|The First Lady Celebrates the National Park Service|
Can you really feel like you're in heaven without having died?
Because I feel like that today, as it is the first day in 20 years since since I met our national parks that I woke up to find not one but TWO First Ladies of America actively advocating the benefits of our national parks and inviting the American population to go out and enjoy the copious benefits they provide.
Watch First Lady Michelle Obama here and see if her enthusiasm reminds you of my mission lo these many years. This marks the launch of the National Park Services Centennial Campaign, Find Your Park, leading up to the actual anniversary August 25, 2016.
Find your park among mystical redwoods in California, the Hoh rainforest in Washington State, the Everglades swamp in Florida or the monuments on the Washington Mall. NPS photo.
I feel like I can almost detach and relax, but the work is not quite done, as I mention in this HuffPost blog written this week by Michael Sainato:
Strengthening Connections between African Americans & National Parks
"It makes sense for the Park Service to collaborate with these organizations, helping provide funding through grants from the NPF and from the president's proposed budget of $20 million to connect urban young people to the parks. If the only entities that NPS supports are large external groups such as SCA and Sierra Club, the community leadership remains stunted. As we know, things grow from the root up, not from the top down."
Contrast 1995 when our peers in Florida mostly gave Frank and me blank looks as we raved about the National Parks, to this message from a trusted and influential friend:
"It is great to see change in our time thanks to the awesome work that you Frank and others have put into advancing diversity. I'm starting to enjoy the feeling that the National Parks really belong to all of us and that we belong in our National Parks. We owe you & Frank a great debt of gratitude. We can share the good news."
"...and the little ones shall lead us..." the young boy in this picture coloring peacefully with his friend in Everglades National Park will be the third generation of park advocates in his family. She is descended from a family of park rangers.
I understand now what Civil Rights Leaders and others mean when they say, "We've come a long way and we still have much farther to go." I am encouraged that so many leaders across the country have taken up the mantle and are advancing the conversation, bringing a keen point of view as DEL Speaker Teresa Baker expressed here in her blog The Work of Diversity:
". . .Next is the issue of disturbing the status quo, which I feel is the largest of the problems we face. When anyone wanders into our camp, it raises eyebrows; it feels as if we are being trespassed upon. Why do we now have to share our space that has been reserved for us, since forever? This is what we must address, a sense of entitlement that so many agencies/organizations boast of, not openly of course, but in their actions or lack thereof."
Meanhwile members of the audience in Boston where DEL Speaker Carolyn Finney spoke last week tweeted, "she gave me goose bumps" and Dr Fnney reported:
"Feeling a kind of euphoria after speaking at The African Meeting House in Boston, the oldest black church edifice in the U.S. Standing at the pulpit where Fredierick Douglass himself has stood blew my mind - I am humbled and grateful to the fine folks at the Emerald Conservancy and the Museum of African American History for making it possible."
Simultaneously, the UC Berkley professor shared a petition being circulated by her peers and students seeking signatories in support of her tenure at the university. Dr. Finney's line of work being so community focused - she serves on the highest echelon National Parks Advisory Board and her book is being widely used in national parks around the country as a primer for diversity - that the university has declined her tenure, much to the dismay of her graduate students and community.
Thank you for sharing your experiences and images such as this Ngronogoro Crater National Park, James Mills!
On the other side of the world DEL Speaker James Mills is Adventuring in Tanzania and continues to strengthen connections between the natural world and the ancestral connections that African transplants in America have with nature.
On Capitol Hill last week the Board and National Council of the National Parks Conservation Association lobbied to get increased funding for our national parks that are desperately in need of money to fix roads and infrastructure.
Congressman Patrick Murphy (c) is as enthusiastic about national parks as we are and will be running for the seat currently held by climate-denying Senator Marco Rubio.
The Florida delegation of which I was part was warmly received in eight Congressional offices and personally by Senator Bill Nelson. We also asked Congress to safeguard the Antiquities Act which President Obama and many other President before him have used to create new units of the Park System. Many in the Republican leadership have taken aim at the Act which was used to create parks such as the Grand Canyon.
April 18 the NPCA will launch it's advocacy arm the Centennial Campaign, Find Your Voice, in South Florida and Los Angeles on the same day. Check this site for more details, and come out to celebrate with us! National Parks rock and they're finally getting their due - being touted from the highest pedestals as a way to connect the American population to our roots, as assets for our mental, physical and emotional health. From my point of view, there is no better way to make certain they thrive alongside our descendants as they support each other into perpetuity.
Yaay national parks! Find your park! Find your voice! Find yourself in history!