10 Black British People Changing The Face Of Nature
The UK is well known for its beautiful countryside and rural landscape, with millions of tourists travelling to take in the scenery every year. The countryside can be the perfect place to recharge, or a permanent retreat for people living there, however, for Black people it can have the opposite effect, and become quite a traumatic experience. With 2 million Black Britains living in England, mostly living in city areas (over 1 million living in London alone), it's not surprising that we don't feel welcome or comfortable in the countryside and even amongst nature for that matter. The tide is beginning to change though, and with health and wellbeing becoming such an important factor in our lives, there are many who are embracing nature and really starting to reap the benefits. This list focuses on people changing the narrative and proving that Black people not only belong in nature but thrive in it too!
10. May Project Gardens
May Project Gardens
May Project Gardens is an award-winning grassroots organisation located in London that works to empower marginalised populations and combat poverty, disempowerment, and lack of access to resources and power. The initiative began in 2007, in the council house of Ian Solomon-Kawall, one of the project's co-founders. He wanted to leave a legacy for his late mother, whom he had nursed for his entire life, by transforming her enormous derelict garden into a public place.
9. Black Girls Camping Trip
Tianna Johnson experienced her first time camping on an impromptu trip to North Carolina in 2017. When she got back to the UK, she tweeted one night asking if any Black girls wanted to go camping with her. Johnson woke up the next day to a flood of enthusiastic responses and three weeks later Black Girls Camping Trip took their first trip. BGC is a London-based outdoor retreat for Black women and non-binary people that hosts a wide range of activities for campers such as tarot readings, yoga, game nights, cocktails and more.
8. The Black Gardener
Danny Clarke is a garden designer and presenter who was born in Oxford. He founded his own garden design company in Bromley in 1997, after leaving his job in Sales. Inspired by The Black Farmer, he began to call himself The Black Gardener after seeing the success that came with the name. It succeeded because it got him recognised, and in 2016, he was called to screen test for The Instant Gardener, a daytime BBC show that lasted two seasons. In 2016, he also hosted the BBC's RHS Chelsea and RHS Tatton Flower Shows, as well as Channel 4's Tree of the Year.
7. Zakiya Mckenzie
Zakiya McKenzie is a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter who is investigating Black British journalism in the postwar period as part of the Leverhulme Trust-funded Caribbean Literary Heritage project. She is also a writer and storyteller who served as Forestry England's 2019 writer-in-residence during the centenary year and has published many nature inspired books and articles and regularly leads nature, art and writing workshops, including one on Caribbean storytelling for primary schools.
6. Where Are You Really From?
Where are you really from? explores the experience of people with African & Asian heritage in rural Britain and was built on research that writer Louisa Adjoa Parker carried out during her South West Creative Technology Network fellowship. She created a website and podcast to share her findings and to gather further stories, which allowed them to be accessed by a wider audience. The website includes multiple literary elements including poetry and immersive audio that amplify voices often not heard .
5. Black Geographers
Francisca Rockey wondered why she was the only Black girl on her Geography uni course, so took to twitter to investigate. Because of the positive response, she decided to form a collective and network for Black geographers in order to avoid further isolation. Black Geographers not only acts as a representation of the community but also offers mentorships, internships and scholarships in order to inspire other young Black people to study and work in the industry.
4. Wild In The City
Wild in the City promotes bushcraft and nature awareness skills which can be applied in a fast paced, urbanised, tech driven world. The company was founded in 2013 and supports well-being through building relationships with nature in London and beyond. They work from natural settings offering experiences in hiking, woodland living skills, natural history and ecotherapy. WITC provides a variety of low-cost nature experiences to help encourage you to make nature a part of your everyday life by sharing survival tips, exploring wildlife habitats, teaching wild plant names and uses, cultural customs, traditional crafts, and folklore.
3. The Black Farmer
The Black Farmer
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones was born in Jamaica and moved to the UK during the Windrush era in the 1950s. He grew up in inner-city Birmingham, and would dream of escaping and becoming a landowner. Jones worked tirelessly and at the age of 40 achieved his goal and bought a farm in Devon. He is currently the only Black farmer in the UK, and to commemorate this achievement, he developed The Black Farmer brand, which was inspired by his passion and support for British agriculture.
2. Black Girls Hike
Black Girls Hike
Black Girls Hike was founded in 2019 to provide a safe space for Black women to experience the outdoors. They arrange nationwide group walks, outdoor activity days, and training activities to encourage Black women to reconnect with nature and help build communities. To tackle the lack of inclusion and representation, they hope to work with the wider outdoor industry continuing to instil their core vales of education, development and most importantly diversity.
1. Flock Together
Ollie Olanipekun and Nadeem Perera founded Flock Together during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and global Black Lives Matter protests. Ollie and Nadeem became friends because they both enjoy birding and recognised the importance of nature as a place to relax and recharge during such a stressful time. Flock Together is a network of expert birders and enthusiastic first-timers that host monthly birdwatching walks for their growing community. They began in locally in London but have since expanded to Toronto and New York, so keep a look out for a chapter near you.