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Where black people and nature meet - July 26, 2012

Black and brown and green.

There are nationwide movements to connect people from diverse backgrounds, cultures and lifestyles to nature.

Rue Mapp is following her passion and has dedicated herself to connecting African-Americans with the outdoors.

"I'll know I've been successful when I'm on a backcountry trail and I see another African-American, and it's no big deal," says Mapp, who is "in the business of culture shift."

Mapp utilizes a variety of social media outlets to connect with people and broaden her reach, including Facebook, Twitter and Meetup, in addition to her website, www.outdoorafro.com. Outdoor Afro's tagline, "where black people and nature meet," sums it up perfectly.

Mapp is coming to Delmarva this week, for the second time in a year. She'll be joined by other African-American leaders striving to connect people and nature.

Over one-hundred Delmarva youth will convene in Ocean City on Friday to hear the personal stories of these African-American role models who are working in fields related to nature and diversity. This is the second time the Maryland Coastal Bays Program has worked with partners including the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Assateague State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore to host the "Get Out. Get Green. Get Paid" youth summit.

Speakers will share the defining experiences that have inspired them and guided them along their paths. Their passions both support their endeavors to connect people with nature and provide their livelihood. Youth, along with invited speakers and special guests, will participate in a variety of outdoor activities on Assateague Island and in Maryland's coastal bays, which are designed to facilitate personal connections with each other and with the natural world.

Mapp will be in Ocean City along with Dr. Bert Davis, president and CEO of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee, Patuxent Riverkeeper Fred Tutman and Brittany Smith, an intern with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Each of our invited guests are respected leaders in their chosen field. They will meet with local youth involved in a variety of programs including Upward Bound, Coastal Stewards, Maryland Conservation Jobs Corps, Maryland Conservation Corps and the National Civilian Conservation Corps.

If, as an organization dedicated to protecting our bountiful coastal bay the Maryland Coastal Bays Program is ineffective in facilitating meaningful opportunities for all who live, work, play and visit our watershed to really connect with local nature, we will fail to realize our vision. It is imperative that we involve all members of our community to preserve our shared natural and cultural heritage.

Delmarva is an area rich in African-American history. It is the birthplace of Harriet Tubman, early home of the Rev. Charles Albert Tindley, and countless other inspirational leaders whose stories should be preserved, celebrated and shared. These African-Americans had strong connections to the land and water. Together, we can follow their example, connect with each other and with nature, and celebrate. Together, we can cultivate new relationships with each other and the world in which we live.

On Saturday, July 28, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and Coastal Stewards will host a boat trip with Outdoor Afro. If you are interested in joining us, contact Carrie Samis at csamis@md coastalbays.org.

Samis is the education coordinator for the Maryland Coastal Bays Program.


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