Civil Rights and Environmental Justice groups plant longleaf pine trees at Bridge Crossing Jubilee

Amadou Diop (center) with the National Wildlife Federation shows young people how to plant a seedling at the Voting Rights Memorial Park.

By John Zippert,
Co-Publisher

A coalition of concerned civil rights and environmental groups joined together to plant 100 longleaf pine seedlings in the Voting Rights Memorial Park as part of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma during the first weekend of March. The park is at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the east side of the river.
The seedlings were planted by young people representing Twenty-first Century Youth Leadership Movement and other Black Belt youth groups on Saturday, March 5 as part of the Hip Hop Intergenerational Youth Summit and again on Sunday, March 6 at the end of the reenactment of the bridge crossing march.
The young people were assisted in the tree planting by Arthur Phalo with the U. S. Forest Service, Doug Fulghum with the Alabama Forestry Commission, Joelette Crawl with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Amadou Diop with the National Wildlife Federation.
The tree planting ceremony was coordinated by the Bridge Crossing Jubilee, a project of the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama; the Growing A Global Heart organization, which envisions planting millions of trees to honor those who died along the Trans-Atlantic Slave Route and the Underground Railroad; and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, the primary southern regional organization of Black farmers and landowners.

This effort was implemented in collaboration with the shared vision and technical support of the National Wildlife Federation, an environmental group promoting healthy natural settings for wildlife and people, the Alabama Forestry Commission and the U. S. Forest Service.
The tree planting symbolizes the coming together of the great msocial and political movement of the past half century – the Civil Rights Movement – with the current environmental movement and its concern for global warming and combating the negative impacts of climate change.
The young people from Greene, Sumter, Wilcox, Dallas and other counties expressed fascination and awe for the process of planning the small seedlings. “We will come back every few years to see how these trees are growing,” observed one of the youths.
In the past, the Southeast was home to millions of acres of longleaf pine, a species that is naturally adaptable to growing in the sandy soils and warm temperatures of the area. Longleaf pines provide a more suitable habitat for many species of birds, animals and plant life that have dwindled as the acreage has declined.
Over 200 years ago, seemingly endless woodlands of majestic longleaf pine trees covered 70-92 million acres across the southern coastal plain. Today, only ghostly vestiges, less than 3 million acres remain to remind us of the enormity of the loss of our natural heritage. The National Wildlife Federation, the U. S. Forest Service, Alabama State Forestry Commission other state forestry groups and community-based organizations are promoting a rebirth and replanting of this important tree species for the Southeast.
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/LAF has been encouraging family farmers and landowners in the former longleaf pine growing areas to consider planting this species to help in the restoration of the natural landscape and habitat. Longleaf pine forests also lend themselves to silvopasture, (goats, beef and agroforestry projects, pine straw cultivation and mushroom production), which can help to enhance the income of family farmers as their timber grows and sequesters carbon from the atmosphere.
Belvie Rooks of the Growing a Global Heart Organization, said “we are pleased to see these civil rights and environmental partners come together with state and Federal agencies to plant these trees. This ceremony at the Voting Rights Memorial Park is a living testimony to the importance of human, civil and environmental rights in our state, region, nation and the world. “

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