Nearby Nature Milwaukee’s mission includes “celebrating the environmental movement in Milwaukee’s communities of color.” In recognition of Black History Month, the African American Environmental Pioneer Awards were held Monday, Feb. 22. This was the second annual event.  An article about the 2020 inaugural event, listing award winners, can be found at this link. 

photo of Dahveed NelsonThis year’s featured speaker was pioneering Harlem poet Dahveed Nelson, a member of the Last Poets, credited for work that led to the emergence of hip-hop. Steven Hunter, a veteran of Milwaukee Public Theatre, was emcee for the the program. Drummer and performance artist Jahmés Finlayson provided musical interludes. In addition to honoring “Pioneers,” the 2020 awards were intergenerational, as six young “Rising Stars” were among the nominees.

Two great stories were published by other sources.

Awards were presented to 13 individuals. The honorees were:

Pioneer Awards

  • August Ball, Cream City Conservation
  • Robert Brox, Community Gardener
  • Richard Diaz, Coalition on Lead Emergency
  • Michelle Dowl, Groundwork Milwaukee
  • Aureal Ojeda, Outwoken Tea
  • Sherry Terrell-Webb, Groundwork Milwaukee
  • Dr Sylvia Wilson, Teens Grow Greens

Rising Star Awards

  • Dynasty Ceasar, City of MKE Environmental Collaboration Office
  • Teonna Cooksey, Architectural Designer, Urban Planner
  • Erin Eregbu, Horticulturist & Landscape Designer
  • Sierra Taliaferro, Naturalist, Outdoor Leader
  • Martina Patterson, Youth Educator, Nearby Nature
  • Wilniesha Smith, Reflo Administrative Coordinator

photo of Jahmes FinlaysonThe event began in a “virtual lobby,” with music and a slideshow.  To start the program, Event Chair Yvonne McCaskill made opening remarks. Drummer Jahmés Finlayson performed the “Call to Ceremony” to begin the program. In case you missed it, last February we co-sponsored the first African American Environmental Pioneers awards ceremony. Read the story about last year’s event here. Mark 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 on your 2022 calendar and register here so you don’t miss this event. The 2022 event will be a “hybrid” in-person and virtual event.  For an in-person experience, the event will return to the Wisconsin Black History Society/Museum.

The Event Committee includes:
Terry Evans, Urban Ecology Center – Washington Park
Cassandra Flagg, Green & Healthy Communities LLC
Steven Hunter, Nearby Nature Milwaukee
Yvonne McCaskill, Triangle Neighborhood Association
Martina Patterson, Nearby Nature Milwaukee
David Thomas, Nearby Nature Milwaukee / Sierra Club Great Waters Group
For more information, email:

Asase Ye Duru is an Adinkra symbol, representing the divinity and providence of Mother Earth. Adinkra are traditional African symbols that represent ideas or proverbs and are used in the art of the Ashanti of Ghana and Ivory Coast.