Germantown: African-Americans and Environmentalism Discussed

Volunteers and guests listened whole Gina Thomas spoke about the importance of environmentalism.
Volunteers and guests listened whole Gina Thomas spoke about the importance of environmentalism.

The Awbury Arboretum and The Francis Cope House hosted an event Saturday to focus on the history of African-American environmentalism.

Speaker Gina Thomas, a Mt. Airy resident who developed a passion for environmentalism as a Girl Scout, practiced environmental law, works at the Department of Environmental Protection as well as being a member of the board of directors for Awbury.

“A lot of environmental groups are not diverse so every opportunity I have, I try. African-Americans have always been environmentalists because their primary function during the time of slavery was agriculture. Girl Scouts and African-Americans will always be part of the environment,” Thomas said.

Another aim of the session was to encourage the link between Girl Scouts, who were in the audience, with environmentalism.

Thomas chuckled as she spoke about her first job interview. “They asked how I knew about the environment and my answer was

because I was a Girl Scout. That’s why it was important to bring Girl Scouts in this afternoon,” Thomas said.

Thomas also highlighted the various historic figures who had a keen understanding of the environment. Individuals such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B Dubois and George Washington Carver all played a vital role in the beginning study of environmentalism.

Beth Miner, the manager of outreach and community engagement, proudly spoke about Awbury Arboretum’s mission. “Our mission is to preserve and interpret the historic house and landscape in order to connect urban community with nature and history,” Miner said.

Rev. Chester H. Williams, a Germantown resident who is heavily involved with volunteer programs, spoke about the community. “We work on any project and beautification in the neighborhood. We ask people to get involved in the neighborhood because people need to know what’s around and how to keep it in a positive way,” Williams said.

Thomas had nothing but positive comments about the landscape. “Awbury has fabulous resources and beautiful green space in the heart of Germantown. Awbury Arboretum gives people an opportunity to be in touch with nature. We’re hoping we can bring more people in,” Thomas said.