By Hannah O. Brown
In compiling our list of 11 women to follow to stay informed on Florida’s environment, we started with a free-for-all brainstorm.
Each of us listed names of women we knew through personal or professional contexts, mentors who we have looked up to for years, and women that often make it into the public eye because they are well-known representatives of environmental discussions in Florida.
We made it about halfway through before stopping to look back at a list of women who looked very much like us—white. In our first post for The Marjorie, we had fallen into the same pattern that generations of environmental workers before us had paved. John Muir was guilty of it with his often-insulting descriptions of the black men and women he encountered along his 1000-mile walk to the Gulf in 1867. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, one of our namesakes, chose to use the “n-word” to describe black Americans in the original edition of “The Yearling,” a book which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.
The environmental thinkers before us made great contributions to the world of conservation, changing the way people think of the environment in relation to themselves. But the ways they thought of those different from them were often offensive and misguided, and unfortunately, those prejudices have trickled down into today’s community of environmental thinkers. It is no secret that white men dominate the majority of environmental spheres and leadership positions.
After this realization mid-brainstorm, we expanded our search beyond our own networks, but we still had issue finding women of color who were leading environmental discussions in the state. We were fortunate to feature Danni Washington, a Miami native with Jamaican roots who directs Big Blue and You, a non-profit that works to inspire ocean conservation in young people through art and media. Representatives like Danni are important figures in a changing landscape of environmental leaders in Florida, but we are quick to acknowledge that it is not enough.
As women, we understand the barriers that lie in the path of having your voice taken seriously. A Google search of female journalists reveals the depressing uphill battle that women face every day—remembered not just for their bodies, but for their ideas, their compassion and their strength.
The Marjorie was spawned from a three-year project called The Renaissance Woman that focused on creating a community where women could empower each other. From this, we learned that women in formation indeed do make one another stronger. This is a power that we feel must be shared with women of all backgrounds, not just the white women who quickly come to mind in environmental contexts.
As we embark on the new journey that is The Marjorie, we do not want to move forward blindly. Our mission is to actively fight against biases that have been instilled among environmental communicators, thinkers and advocates for centuries.
Florida’s environmental story belongs to no one. It is the diversity of cultures, experiences and perspectives that make this state the zany, magical and often incomprehensible place that it is. To capture this dynamic, it is imperative that a variety of stories are heard and that voices from all backgrounds are included in the discussion.