In an expansive and high-ceilinged auditorium in the Silver Spring Civic Center, a small collection of images hung unobtrusively on the wall in a front corner of the room.
The images came from a project called “Belonging: The Black Americans in Nature Photography Project.” The project, released along with an accompanying ebook last spring, aims to increase Black representation in nature imagery and help reclaim Black narratives in natural spaces.
Despite the exhibit’s small place in the auditorium’s corner, the pictures—and their theme—took center stage on March 10, the in-person day of Nature Forward’s four-day “Taking Nature Black” conference.
“This conference, and all of you, are reigniting an appreciation for the land and a deep love for each other [and] our communities, to create places where we unapologetically know we belong,” said Jalonne White-Newsome, Senior Director for Environmental Justice at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
White-Newsome served as the keynote speaker during the in-person part of the conference. She joined a packed lineup of in-person and virtual conference speakers that included federal environmental officials alongside local grassroots activists, scientists and artists. Many of the event’s local speakers and panelists also appear in the “Belonging” pictures.
The “Belonging” project, created through a collaboration between Taking Nature Black and the U.S. Forest Service, shows off natural spaces in the DMV region. Participants could choose where they wanted to have photos taken.