University of Minnesota
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U of M conference to engage community in issues of black environmental justice, agriculture

September 13, 2012

The shortage of African Americans pursuing agriculture and outdoor interests and issues of environmental justice in areas with heavy black populations will be the focus of the three-day, national Black Environmental Thought II conference, held Sept. 21-23 at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.

The Department of African American & African Studies at the U of M, along with community partner AfroEco, will host the conference to address environmental justice and agricultural practice of communities throughout the world that are descended from the historic movement of peoples from Africa, often referred to as the African diaspora. The conference will gather academics, farmers, activists, artists, community gardeners, environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts.

A major long-term goal of this conference is to establish the foundation of knowledge around agricultural and environmental practice of the African diaspora, on which to build future academic research and community practice.

“Not only do we want to create a record of academic knowledge on these topics, we want to work toward the elimination of injustices that have led to, for example, the location of landfills near communities of color, or increasing opportunities for young people to experience the outdoors,” says U of M professor Rose Brewer, a conference organizer.

Some presenters will also talk about the reclamation by African Americans of urban agriculture and the rise of the ecojustice movement.  

In addition to a variety of academic discussions, conference participants will have multiple opportunities to engage with the Twin Cities community via bike, bus and walking tours, art exhibits, community service, and many other activities.

Many public events are free to the general public, however, pre-registration for the conference is required. Community members qualify for a reduced fee of $50. Online registration is open at

A complete schedule can be found at

University of Minnesota professors are available to talk about the conference and the issues it will raise:

Rose Brewer can talk about the goals of the conference and the purpose of creating a new knowledge base about the environment and the African diaspora.

David Pellow is an expert on environmental justice and race. He is the author of "Garbage Wars," which shows that landfills and waste facilities are disproportionately located near communities of color.

Zenzele Isoke is an expert on African American politics and urban studies, and can speak about the relationship between art and community building.

Public Event Highlights
Friday, September 21, 10:00 a.m.
Bernice Reagon
Black Environmental Thinking... “Intentional ‘Living and Dying’ Today to Create Tomorrow”
Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
301 19th Ave. S., University of Minnesota west bank

Friday, September 21, 5:00 p.m.
Bernice Reagon
Public conversation
Camphor United Methodist Church
585 Fuller Avenue, St. Paul

Saturday, September 22, 2:30 p.m.
Environmental History of North Minneapolis
This bicycle tour through the watershed of Bassett Creek will highlight the role that water has played in the development of North Minneapolis in particular and the African American community in general. The ride is 12 miles and 3 hours long, and will be led by artist and environmental activist Seitu Jones. Bikes provided by Nice Ride Minnesota.
Meet at University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach Center
2001 Plymouth Ave. N., Minneapolis

Urban Environmental Appreciation and Identification Hike
Participants will identify 50 summer and autumn plants for healing and for food from the Dakota tradition. Hike through an urban wilderness as we explore Glenwood Lake and Eloise Butler Nature Sanctuary with an African American artist and naturalist. Participants will learn how to
make a portable herbarium. Hike will be 3 miles long. Led by Kush Bey, first Black artist/naturalist for Hennepin County Parks.
Meet at University of Minnesota Urban Research and Outreach Center
2001 Plymouth Ave. N., Minneapolis
Limited to 10 participants.  $10/person

Sunday, September 23, 9:30 a.m.
Louis Alemayehu and Ancestor Energy
Environmental justice activist and poet performs with poetry/jazz ensemble in a celebration of John Coltrane’s birthday.
Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
301 19th Ave. S., University of Minnesota West Bank

Twin Cities Campus: