Innovators, motivators, change makers; black women. Throughout history African-American women have laid the foundation for action. Oftentimes kicking in doors and shattering glass ceilings, a Black woman’s nature has always been to create activism through action. Now, African American women are rediscovering their voices and using them to create a better legacy for the generation to come.
Through the cultivation of soil and crops, African-Americans have always been one with the earth. However, climate change and pollution are giving way to the detriment of the environment. Like many other areas, Black women are forging a new path for environmental activism and shift in mindset to help restore African-American notions and thoughts on the world around them.
Pashon Murray, CEO and President of Detroit Dirt, is pushing for environmental change and hoping to raise awareness around several environmental issues that directly impact the Black community. Through the organization, Murray is helping to bring awareness to food waste in the country.
“Detroit Dirt is a social, economical and environmental model that combats food waste,” says Murray. “The whole purpose of Detroit Dirt was socially, economically and environmentally to combat the issues around waste. We wanted to bring attention to the food waste epidemic. At the same time, we wanted to show the benefits of it being a resource and not being looked at as something we consume as human beings, but the fact that composting is important because of soil health.”
The significance of soil is often understated and lost. Misconceptions around environmental activism and how it impacts Black communities is a topic that is not often investigated or discussed. By shining a light on the subject, Murray is helping to impact her community through sustainable change that will assist the environment in both repairing itself and those who inhabit it.
“With climate change, this is such an important topic and why we need to act now. People don’t really look at soil as a direct impact with climate and they don’t look at composting in that way. When you bury food waste in a landfill or you burn it, you’re contributing to greenhouse gases,” says Murray. “Instead of mismanaging that material, you want to be able to compost it and put it back into the ground where it belongs. Or prevent from having food waste by feeding the homeless or those who are hungry.”
Starting at the root, Murray is looking to educate Black and brown youth on the importance of maintaining the Earth in developing a curriculum for students. Murray has also taken her voice to Capitol Hill to advocate for environmental health.
“I just was on Capitol Hill. There were four witnesses and I was one of the witnesses to talk to the U. S. Senate bipartisan legislation around infrastructure and part of what I shared with them about getting information to the masses. There is a multitude of ways that we have to be able to invest in education. One: K-12 schools. We definitely have to get more curriculum-based, project-based learning,” says Murray.
Furthering the investment into nature, Lisa Hillary Johnson’s holistic approach to life helps her guide other African Americans to be more conscious of their bodies and overall health through the Earth. Drawing energy from familial ancestors, Johnson breathes a new breath into the community through healing.
“That’s what my ancestors and my teachers taught me is that you have to heal. You heal in your community. For me, that’s the only way I know how to get out,” says Johnson, who is a healer, licensed massage therapist, and yogi.
Launching a Day Retreat, Johnson will focus on Black women and restoring feminine energies. The retreat will help serve more than a purpose of rediscovery, but with wholeness at the forefront, it will also help to create moments of peace.
“I want to teach everyone how to go back to their roots. What our great grandmothers, our grandmothers invested in us and taught us culturally,” says Johnson. “We feel like we’re so far away from it because grandmothers and great grandmothers are so different now, but they’re still in us,” says Johnson.
The traumas of the past for African Americans is something some believe is etched into their DNA. Passing down generations of hurt, Johnson hopes to break traumatic bonds with the past to help foster new relationships with the present and future.
“My goal is to get everything in my head out before I leave the planet. I’m still learning, but I’ve got 20 years worth of knowledge just on health,” says Johnson. “I don’t think I’m doing anything. I think I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I think if I don’t do this, my ancestors will haunt me. This is my place on the planet, my footprint, my blueprint on the planet.”
Black women are continually finding ways to bring about change for not only their direct community, but African Americans at large. Despite a history of pain and trauma, Black women are getting back to the basics and choosing progression over pain.
“Black women across the spectrum, we have stood up so much because we know what we need and no one is necessarily handing it to us. I think Black women in film, tv, healthcare, media, music; Black women are owning the game,” says Johnson.
Known as goddesses, Black women are wearing their crowns and ensuring the next generation of women will have a place to call home and rule their Queendom. From environment to healing, the work starts and ends with Black women.