Today: Jessica Ostrov, who is on staff at Sunny Hollow Montessori school in St. Paul, teaches at Hamline University in St. Paul, and advocates for equity and inclusion in the outdoors. She is speaking on the topic at an event at 6:30 p.m. July 10 at Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis.
“Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors” by Carolyn Finney describes the effects of environmental history that have contributed to the separation of many African-Americans from a deep connection to nature. It is recommended reading for the Hamline University students in my Continuing Studies course, Equity and Inclusion in Environmental Education. I am also still digesting the powerful stories in “A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota,” edited by Sun Yung Shin.
Outdoor Afro, Trail Posse, James Edward Mills, J. Drew Lanham, Latino Outdoors, GirlTrek, and various sources that share history, contemporary barriers and success stories from typically underrepresented groups in the outdoors. I collect articles and stories of interest on my Facebook page: Equity and Inclusion in Green Spaces. As a white person growing up in Duluth, nature was everywhere, and I had the unearned privilege of not having to wonder, would I see someone that looks like me? Would food, music, languages or customs in wilderness settings reflect my own? Once I became aware of the lack of representation of people of color in green spaces, it became impossible to ignore. I want to know why, and find active ways in which to dismantle the systems perpetuating the disparity.
I am spending A LOT of time watching my garden grow. My son and I moved into our home in August of last summer, in the historic West 7th Street neighborhood of St. Paul. I think about who has lived here since the home was built in 1879, what they’ve grown on this land, how the area around it has changed. I think about how life has evolved for people of color through those generations.
I was glued to The Current’s countdown of 893 Essential Songs. It felt like every song I’ve ever loved was represented. Lots of Prince, David Bowie, Talking Heads, New Order, Led Zeppelin, Otis Redding, Bruce Springsteen, Cat Stevens, Tina Turner. One of my favorite parts of Minnesota summers is the live shows. After just having seen Peter Hook and David Byrne, I’m looking forward to The Pretenders, Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper, among others.
I am finishing up my 18th year working in a Montessori school, teaching at Hamline, volunteering on the outreach and inclusion committee for YMCA Camp du Nord, and speaking about diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. My son and I are enjoying early morning bike rides along the river and finding ways to stay cool!