It’s been a difficult couple of weeks, as we all know, with the racial tragedies that have taken place and the issues that have again surfaced. They weren’t far below the surface.

This has been a particularly difficult two weeks for me. I’m coming up on one wonderful year this month in leading The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC), and as many of you know, I’m an African-American male. Last Saturday morning, as things slowed down a little for me in my mind, my emotions got the best of me and brought me to my knees to shed my tears. I couldn’t believe what had happened, again, to George Floyd, right on top of the Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery heartbreaks, among our untold many “close encounters” for African-Americans, ongoing.

I do believe we are going to turn the corner on these racial issues, but it won’t happen overnight, and there isn’t just one corner to turn. There is hope, and there are a number of things we all can do, and it starts with each of us doing our part individually. We all understand what “systems” are and we will continue to hear about “systemic racism.” If you see, or are part of, a system where others are denied or not included in what you and others have, speak up, address it, find a way to challenge it and contribute to changing it.

Each of us can vote to put people in place that will make decisions on the behalf of all. Our individual vote is the same as “we’re only as strong as our weakest link,” and the weakest link is probably ourselves. In addition to our individual human and civil rights that everyone should have equally, let the force of change within yourself, and all of us collectively, be driven by the beauty and power of diversity. This is an ugly time, but when people from all walks of life come together, we realize how much we have in common. We become further connected by the differences we have when we celebrate and appreciate our diversity.

In my daily life, I am guided by the deep grounding that we are all connected by land. For those of us in the land trust, conservancy, wildlife, and environmental family–from colleagues to members, donors and volunteers– we have a path and resource to help our society and community turn this racial corner. Nature and Wildlife are my medicine, and maybe yours, and they don’t discriminate. Nature and Wildlife let us take our thoughts away from ourselves and the challenges we may be dealing with, for just enough time to get back out to humanity and its elements with a better mindset. Nature and Wildlife are intrinsically diverse and demonstrate every day the power of diversity, and I take comfort in the wisdom they show us each day, if we are willing to see them as those guiding lights.

There are not many that look like me in this Nature and Wildlife business, and not enough of our communities—of any socioeconomic level–experiencing these wonderful resources; but the foundation is being built. As to my part, during these past two difficult weeks, I’ve facilitated diversity training and partnership activities with the leadership and staff of our peer conservancies in New Jersey and Delaware, and continue to take strength from, and deepen, our diversity partnership with PA Audubon. These activities had been many months in the making, and I am grateful to the leaders of these organizations for seeing the need and opportunities to bring more diverse people into their organizations and to the powerful resources of Nature and Wildlife. I am continually heartened by our conservancies’ togetherness in this region in protecting our open spaces and educating others about the importance of protecting the lands of the planet we all share.

It’s still painful that I’m fighting in 2020 for what my mom and dad–an educator and a community dentist–fought for in the 1950’s and 1960’s–for the right to just be viewed as and feel “normal” in society. Thankfully, my Dad, who also fought in major combat in the Korean War, and had PTSD that surfaced in his 70s, could self-heal through his love of Nature and Wildlife—which he devotedly introduced my younger brother and I to. Let us also, together, help our communities and society through and past this time to see that we are part of, and need, Nature and Wildlife’s eco-system. Let Nature and Wildlife be key tools of change and respite for those who seek them, need them, can learn from them, and will ultimately value and protect them with us. We all breathe the same air.

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