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National Environmental Advocates Visit NMH Students 

Feb. 24, 2022  — NMH students had the chance to talk face to face with national environmental advocates Winona LaDuke and Dr. David Raglan, who visited campus last week as part of a conversation series on the school learning theme of citizenship and environmental justice. 

LaDuke is an internationally renowned Native American activist and advocate for environmental, women’s, and children’s rights who ran for vice president with Green Party running mate Ralph Nader in 1996 and 2000. She’s a Harvard-educated economist, author, and hemp farmer. She is the founder and campaign director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, a reservation-based land acquisition, environmental advocacy, and cultural organization, and founder and co-chair of the Indigenous Women’s Network.

Ragland is a writer, scholar, and educator whose work weaves his personal experience of growing up in segregated St. Louis with the history of that city and nearby Ferguson. He co-founded the Truth Telling Project to amplify marginalized voices and lay the groundwork for healing, reconciliation, and social transformation. He’s director of the Grassroots Reparations Campaign and a member of Kibilio, a community located near NMH that is rooted in Black and queer land sovereignty. 

Journalism teacher Sierra Dickey ’11 moderated an all-school assembly in Memorial Chapel in which Laduke and Ragland fielded students’ questions and shared how factors such as history and ancestry, systemic racism, and politics intersect with the work of caring for the environment. Laduke said, “My goal is not to spend the rest of my life talking about all the messed up stuff. My goal is to make things better and find solutions – to create a transformation.” Students asked Ragland and Laduke how their advocacy is informed by the history of their people and their ancestry, and how working sustainably with the land to produce food can be empowering. They also asked the pair to discuss ways to integrate social justice with environmental justice. “We have to envision a future where we all can be safe…that is just and secure…then reverse engineer it,” Ragland said. 

The speakers also visited with students in small groups and over dinner. And they were joined by Kibilio community members Ingrid Askew, civil rights activist and executive director of Crossing the Waters Institute for Cultural Exchange USA, and Dr. Tanya Zangaglia, a New York City-based family physician, who talked about their work with the North River Sewage Treatment Plant in Harlem. In addition, Kibilio community member DSL, former executive director of the Brooklyn Zen Center, co-founder of Love Circle Sangha, and a healer and community builder, visited a humanities class.

Bringing multiple speakers and students together in a variety of settings is an intentional component of the conversation series, said Grant Gonzalez, NMH’s assistant dean of faculty and social entrepreneurship teacher. “We’re putting the speakers in conversation with one another and, more importantly, in conversation with our students,” he said. 

See photos of students visiting with Ragland and Laduke here.

In the fall, environmental activists Catherine Coleman Flowers and Erin Brockovich visited with NMH students. Read more about their visit, and learn more about the yearlong learning theme of citizenship and environmental justice.