Women and the environment: let the healing begin

By Nkwanda Jah

My connection to the environment and life on the planet started far before I knew what it was. As a child I loved being outside exploring the more than 40 acres my family owned and lived on. I loved chasing the butterflies and mosquito hawks, I loved the fruit from the trees and vines. I loved working in the garden with my grandmother.

It was many years later as I enjoyed my work as a community activist that I (my organization, Cultural Arts Coalition) was asked by the City Commission to design an educational video about recycling. Our city had not been very successful in getting communities of color to participate in its recycling program.


We combined rap, dance, double dutch jump rope and handjive, and partnered with a local television station to produce an award winning video. We used local youth between the ages of 8 and 21. Not only did participation in recycling increase, but the video was used in more than 20 states as educational material.

I perceived this success as a sign from the Creator that I should be doing this kind of work. Over the years I have become increasingly aware of my unusual connectedness to the Earth/Planet/Environment.  I take it personally when any part of life on the planet is threatened.  That goes from the smallest of animals and plants to the largest, whether they are below the earth in the oceans, on earth, or flying high or low above. This sometimes is so strong that I feel a deep responsibility for protecting all of this life.

Since that time I have dedicated my life to doing better by the environment and teaching others to do the same.  In addition to recycling education, we cover food, water and air quality. We find various ways to advocate for our planet. As chair of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice committee, I engage the African American community to participate in the discussion and the work.

I am not saying you have to be a woman to truly be one with the Earth, but I truly believe it helps. Its helps to understand the life born from the Creator because of the life a woman/female produces. It’s knowing that as a mother you do not love one child more than the other. This helps in the understanding that the Creator loves everything it produces as a mother loves all she produces.

I feel me, my womanism, my feminism, my love for all of life, has lead me to this journey. I find it to be fulfilling, yet I am fearful. I am fearful that not enough humanity has the capacity to love and appreciate all of life.  I fear humanity’s selfishness and greed will collectively destroy life as we have known it.

I believe it will require the womanist, the strength of mothers, to make our environment/planet well again.

Let the healing begin.

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