This event was one of the last things I wanted to make it to before leaving Florida, but unfortunately the cost to get to Tallahassee meant I had to miss it. However, I was in touch with one of the orgs involved and a dear friend in NY passed this Press Release on to me, so I wanted to share a summary of what the event covered and how it went!
Putting Black History Month in Perspective:
Farmers, Students, Public Officials and Environmental Activists Connected the Pieces and Make Connections at Historic Summit on the campus of Florida A&M University
Tallahassee, FL – Last weekend (February 18-19, 2011) was a historic occasion at Florida A&M University (FAMU) as a cross-section of environmentalists from various sectors including the government, academia, nonprofit sector and community convened on campus to attend the “Embracing Our Traditions of Partnership” Summit. The 2-day Summit sponsored by the Southeastern Green Network (SoGreen Network) connected a variety of people from a wide-range of fields in an effort to collectively frame an agenda that addresses sustainable agriculture and 1890 Land Grant institutions while re-connecting the resources of these universities for limited resource farmers – a majority of which are African-American.
“I was so touched to see so many gathering together on sustainability, and being black and green in Tallahassee, Florida…I was honored and privileged to share the stage with Dr. Owusu Bandele from Southern University. His talk was ‘Deep Roots in Agriculture: The Role of the 1890 Land Grant Institutions,’ filled with the history of African Americans and the land with references to Paul Cuffee and George Washington Carver. He even wove in musical references to Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ and Dinah Washington’s ‘This Bitter Earth,’” said Dr. Dianne D. Glave, author of Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage.
A milestone event which also took place during the Summit was the historic signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Florida A&M University (FAMU). Strategically scheduled to take place at SoGreen’s Summit, the MOU signing highlighted the following achievements:
Florida A&M University (FAMU) entered into two agreements with EPA focused on green initiatives.
The first agreement committed EPA and FAMU to cooperate in addressing environmental issues ranging from energy policy and sustainability to food security, health disparities, environmental justice and children’s health. FAMU is the fourteenth university to join the agency’s Collegiate Sustainability Initiative and, as part of the agreement, EPA will work with FAMU to help green the university’s campus and make students aware of internships and career opportunities in the environmental field.
The second agreement signed between FAMU, EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection designated the university as the first Center of Excellence for Watershed Management in Florida.
The energy, excitement and synergy of summit attendees resonated throughout the course of the 2-day Summit. With more than 150 attendees present, the Summit had the right mix of people to connect the pieces and make connections on issues pertaining to sustainable agriculture and local food access. “This was a great start,” said Cynthia Hayes, the Executive Director of the Southeastern Green Network (SoGreen Network) and the convener of the Summit. “We managed to pull together a number of experts who aren’t usually in the same room together and created a forum for them to meet and exchange ideas.”
The Summit’s power-packed agenda included a stirring presentation on the roots of agriculture in African American history by Dr. Owusu Bandele, a retired professor from Southern University; poignant keynote addresses by Shirley Sherrod, former USDA Rural Development Director and the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Executive Director the Hip Hop Caucus; and a hosts of informative workshops and panel discussions on everything from climate change, sustainability, collaboration-building, student organizing to co-op formations by groups like the National Wildlife Foundation, Green For All and the United Negro College Fund.
To view the full agenda for the Summit, visit http://www.sogreennetwork.org/guyc and click on the Agenda tab.
Evaluation responses from almost all Summit’s attendees expressed a desire for more time and community-based discussions around agricultural sustainability and food accessibility.
Summit attendees and presenters shared the following sentiments:
“The SoGreen Summit is a great example of the type of forums that must happen in this community to promote sustainability. I thank FAMU & the Southeastern Green Network, for their collaborative efforts that coincide with the sustainable goals of the City of Tallahassee.”
– John Marks, Mayor of the City of Tallahassee
“The SoGreen Network Summit raised awareness on the importance of promoting green energy, ensuring sustainable living and job creation in a changing economy.”
– Rep. Alan Williams, Florida State Representative District 8
“Of the many positive values served by the SoGreen conference at FAMU February 18 and 19, I believe one of the most important to be the establishment of a network of resources small and minority farmers can access to support their efforts to learn and make use of farming practices that will make their farms safe and environmentally sustainable for themselves and future generations. I especially applaud the organic certification sessions offered to participants.”
– Jewell A. Harper, US EPA, Region 4
“I came to the SoGreen Summit because of its theme “Embracing Our Traditions of Partnership.” I was accompanied to the Summit by four elementary school teachers from Dekalb Academy of Technology & Environment aka D.A.T.E. We not only found partners for our Urban Agriculture & Aquaponics Center, but we found new friends.”
– Dr. Michelle Thomas, G Food 4U, LLC
The SoGreen Network is a network of concerned environmentalists, agricultural specialists, community based organizations, 1890 Land Grant Schools, HBCUs (Historic Black Colleges and Universities) and green activists that are working together in the Southeast through education and training to bring about a sustainable living and green working environment. The mission of the SoGreen Network is to provide information and resources through education and training to agriculturist (farmers and landowners) urban and rural community-based organizations and consumers on the importance of “change to green” practices and how these practices can improve their environment.
For more information visit http://www.sogreennetwork.org