Black2Nature & me

Black2Nature & me

I am President of an organisation called Black2Nature, which I set up when I was 14 years old and is Visible Minority Ethnic (VME) led.  We campaign for equal access to nature for all, especially VME communities who are currently excluded from the countryside. We run nature camps,  arrange nature activities, organise race equality in nature conferences and campaign to make the nature conservation and environmental sectors ethnically diverse.

If you are able to donate money to us or you are able to volunteer for the nature camps or helping behind the scenes please contact equalityinnature@gmail.com.

I have organised eight nature camps for inner-city mainly VME children and teenagers, getting them engaged in nature by making it relevant to them and having plenty of VME role models. The most popular sessions are those where the young people can get close up to wildlife like bird ringing, mothing and even bio blitzes. The young people are all individuals and so, as such, like different sessions. The camp for teenagers is called Camp Avalon and is 2 nights and takes place on the Somerset Levels near Glastonbury. The camp for primary age children is called Camp Chew and is for 1 night and takes place in Compton Martin in the Chew Valley. Other activities are birding, nature sketching, nature photography, making nest boxes, looking for Nightjar, bats, mammal traps and camera traps.

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig at Camp Avalon 2015
Photograph copyright young brder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig bird ringing & holding a Marsh Tit
Photograph copyright young brder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

We ensure the young people attending our camps come from a varied background including different VME backgrounds and religions, White British young people from areas of deprivation within the city as well as those from affluent backgrounds in the countryside where they have little contact with VME young people with strong customs faiths. It is really important for community cohesion for the young people to mix together and spend time with people they do not normally get time with, to break down barriers and reduce radicalisation on all sides.

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig at Camp Chew 2017
Photograph copyright young brder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig at Camp Chew 2017
Photograph copyright young brder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

After my first nature camp in 2015, I wrote to the CEO’s of the four biggest nature conservation NGO’s starting a conversation about the lack of diversity in their organisations, whether Trustees, staff, volunteers or members. I had a positive response from them but I decided that due to school I needed to meet them all together and save time!  The Natural England’s Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE) Report March 2019 looked at how often children visited green spaces. 73% of none-VME children visited frequently, which drops to 57 % for VME. 75% of children from higher socio-economic groups (A & B) visited frequently whilst 65% for lower socioeconomic groups (C & D). Therefore, clearly, race and ethnicity have a larger impact than poverty, although this does have an impact.

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig at Camp Avalon 2016 Photograph copyright young birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

I have interviewed VME elders about their lives growing up “back home”. All talked about their rural childhoods, swimming, being out in nature and helping with family smallholdings. However, their grandchildren’s generation mistakenly thinks their heritage is urban, however, we can still engage them by referring back to their country of ethnic origin. 83% of British people live in cities, with a disproportionate number of VME living in bleak inner cities. NGO’s must, therefore, start to communicate with people from all ethnicities and backgrounds. The starting point is for their HR, IT and Finance teams to become ethnically diverse, which leads to improved performance. Therefore, these discussions led me to organise a conference in June 2016, called Race Equality in Nature Conference kindly sponsored by Bristol Zoo which I opened and then with the Key Speakers being Bill Oddie, Kerry McCarthy, Stephen Moss, Dr Richard Benwell, Monira Ahmed Chowdhury, Rachel De Garang & Jini Reddy and lots of experts in race equality, diversity and inclusion. Those who were there commented that it was the first time that those working in conservation had met and discussed the issues with those from BME communities or experts in racism. We had workshops on what were the barriers to VME people getting out into nature, what could be done to overcome the hurdles and creating VME role models.

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig with Bill Oddie at Race Equality in Nature Conference 2016
Photograph copyright young birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig
Young Scots at Race Equality in Nature Conference 2016Photograph copyright young birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

Since 2015, I have been leading the campaign to make the environmental sector diverse. Of environmental professions, only 0.6% are VME the second-worst sector for diversity after only agricultural ownership. I have had meetings with many of the leaders of conservation organisations, speaking at conferences and writing on the topic. This is an article that I wrote for the Chartered Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management. I was also the Minister for Diversity in Conservation in Chris Packham’s People’s Manifesto for Wildlife and was the first speaker at his People’s Walk for Wildlife.   I and Black2Nature organised another conference with Emmanuel Adukwu at UWE Bristol which took place on 2nd October 2019 called Race Equality in Nature: The Next Gen 13-30. As set out above and would like to invite you to take part. The speakers including Asher Craig (Bristol Deputy Mayor), Cleo Lake (Bristol councillor for the Green Party),  Zakiya McKenzie (Black & Green Ambassador), Lara Lemi (Bristol University STEM student and organiser of BMEinSTEM Conference, Chris Packham (Nature presenter), Stephen Corry (CEO Survival International) and Becky Speight (CEO RSPB). The conference aimed to work through the journey of a VME young person, highlighting the racism within the sector that needed to be addressed.

Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig at Youth Strikes 2019
Photograph copyright young birder Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig

We expect half of those attending will be in senior roles in the nature conservation & environment sector, nature media and environmental education with the other half being BME educators, conservationists & environmentalists and experts in race, diversity & inclusion as well as BME communities.

Links

Camp Avalon

http://birdgirluk.blogspot.com/2015/06/camp-avalon-in-making.html

http://birdgirluk.blogspot.com/2015/06/camp-avalon-friday-19-june-2015.html

http://birdgirluk.blogspot.com/2015/06/camp-avalon-saturday-20-june-2015.html

http://birdgirluk.blogspot.com/2015/07/camp-avalon-sunday-21-june-2015.html

http://birdgirluk.blogspot.com/2015/06/camp-avalon-review-and-planning-for.html

http://birdgirluk.blogspot.com/2016/07/camp-avalon-2017.html 

Diversity

http://birdgirluk.blogspot.com/2016/06/how-ethnicity-and-wealth-are-impacting.html

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Where the River Runs Gold by Sita Brahmachari

Where the River Runs Gold by Sita Brahmachari

 

This is a wonderful inter-generational book about a pair of 11 year olds set in the future where children have to work on farms as we have lost our bees.  This book is suitable for all generations will character across age ranges. I love the fact that the siblings have a father called Nabil, which is my cousin’s name.

 

Thank you Sita Brahmachari for mentioning me in her acknowledgements for the book. I am so proud.

 

Synopsis

Two children must risk everything to escape their fate and find the impossible . . . A brave, thought-provoking adventure by award-winning author, Sita Brahmachari.

Shifa and her brother, Themba, live in Kairos City with their father, Nabil. The few live in luxury, whilst the millions like them crowd together in compounds, surviving on meagre rations and governed by Freedom Fields – the organisation that looks after you, as long as you opt-in.

The bees have long disappeared; instead, children must labour on farms, pollinating crops so that the nation can eat. But Nabil remembers Before and he knows that the soul needs to be nourished as much as the body so, despite the risk, he teaches his children how to grow flowers on a secret piece of land hidden beneath the train tracks.

The farm Shifa and Themba are sent to are hard and cruel. Themba won’t survive there and Shifa comes up with a plan to break them out. But they have no idea where they are – their only guide is a map drawn from the ramblings of a stranger.
The journey ahead is fraught with danger, but Shifa is strong and knows to listen to her instincts – to let hope guide them home. The freedom of a nation depends on it . . .

 

To be published July 11th 2019

Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group
Blogspot www.sitabrahmachari.com

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Minority Ethnic peoples’ rural heritage

Minority Ethnic peoples’ rural heritage

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Mrs M and her granddaughter

An issue that I feel strongly about is getting Minority Ethnic people out into nature whether it’s in an inner-city park or a rural nature reserve. As I see it, nature and conservation are almost completely white and this needs to change. I have been talking to many nature charities about this and asking that they engage with minority ethnic people.

I have organised two nature weekend camps for teenagers, called Camp Avalon 2015 and 2016, bringing together young naturalists with you minority ethnic teenagers who have never been into the countryside. I also organised a conference called Race Equality in Nature last June with Bill Oddie and Kerry McCarthy as the main speakers and set up Black2Nature, an organised that will be working with the nature charities to improve the number of minority ethnic staff, volunteers and members that are from minority ethnic communities.

Much younger minority ethnic people haven’t heard anything about their heritage other than their knowledge that it is city-based, liked they and often their parents have experienced. So I decided to interview four minority ethnic elders who all came to Britain in the late ’50s and early 60’s and all have grandchildren living in central Bristol. I wanted to find out about their childhoods, especially about the ways in which they connected with nature and the outdoors.

I was hoping that young Minority Ethnic people when they heard these interviews, would gain a sense and understanding that their heritage is in fact a rural heritage, not an urban heritage.

This programme was broadcast on Ujima Radio today and had two of my interviews, firstly Gene Messiah who is 80 years old, came to Britain from Barbados in 1956 and secondly a 77-year-old lady from Jamaica who was embarrassed about being on the radio and so didn’t want her name mentioned. She came to the UK in the early 1960s. The first interview is 3 minutes in and the second 24 minutes in.

The first hour, 12 noon to 1 pm – http://listen-again.ujimaradio.com/index.php?id=33588

The following hour has an interview with Judy Ling Wong who set up the Black environment Network in 1987. I met with Judy today to discuss the progress I have been making with Black2Nature and talking to the nature charities and getting advice and inspiration.

Second hour 1 pm to 2 pm – http://listen-again.ujimaradio.com/index.php?id=33589

I will be posting the two other interviews shortly. These were particularly important to me as one was my maternal grandmother (nanu) Asma Ahmed who is 74 years old and came from Bangladesh in 1961 and the other is Akmal Khan who is 75 years old, came to Britain in the early 1960s and grew up in the same village as my maternal grandfather Feroze Ahmed (nanabhai) and so I wanted to know as much as I could about the village, as he died before I was born. I did all the recordings and editing myself and have some of my own recordings that I will add to the post shortly.

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If you would like to know more about what I do or what services I offer, you can find out more below.

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