Black Lives and Blue Water
In my pantheon of heroes and sheroes, my new favorite is Danni Washington, science storyteller, passionate ocean advocate, STEM advocate for young people especially girls and the only woman of color hosting a TV science show.
At age 21, a recent marine science grad from Univ. of Miami, Danni founded “The Big Blue and You” to educate and inspire youth about ocean conservation through art and media, with yearly “Art by the Sea” celebrations, so far involving 5000 kids. In her fab “Pearls of Wisdom” series she connects girls to marine science mentors like legendary Dr. Sylvia Earle, “Her Deepness,” pictured here. She hosts the CBS series “Xploration: Nature Knows Best,” and was involved in this year’s hugely successful Smithsonian Earth Day project “Earth Optimism.” Just to name a few. Check them out, and her website, Instagram pics and YouTube channel. (I first heard her speak at the March for the Ocean in DC two years ago.)
This past week she spoke with David Helvarg (another hero) on his podcast “Rising Seas” about “Black Lives and Blue Water.” She bemoaned the stereotype that the environmental community is a white middle class movement, pointing out polls that asked, “Are you alarmed or concerned about climate change?” 69% of Latinx folks said yes, 57% of Blacks, and only 49% of whites. She reminded us that communities of color are the most impacted by climate change, pollution and rising seas, especially in frontline communities like along the Gulf.
I learned something new from her about Black folks and water. “With the history of the transatlantic slave trade, Black people have a unique relationship to the water because of the traumas inflicted on them in the water, with millions of lives lost at sea. Water served as a barrier, imprisoning folks, keeping them enslaved because they didn’t know how to swim. That legacy was passed on from generation to generation all the way to Jim Crow, when we were not allowed access to public pools, couldn’t learn to swim. Black kids today are 10 times more likely to drown that white kids. To swim is a basic skill we should have, it’s the first step to entering the ocean and wanting to be part of and connecting with our blue planet.”
Check out her various projects to learn more. She is smart, funny, wise. Indeed another of her creative ways to get kids into the ocean is by presenting herself as the “Mocha Mermaid – alluring, playful, mysterious and wise.” Look up her mermaid costume! Our world needs more such ocean advocates.
I post these ocean devotions every Wednesday here and at on Facebook.I am always happy to share ideas and projects/people/practices to deepen your connection to the ocean. Be in touch! FYI the Monterey Bay Aquarium is reopening July 13 for limited reserved visitors. However I won’t be going back to my 22 year volunteer guide shift just now, too risky for this household of oldsters, maybe in the future.