In this edition of Entrepreneurial Appetite's Black Book Discussions, we highlight Black environmentalists with a conversation between Dr. Carolyn Finney, author of Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, and Alex Bailey, founder of Black Outside.
About the author:
Dr. Finney is a storyteller, author, and cultural geographer who is deeply interested in issues related to identity, difference, creativity, and resilience. The aim of her work is to develop greater cultural competency within environmental organizations and institutions, challenge media outlets on their representation of difference, and increase awareness of how privilege shapes who gets to speak to environmental issues and determine policy and action.
About the facilitator:
Alex's love for the outdoors started as a summer camp counselor. After spending three summers working at one of the premier summer overnight camps for boys in the country, he witnessed the transformative power of the outdoors. Alex soon joined Teach for America and served as a classroom teacher for four years and later became an instructional coach with Teach for America San Antonio. Throughout his experience in both the classroom and as an instructional coach, he witnessed the inequity in outdoor programming for Black youth in the city of San Antonio.
In 2018-2019, he embarked on a journey to observe and shadow 10+ summer camps across the country to better understand the impact outdoor programming has on youth in order to build a culturally relevant program in the city of San Antonio. In January 2019, Alex, alongside a community of passionate education advocates, founded Black Outside, Inc with a passion for expanding outdoor opportunities to more Black youth across central Texas.
About the Book:
Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans. Bridging the fields of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the "great outdoors" and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces.
Drawing on a variety of sources from film, literature, and popular culture, and analyzing different historical moments, including the establishment of the Wilderness Act in 1964 and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Finney reveals the perceived and real ways in which nature and the environment are racialized in America. Looking toward the future, she also highlights the work of African Americans who are opening doors to greater participation in environmental and conservation concerns.