No. 6: A River Connected: stories about river, race, home, and climate

12 Noon, Thursday, June 9, 2022

Jill Kostel, Emma Sundberg, Dinah Bradford, Christine Favilla, Gretchen Hagle, Kristen Persons, Grant Armour, Michael Anderson, Graydon Swisher

Gathering and Welcome

Introduction: Who are you, where are you, and what is the river to you?

Home—Race: Dr. Leon Tarver

President Emeritus of historically Black Southern A&M University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who speaks through his experiences as a civil rights leader to the present day.

Q&A: What is that something that you are doin’?

Race—River: Robby Tidwell

Director of Fort Pillow Historic State Park in Henning, Tennessee, actively mitigating the divisiveness of the Confederate war story he has to tell.

Q&A: How can we listen to both sides?

River—Climate: Dr. Jonathan Schilling

Fungi enthusiast and director of the Itasca Biological Field Station at the river’s Headwaters in Minnesota, caring for the water through the forests that surround it.

Q&A: How can we grow the next generation of river protectors?

Coastal changemakers from the Meraux Foundation in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, fighting subsidence and sifting through the monster of the Master Plan.

Q&A: How do we tackle the impossible tasks in front of us?

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What a great group today for our special River Days of Action edition! Lots of new faces, and even more new voices sharing their thoughts and ideas to our probing questions as we journeyed down the river through a very special selection of stories.

We started with Dr. Tarver at Southern University—a transformational day for us back in 2019. We saw a community that could have been caught up in the divisiveness of the day rather right in the middle of things, listening, working with the other side, as it were. “Every answer has to be local,” Dr. Tarver said. And we all need to be doing something, even if it doesn’t seem to amount to much.

This sentiment carried through all the stories, as we next faced the struggle of Robby at Fort Pillow Historic State Park in his effort to tell the story of the historic massacre that took place on that site during the Confederate War. Listening to both sides, but still telling the story around the controversy, this was Robby’s answer.

As we discussed these stories, Grant reminded us that we shouldn’t feel that we are on opposite sides of the river, but rather the river runs through all of us. This is definitely the feeling Dr. Jonathan Schilling shared about his research at Itasca as well as teaching young students to be stewards of the river and its surroundings.

This next generation is exactly who we need to take action for the river—through efforts like River Days of Action and work being done close to the Mississippi’s terminus. The story of Chris and Blaise’s work at the Meraux Foundation to harness the power of the river and build land is a good reminder of how this river connects us all.

We hope you’ll join us next month for A River Connected, Episode 7! Sign up here, and tune in on July 21st at Noon!