Howard University held a Green Opportunities symposium on Thursday February 23rd titled, "Green is the New Black". The event was the result of a partnership between Black Enterprise Magazine, Howard University's office of sustainability, and our Howard College Ambassadors, Brittany Stallworth and Falon Shackelford. The event was held in honor of Black history month and was a chance to not only highlight the many opportunities for students and community members in Washington DC's thriving green sector, but to connect those new green opportunities with a deep and rich legacy of environmental stewardship and leadership in the black community that is often left out of the history books.
"Green is the old black and the new black" explains Markese Bryant, "People of African decent have always had a close relationship with the environment and have provided many innovations in the green economy, and this event is a chance to highlight that and shine a light on many new opportunities being created by businesses and organization today in the Washington DC area."
The day started with a "Green Opportunities" fair. The fair featured over 35 businesses and non profit organizations looking for the next generation of leaders in the green sector. Students and community members alike took the opportunity to engage with businesses and get information on job openings and internship opportunities in a range of areas. Businesses like Repax, a DC green business specializing in green packing and shipping materials, connected with the more than 300 attendees over the course of the afternoon.
Repax employee Ron Rogers summed up the fair, "we just can't connect with people face to face as much as we'd like, so to come to Howard and really share our vision with people and recruit people to be a part of it, is a really positive thing for our business."
The green opportunities fair was followed by a networking dinner with a delicious local and organic meal provided by Catering by Vest, a family owned business who can cook a good chicken and a great tofu! The theme of the evening resonated throughout the program, the message, our history reflects a deep connection to the environment, and we have the opportunity reframe how we think about sustainability and the environment.
KJ Rose, a DC based singer/songwriter opened the evening with an uplifting message of personal change, "because the problems can feel so big, many people don't do anything, but we have to recognize that we can all do something, even if it's small."
Her message resonated through her performance and set the tone for a really positive evening. Arnetta McCrae, the president of the American Association of Blacks in Energy provided great insight into the opportunities for African Americans in the energy sector, "the way we create energy is transforming and we need to be at the front of this effort," she noted that a gathering like this was bridging generations and that was going to make all the difference and left with an open invitation to those attending to utilize the AABE and get involved.
Bryant Terry, renowned vegan chef and activist closed the evening with a powerful vision of change through healthy food. In keeping with the theme of the evening, he implored the audience to reclaim our food.
"Soul food is greens and tubers and peas and beans," he suggested that we recognize that our food heratige is healthy and that many health related issues in our community are caused by a lack of access to healthy foods.
As the evening came to a close, Bryant left the audience with a simple message, We have to start with our family and our friends and our food, "the best way you can bring someone into this movement is to cook them a great meal from the heart!"
It was a fitting way to close an incredible event that uncovered the links with our past while maintaining a steady vision of our shared future.