For example, while there are three big national parks in close proximity to Miami, records show there aren’t large numbers of people of color going to the parks. “But every single day you can drive all around Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and down towards the Keys, and see black and brown people fishing from bridges and the canals,” she says. “And that becomes invisible. It doesn’t get counted in the conversations.”
Finney will speak about race and the environment at 4 p.m., Thursday, April 14
in Burke Auditorium. Her talk, “Homecoming: Black Faces, White Spaces, and Stories of Future Belonging,” is part of the “Diverse Voices” lecture series
launched last fall.
Finney believes that people assume that African Americans don’t have the money to access the outdoors. But in conversations, she found that race, not class, is the dominant factor in terms of how people engage with the environment. “What they were telling me was that the history of this country about race influenced a lot of their thinking about the environment,” she says.
“Class isn’t the issue here,” she says. “It doesn’t mean that it’s not important, it means that’s not what’s coming up. Something else is coming up here about the issue of race.”
For Finney, the topic of African Americans and environmental engagement is deeply personal. She grew up on a 12-acre estate just outside of New York City where her father was the caretaker — but not owner — of the property. When her parents had to leave the estate after caring for the land for 50 years, Finney began to think more critically about issues of ownership, identity, and environmental engagement.