I can recall the many emails that I received when the Congressional Black Caucus held sessions about the Gullah/Geechee that did not include me and the outrage that some folks felt due to that taking place. I can recall the many times folks that I worked with in DC thought I had arrived early to stay through a week when the CBC was to begin, but instead I was taking the journey to address some issues and going back down the Hill to the Lowcountry instead. All of that changed due to my work with Diverse Environmental Leaders National Speakers’ Bureau. The journey up the Hill continues and was not so tedious a climb this time.
As I reflected on how I had come to be at this place, I thought of meeting Frank and Audrey Peterman of Earthwise Productions some 20 years ago in San Francisco at the Mosaics Conference. (They are the visionaries behind DEL.) We all had come there due to our affiliations with Iantha Gantt-Wright who was making strides to diversify the United States National Park Service. To that end, a number of us that were people of African descent that engaged in the work taking place on public lands flew to the west coast to engage in several days of conference presentations and dialogues. The meetings that day culminated in relationships that have lasted for decades and has broadened the circle of people of color that are part of the public land work that is done by the United States government via several different agencies.
As time went on, I was asked to continue to make journeys on the east coast to various conferences and planning meetings and then to Capitol Hill to speak on behalf of projects related to the National Park Service. Along the way, I got to meet many different politicians and to work along side them on pertinent issues. One such person that left an indelible mark was Congressman Alcee Hastings.
Congressman Hastings has been a lawyer and a judge and has worked tirelessly on issues of equity. He and I were both shocked to see each other continuing this work on the other side of the world when we walked into the United Nations for the first Minority Forum and saw one another. What a reunion!
The embrace that I received from Congressman Hastings at the “Public Lands, Environment & Conservation: Peril & Opportunity for African Americans” session which he sponsored at the 2015 Congressional Black Caucus Conference was not unlike that which I received when he arrived at the “Gullah/Geechee Nation International Music & Movement Festival™” which he helped sponsor when it arrived in Fort Lauderdale.
Congressman Alcee Hastings welcomes the “Gullah/Geechee Nation International Music & Movement Festival™” (www.gullahgeechee.info) to his district in Florida. He and Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation have worked together on this event and several issues in DC and at the United Nations.
This embrace also brought me back to the embrace in Switzerland where we not only sat and provided input in this international arena, but where we also enjoyed a reception at the United States Embassy while we were there continuing the fight for equity, human rights, and justice.
They say that the “journey of 1000 miles begins with a step.” Well, sometimes it continues with a plane ride. These plane rides have allowed me to sit above many issues of inequality that seem wide spread on the ground below, but it is a blessing to land and walk up the Hill to be amongst those that are on the ground working to make positive changes and who are working to heal the land and the people by putting their energy into seeking opportunities to create places of equality. To add to this, I will continue to make journeys up the Hill from the Lowcountry of the Gullah/Geechee Nation. It was truly a blessing to be able do this and to bring a touch of Gullah/Geechee culture to the Congressional Black Caucus. May the embrace of Congressman Hastings and I be a symbol of how we can embrace one another in unity and equality! Tenki Tenki!