Black History Month takes place in February.
Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week February 1926. This was in honor of Frederick Douglass’ birthday month and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday month. Fifty years later President Gerald Ford declared February Black History Month and retired the weeklong observance.
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History chose the theme for this month: Black Health and Wellness. This topic is perfect timing as our country needs to embrace science, and all aspects of wellness. Wellness encompasses more than physical health. In fact, there are seven dimensions of wellness: psychological, intellectual, spiritual, social, environmental, occupational, and physical.
These are just a few of the people I would like you to meet, and hopefully get you started on your research into other incredible African American Americans who are changing the world.
Brittany Leavitt is the first. Brittany Leavitt is well-known for her deep connection with the outdoors and her concern for the environment. Her passion is climbing and leading others to enjoy the outdoors. She is involved in many organizations, including Outdoor Afro, Brown Girls Climb and Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
She was recognized in 2018 by the Blue Ridges Mountain Magazine as a 30 under 30 year old and in the Alpine Club DC section as one to follow. She was part of the Outdoor Afro Expedition Team that summited Kilimanjaro in 2018. She created a new adventure badge in partnership with North Face Scouts and Girl Scouts. When she’s not hiking or climbing rocks, she teaches at Smithsonian. She is leading the charge for BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) to embrace nature.
Peggy Shepard lives in New York City and has spent most of her life trying improve the quality of life there. She is the executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, which she founded. She is an effective advocate for the environment through her grassroots organizing.
Urban communities have the right for a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment. She has fought to change policies that might have been overlooked by these communities. As the co-chair of White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, she is also the chair of the National Environmental Justice Council of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She also serves on the Executive Committee of National Black Environmental Justice Network, and the board of advisors of Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. We are grateful for her wisdom and experience as we strive to improve the environment.
Last but not least, I hope that you recognize Michael S. Regan’s name! Michael S. Regan is currently the administrator of the EPA. He was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina. His dad and grandad taught him to fish and hunt. His desire to serve the public is attributed to his mom, who was a nurse for 30+ years. His dad, a North Carolina National Guard veteran and an agricultural extension agent, has a career in the EPA.
Michael was the secretary of North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Michael is especially to be credited for leading the clean-ups of the coal-ash ponds, and the cleanup of Cape Fear River which was contaminated by per and poly-fluoroalkyl compounds. To address social inequalities, environmental protection and community empowerment, he established the first Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board of North Carolina.
It will be a pleasure to learn more about African American heroes around the world this month.
Nan Kirlin serves as the recycling coordinator in Gaston County.