will not matter if we neglect the ecological conditions of our beautiful and fragile planet.
In Oakland, California, Memorial Tabernacle Church has built a ministry dedicated to organizing activities in the community through their Health and Garden Ministries. “We focus on improving several aspects of congregant life,” says Tiffany Grant (33), who leads this effort that includes church hikes, and a productive church vegetable garden.
Most in the outdoor related fields agree that a key way to connect more people to nature starts with being relevant to the intended communities. Therefore, we are remiss if we exclude the black church from the table of discussion to support connections to the natural environment that ultimately benefit us all.
Does your church have a ministry that connects members to nature? Do you need support to make this happen? Let us know in the comments below!

Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation Keynotes for "Keeping It Wild"


Queen Quet “Keeping It Wild” in Lithonia, GA!!!

Join Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and Founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition as she provides a keynote address for “Keeping It Wild” in Lithonia, GA September 22, 2012.

Queen Quet, Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation and Founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition

Queen Quet is the founder of the advocacy organization for the continuation of Gullah/Geechee culture, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition. She worked with the U. S. Congress, the United States National Park Service, and other organizations for the passage of the “Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act” which was signed into law by the President in 2006. She continues to work on protecting the environment and to insure that diverse groups of people engage in the outdoors and the policies governing them.

She was selected, elected, and installed by her people to be the first Queen Mother, “head pun de bodee,” and official spokesperson for the Gullah/Geechee Nation. As a result, she is respectfully referred to as “Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and Head-of-State.”

Saturday, September 22, 2012

 2 – 3 pm Reception

3:30 – 4:30 pm Lecture

4:30 – 5 pm Book Signing

Lithonia Women’s Club, 2568 Wiggins St., Lithonia, GA 30058

Parking : Wiggins Street and in parking lot on Main Street

For more information contact Erica Weaver at 770-634-2849

To read and download the flyer, simply click on the link below:

http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1y65j/QueenQuetChieftessof/resources/index.htm

Queen Quet, Chieftess and Head-of-State for the Gullah/Geechee Nation and Founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition.
Queen Quet is the founder of the advocacy organization for the continuation of Gullah/Geechee culture, the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition. She worked with the U. S. Congress, the United States National Park Service, and other organizations for the passage of the “Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Act” which was signed into law by the President in 2006. She continues to work on protecting the environment and to insure that diverse groups of people engage in the outdoors and the policies governing them.
She was selected, elected, and installed by her people to be the first Queen Mother, “head pun de bodee,” and official spokesperson for the Gullah/Geechee Nation. As a result, she is respectfully referred to as “Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation and Head-of-State.”
For more information contact Erica Weaver at 770-634-2849
To read and download the flyer, simply click on the link below:
http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1y65j/QueenQuetChieftessof/resources/index.htm
www.gullahgeecheenation.com

Avatar and Environmental Justice

In an interview yesterday with Dianne Glave author of Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage (August 2010), she shared some of her insights with me about the movie Avatar, and its connection to people of color and the environment.
So you finally  saw Avatar! What are some of your initial thoughts?
Many people were raving about Avatar, so I had to see it! And while director James Cameron is breaking his own record [over Titanic] with more than a billion dollars in gross sales, I was pleasantly surprised by something different: the emphasis on environmental justice on the fictional planet Pandora, and its native people, the Na’vi.
Tell us more about what the movie meant for you as an environmentalist.
Movies amplify and parallel societal concerns. Even though the recent film 2012 also told a story of environmental destruction, Avatar went further because it takes the movie-goer on a very personal journey, an intense love story between characters from literally different worlds:  Jake Sully and Neytiri.

Dianne Glave

Why do you think a love story was an important narrative device here?
Love and relationships are fundamental to the earth’s sustenance and survival. In the movie, the love of Jake and Neytiri empower them and their respective communities to effectively battle a hostile military presence.  Futuristic Earth is in trouble and needs Unobtainium, a mineral located under a sacred tree that contains the spiritual life of the Na’vi, whose worship and biological lives are literally connected to everything in their environment. For example, the Na’vi’s tails symbiotically fuse to plants and the creatures they ride as a symbol of empathy and interconnection to all living things.
Why is Avatar an important story now?
The conflict between the military and the Na’vi reflect modern day concerns regarding who controls and exploits natural resources here on earth—in countries like the United States, and in your own backyard. People who are marginalized, particularly people of color who face environmental racism, deserve environmental justice. This includes access to natural resources like water and land, along with recreation facilities like parks and accessible open space.  Here in the United States, no one should have to live near a toxic waste dump or around the bend from a nuclear plant. The same was true for the Na’vi, who battled to keep their planet pristine filled with wondrous trees and creatures, protecting it from becoming a strip mine for a mineral.
Anything else you want to add?
I will stop here although there is so much more about the movie I would love to share and how it related to current issues with people of color and the environment. And I certainly don’t want to ruin it with spoilers for those who have not seen Avatar in 3D! At the very least, I encourage everyone to see it for the spectacular visual effects and compelling love story. The environmental themes are a real bonus for those of us who are green.
~*~*~*~*~

Dianne D. Glave lives in Atlanta and teaches in the department of history at Morehouse College. She is the coeditor of To Love the Wind and the Rain: African Americans and Environmental History.

Available August 2010

The Outside is Inside

The Eames House, Southern California

The Eames House, Southern California

I spent the brief plane ride to Los Angeles last week drooling over a copy of Dwell, a forward looking magazine of modern design, and when I arrived at my friend’s  Hollywood bungalow, she pointed out that the house behind hers was the Freeman House, a Frank Lloyd Wright. So Mid-Century Modern design was a running theme of the weekend and triggered my imagination about the ways my future crib can embody a love for the outdoors.
What resonates with me about Wright is that he understood the interconnectedness of our lives with the spaces we occupy. He believed that dwellings should integrate seamlessly with the natural environment, rather than shriek away or dominate it. So his designs fly in the face of cloistered ideas of ownership and property lines, and blur the contractual boundary between “inside” and “outside” with floor to ceiling windows often appearing in his designs in lieu of walls.
Designers such as Ray and Charles Eames and developer Joseph Eichler tailored Wright’s design fundamentals for everyday people, and many others followed in his philosophy to inspire a new generation of design.
For me, a home that combines the charm of a child’s tree-house with grown-up necessity and sustainability like an Eichler (pictured below) equals bliss…
In what ways does your home reflect your passion for the outdoors?

 

Inside an Eichler House

Inside an Eichler House

 

Curbside View of an Eichler

Curbside View of an Eichler