We always love profiling our leaders in the movement and in the field. Here is another interview in our series to showcase the individuals that embody the Latino Outdoors story, ambicultural leadership in action. Here is Tarah Hines, proud Afro-Latinx changing the world by her permaculture teaching, activism, and grassroots organizations in Florida.
Tell us your story, what is your connection to the land and conservation?
Land to me is deeply rooted in happiness. Growing up in upstate New York, I was outside every chance I got. Running around during recess, making forts with sticks, walking through forests, playing in creeks, the list goes on. One of my most vivid childhood memories is planting flowers with my mother in front of our house. I link nature with how happy and free I felt and I was conscious of it even back then. It only makes sense then that conservation comes naturally to me to preserve the places where I still feel so much love and find so much peace.
How is this connection celebrated/expressed and understood/misunderstood in your community and culture—in the broader conservation community?
Seeing the pride my mother takes in her yard and eating from my grandmother’s, I think this connection is expressed through family ties and ancestral knowledge. Working together to grow or harvest something as a family, or even just enjoying the outdoors together at a park or beach is something I see still intact. I think in the broader community however, I’ve talked to many people who connect caring about land and conservation to being white. The great thing is though, I’ve talked to even more people who don’t. That narrative of “it being a white thing” is played out. We have been a part of land conservation and environmental movements for a very long time and I think the broader community is remembering that as are we. It’s a part of the history that many of us are re-learning.
Afro-Latino(a/x) identities are connected to the outdoors, the environment, and conservation—how are those words reflective of YOU, how is it expressed, what does it look like?
One of the ways I describe myself is an Earth Soul, meaning I am conscious of the connection I have with the environment and the outdoors. I don’t think I reflect any of those words but more so embody them by just being who I am. The way I live my life, how I decide to dress, the things I choose to support with my money and time, the organizations I associate with. All of the above contribute to my personal relationship with the environment and conservation. It’s become so much a part of me now that people I don’t even know know where I stand. But that’s not to say that I am perfect or have done everything I need to do. I’m always a work in progress.
What needs to change and how do we grow, celebrate, and have the broader conservation movement connect with the role and values Latinos(as/x) bring to the field?
Visibility is a huge part of how we grow and celebrate Latinxs roles in the field. Sharing our personal stories through organizations like Latino Outdoors or the Black Permaculture Network help to show that we are actively taking part in creating change in our communities and beyond and shedding light on what is being done. We need to work harder though to fill the gaps within our communities as well, especially surrounding those of us who are of African descent and recognizing that intersectionality of being Latinx.
Why does this issue and work matter to you?
I have already seen what happens when I become disconnect myself from the natural world. Even as a young person my physical, mental, and spiritual health suffer when I remove myself from the outdoors and conservation. This work matters to me because it is so critical to my well-being and to everyone else’s. As I said before, what happens to the Earth, good and bad, affects us. What I do as an individual and what we do collectively right now will determine not only how the rest of my life will go but my nephew’s and niece’s lives and their children’s lives. If I can make their lives better by speaking up a little more and making a few little changes why wouldn’t I? Not to mention people of color are disproportionately affected by climate change in the first place.
What does success in all this (an Afro-Latinx conservation identity, community connection, land conservation with Latino(a/x) support, diversification of conservation movement, etc.) look like to you?
First it looks like unity among all Latinxs and active partnerships with other like-minded groups. It looks like infrastructures and curricula in place created by us, or at least in heavy partnership with us, that make land conservation and outdoor activities available to and enjoyable everyone.
How has work with (your organization/current project) connected to/is reflective of all this?
I am a huge advocate for Self-care and Self-love. I strive to embody that. I believe that if we love our Selves, how can we not love the Earth? If we care for our Selves, how can we not care for the Earth? What happens to the natural world greatly affects us. In order to take care of me, I need to be in the best environment possible. The air I breathe, the food I put into my body, the water I drink. How can we preach care of Self and then leave trash on the side of the road or let the ocean sweep up our plastic bottles? Through my current project Barrels Away! in Old Seminole Heights in Tampa, Florida, my work with the Black Permaculture Network, and by building my own brand, Earth & Alkemy, I encourage people to ask themselves these same questions. It is my hope that the simple answer they will come eventually come to is, we can’t.