Artist Arsimmer McCoy, granddaughter of the formidable environmentalist Leola McCoy, (God rest her soul) and longtime environmentalist Audrey Peterman will be featured speakers as part of the 75th Anniversary Celebrations of Everglades National Park on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at 1 p.m. The public is invited.
From the mid-1990s, Mrs. McCoy worked tirelessly to address the pollution in her Fort Lauderdale community that was linked to an increase in several types of cancers. She became natural allies with Mrs. Peterman and her husband Frank, who were working to raise awareness about the need to protect environment and Everglades National Park. Mrs. McCoy and Mrs. Peterman traveled to Tallahassee and Washington, DC to brief legislators and call for intervention. They were members of the founding board of the Florida A & M University’s Center for Environmental Equity and Justice, 1998.
Young Ms. McCoy was February’s Artist in the Artists In Residence in the Everglades (AIRIE) Program, and on Sunday she will reflect on her two main areas of focus: “Golden Record Sounds: The Everglades” and “Homecoming” In these productions she invited voices from her Black Community in Miami to connect with indigenous communities in the Everglades.
Appropriately titled “The Everglades as Connector,” the program including music educator Portia Dunkley will explore ancestry, belonging and community connected to the Everglades. In the 1800s Black Americans seeking freedom fled south and became allies with Seminole Indians. Desperate to escape the savagery of slavery, they made their way across the waters to parts unknown, ending up in the Bahamas, Cuba and Haiti. The Everglades is listed by the National Park Service as part of the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
The program will be held at the Royal Palm Visitor Center in the park’s Homestead entrance. Afterwards participants will have the opportunity to take a walk along the Anhinga Trail led by a park ranger and admire the world-class array of nature.
“I cannot even express the level of joy and happiness I feel to have worked with Leola, and now to be working with her granddaughter,” said Mrs. Peterman, who is en route to Washington DC where she will accept a national award for her work. “What are the odds of getting to do that in one lifetime?”
“I am overjoyed to be carrying forward the legacy of my grandmother,” said Ms. McCoy. “I brought my 11 year old daughter to the park and she was so excited that now she’s writing all the time though I couldn’t get her to write before.”
Sunday’s program is a collaboration including Everglades National Park 75th Anniversary Celebrations; AIRIE, OutdoorAfro of Miami-West Palm Beach and others.