Audrey and Frank Peterman are our nation’s authorities on how to get minorities involved in experiencing the 391 units of the National Park System.
In doing so, they have also enhanced America’s conservation and environmental justice movements, coagulating them as aspects of one another into a single movement involving not just minorities, but also all Americans.
The Petermans are spiritual – not the kind that’s worn on the sleeves as the saying goes, but the real deal – you feel their earthy, caring vibrations, the glow of wonder in their eyes as though they’ve seen something of “The Promised Land,” and the love that trips from their speech and positive actions.
In September 2009, Audrey and Frank Peterman produced a four-day national conference in Atlanta, Ga., titled, “Breaking the Color Barrier in the Great Outdoors.” Aside from the informative and educational sessions, including luncheons and dinners, the networking and fellowship of more than 300 African Americans, Latinos, whites, Native Americans and Asians from every corner of the land is now out there, magnifying, multiplying, feeding the roots of positive social change.
At the conference, Audrey and Frank launched the publication of their book, Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Inheritance and Tells Why Every American Should Care. There is no other literature like it anywhere! The book will soon be hailed as the definitive treatise on true democracy through discovery of our national parks by all Americans, generating concern for conservation and environmental justice.
In the book’s prologue, Audrey tells how she and Frank “discovered” the national parks in 1995 when they packed camping gear into their stick-shift truck and left Fort Lauderdale to explore America. After eight weeks on the road, Audrey writes, “I felt like someone who had lived in an opulent mansion for years and had only seen the kitchen, then accidentally opened the door leading into the grand ballroom.”
The adventuring couple traveled to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in the state of Maine to the rainforest of Olympic National Park in Washington State. They went to the Badlands National Park in South Dakota, deep into the once-sacred Native American Black Hills to Mount Rushmore National Memorial.
Audrey writes: “So it was quite shocking to round a corner and suddenly come upon the faces of four white men carved into the highest peak. The American presidents loomed from the top of the mountain, coldly elegant and supreme over all they surveyed. It really gave me a chill. . . . I shuddered at the thought of the stark imperialism that the monument communicated, because Native people had fought it with their entire beings.”
On into Wyoming to the Yellowstone called the American Serengeti because of so much wildlife in one place, Audrey reports that she screamed when she saw her first elk, “a magnificent male with a huge rack of antlers. . .” Besides the famed “Old Faithful” geyser which blows every 81 minutes, Yellowstone has other geysers all around.
Frank, who did most of the driving, went across the Mojave Desert to Yosemite National Park, where the couple had to camp out in the truck because the campground was packed with campers. They also visited Zion National Park, which was almost a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon National Park “one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world.” Audrey and Frank ended their discovery trip at the Petrified Forest National Park.
During their entire trip, the Petermans hardly saw another African American, Hispanic or Native American in a national park. Audrey writes that the trip “gave us history and also responsibility, and we would fulfill that by providing what was most needed – information and invitation to America’s children of color: Don’t be an absentee landlord! Discover and take ownership of the incredible natural treasury that is our heritage!”
In addition to publishing their book and the periodical, Pickup & Go, the Petermans have collaborated with all manner of “national, regional and grassroots groups to combat the perception in the mainstream environmental segment that Americans of color and urban people are somehow unsuited to appreciate the great natural bounty of our country, and be part of the solution for our environmental challenges.”
To date, the Petermans have visited 152 units of the National Park System, some more than once, and in this seminal book they have written, the reader longs to experience what they have seen. And we get it, that the National Parks belongs to all Americans.
But just wait until you read Part Two of the book titled, “The Making of a Black Environmentalist.” All I can say is, “Wow!” Get the book and learn how Audrey and Frank Peterman took off when they returned to Fort Lauderdale, and how they have become national icons since their move to Atlanta, Ga.
Legacy on the Land costs $22.95, including shipping and handling, and is available at http://www.earthwiseproductionsinc.com/legacyontheland.