Black History Month

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A Letter from Director Crooms Honoring Black History Month in 2022

During the month of February, DoE will highlight local and national leaders, books, movies, and songs that have an integral part in the African American experience - and we will introduce you to some of the Black leaders that have contributed to the Environmental Movement, and those who are writing and creating film, music and other works that focus on the natural world today and what a climate future that recognizes Black leadership across all sectors looks like.

I challenge all of us to spend this month not only giving our great leaders past and present their due, but digging into the experience of African Americans in relation to the environment, and thinking about what that means. There is a rich Black history in this area, often overshadowed by the way of doing things accepted by the privileged and the powerful. To really make a difference in creating a world where we can live in harmony with nature we must question that way of doing things and ask what African American ideas and culture can bring to climate and environmental solutions.

As just one example, here is a poem, by the late, great Lucille Clifton - former Poet Laureate of Maryland. It is highlighted in a collection of African American Nature Poetry - called “Black Nature” that I’m digging into this month, and it immediately jumped out as a favorite:

the earth is a living thing
by Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)

is a black shambling bear
ruffling its wild back and tossing
mountains into the sea

is a black hawk circling 
the burying ground circling the bones
picked clean and discarded

is a fish black blind in the belly of water
is a diamond blind in the black belly of coal

is a black and living thing 
is a favorite child
of the universe
feel her rolling her hand
in its kinky hair
feel her brushing it clean


Andrea L. Crooms


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Black History Moment Spotlight

As part of its Black History Month celebration, DoE is spotlighting an outstanding employee, Esther Mitchell, who is committed to building healthy, sustainable, and beautiful communities to make Prince George’s County proud.

Esther Mitchell

Mitchell has worked at DoE for over 12 years and is also a Master Gardener, who serves as the University of Maryland Extension’s Master Gardener Coordinator.  As a Master Gardener, she teaches new gardening skills, how to solve garden problems and sustainable horticulture techniques.

In her spare time, she loves to garden and has a passion for teaching young students the gift of planting their vegetables and maintaining a beautiful and healthy garden.  Listen to some helpful gardening techniques in this video with Esther.

A native of Washington, D.C., Mitchell has lived in Prince George’s County for 29 years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Howard University with a minor in Law and economics.  In addition, she has received a Certificate in Horticulture and Landscaping from the Graduate School, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Before joining DoE, Mitchell was a Human Resources (HR) Specialist in Benefits and Retirement for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). 

Esther has been married to her wonderful husband Ernest Mitchell for over 24 years. Mr. Mitchell is a piano and choral arts teacher at Charles H. Flowers High School.

Mitchell also finds time to travel to foreign countries; do papercrafts; listen to all types of music, especially classical and 1970-80 Do Wop; bowling; skiing; study astronomy and go horseback riding.  She also is a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. and is a 1st-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do Karate.

Before the pandemic, Mitchell would celebrate Black History Month (BHM) by attending concerts, art exhibits, and cultural events. Even though the in-person dynamics may have changed, she still participates in virtual BHM activities. 


DoE Honors Washington Region Environmentalists

Read this list of game-changers whose advocacy and accomplishments have made a tremendous environmental impact in our community.

Josephine Butler

Josephine Butler BHM 2022

Josephine Butler was born on January 24, 1920, in Brandywine, Maryland, where her parents were sharecroppers, and her grandparents were enslaved. She attended Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro and Strayer College. Butler suffered from typhoid and her family moved from Brandywine to Washington, D.C. so she could receive better medical treatment. She would remain in D.C. and became a leader in environmental activism. Butler served as a community health educator for the American Lung Association in D.C., where she educated thousands of children about air pollution before the movement for environmental justice and change existed.

Leslie Fields

Leslie Fields BHM 2022


Leslie Fields, Esq. has over 30 years of experience in federal, state, and local environmental justice and policy. She is a graduate of Cornell University and the Georgetown University Law Center and is the current Sierra Club’s National Director of Policy Advocacy, and Legal. She is the former international director of Friends of the Earth-US in Washington, D.C., and is currently an adjunct law professor at Howard University School of Law.

Christopher Bradshaw

Christopher Bradshaw BHM 2022

Christopher Bradshaw is an African American social justice entrepreneur whose expertise is using social innovation through the food system to grow meaningful community economic development within marginalized communities.  Bradshaw is also the founder of Dreaming Out Loud, a social enterprise created to produce economic opportunities for the Washington, D.C. metro region’s marginalized communities through building a healthy and equitable food system.

Rue Mapp

Rue Mapp BHM 2022

Rue Mapp is the Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a national not-for-profit organization with offices in Oakland, CA, and Washington, D.C. Rue oversees a carefully selected and trained national volunteer leadership team of more than 100 men and women who represent 56 cities around the US, and shares opportunities to build a broader community and leadership and nurture a community of black outdoor enthusiasts.


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spacer-solid-lineOne month isn’t long enough to celebrate Black History and the contributions from African Americans. Learn about the past to help share a better future with these tips.