KNC will celebrate Black History Month by featuring artists, historians, writers and activists in the Kalamazoo Community whose work has contributed to programs at KNC. Please check back each Sunday in February to learn more about our own community influencers.

Meredith Stravers

Meredith Stravers  |   a founder of The Truth & Titus Collective

In celebration of Black History Month, we are highlighting Meredith Stravers, one of the founders of The Truth & Titus Collective, located in Kalamazoo, MI. Meredith’s organization is facilitating an anti-racist learning series with KNC’s leadership and staff. Meredith describes her connection to nature in 3 phases of her life:

As a child, I spent most of my time outdoors with my peers in my neighborhood. It was rare that we played indoors and those relationships were cemented in our time in nature. In my teen and early adult years, nature was not something I appreciated. I was very turned off by nature and felt very uncomfortable being outdoors. A couple of years before my 40th birthday, I began developing a different relationship with nature. As I began my own healing and self-discovery journey, nature became a part of the process. I learned how grounding in the earth is beneficial for mental and physical health. Taking walks on trails helped to center and root my energy when I needed it and as I seek connection with my ancestors, I feel closest to them when I’m in nature. Some of my most spiritual experiences have occurred in the woods or sitting still on my patio as a specific bird visits regularly. Nature has been a major tool in shifting my connection to self, earth, ancestors, and future.

A book that was helpful for me in connecting to nature as a Black woman is the book, “The Healing Wisdom of Africa” by Malidoma Patrice Somé. This book started me on my path of understanding how important nature is for my wholeness and fullness as a Black woman. In my experience, connection to nature through my Black heritage came through stories and tales and lore that surrounded us as we grew up through childhood. With the western push of formal education, primarily from dominant culture, the wisdom and healing of nature from my community was lost and/or deemed not as valuable or worthy as western science. As our culture is drawing back into the wisdom of our ancestors and reconnecting with earth, we are finding our way back to this wisdom without the glare of western culture overshadowing our inherent knowledge and validity.

One thing that has become deeply important to me as I’ve moved through reconnecting to nature is my own orientation to the earth. I very quickly realized that connection to earth had to be a reciprocal relationship rather than a relationship where I just extract resources. The earth and I are in a relationship and our connection and consumption of one another must reflect that. I hope that we begin to see the earth as a living being, one that sustains us and cares for us, just as much as we see other humans in that way. I hope that we begin to really understand that the earth is more than just science; that it has spirits and energy and is deeply affected by our relationship with it, and not just from an environmental aspect. The Environment is critical and crucial, but it is only part of it.

Brent Harris  |  Local artist and Kalamazoo Institute of Arts instructor

Local artist and Kalamazoo Institute of Arts instructor Brent Harris is curator of the Art Drawn from Nature exhibit currently showing in KNC’s newly renovated Exhibits Hall and gallery. Videographer Jim Triezenberg talked with Harris last week about his connection to the Kalamazoo Nature Center.
Harris will give an Artist Talk Friday, February 18, at 6 pm in KNC’s Glen Vista Gallery. Learn More >
Dr. Khalid el-Hakim

Dr. Khalid el-Hakim  |   founder and curator of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum

After 11 years of classroom teaching, Khalid came to Kalamazoo to pursue his Master’s at WMU.  During his time in Kalamazoo, he began to visit KNC as a way to escape the grind of graduate studies.  He carried on to earn a Ph.D. and in the processes began to amass an amazing collection of memorabilia and artifacts of Black history from the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade up to present.   Being a skilled storyteller, he uses the artifacts to draw out narratives of oppression and resistance for audiences from school-children to corporate leaders as he tours the nation with his traveling museum.
When he is not touring Dr. el-Hakim calls Kalamazoo home and still uses the trails at KNC for grounding and fortification as well as to sharpen his photography skills.  Recently el-Hakim lent his expertise in pulling narrative from historical public records and archives to help KNC improve our own telling of history to reflect the stories of Black Americans who have stewarded the land in our area.   He recognizes the ways that the legacy of racial oppression in this country has worked to sever connection to the land for many Black and Brown Americans and hopes for a future in which the healing and inspiration found in nature become equally available to all people. That future is more possible at KNC because his contributions. The Kalamazoo Nature Center honors Dr. el-Hakim in recognition of Black History Month.  Thank you, Dr. el-Hakim