Year of the Woman: The Importance of Stories with Caroline Brewer
“We as women have so much to be grateful for and a reason for hope.”
Caroline Brewer is the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Audubon Naturalist Society in Chevy Chase, MD. She grew up in Indiana and was grateful to have had ample green space available to explore, including a small farm that her grandmother owned that still remains in her family. She attended Indiana University Bloomington where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. She has called the District of Columbia home for the past fifteen years.
Caroline’s mother, a woman who has always loved telling stories, inspired Caroline to share the stories of others, as well as to write stories of her own. She is an author, speaker, and literary activist and the founder of Unchained Spirit Enterprises, a publishing and consulting company. Caroline has authored a number of books for children, parents and teachers, including Kara Finds Sunshine on a Rainy Day and C is for Cocoa. In the environmental field, she noted that so many stories that we hear are about men. Yet, there are so many amazing women whose stories we are only beginning to tell. Some notable figures that Caroline has drawn inspiration from include Katherine Johnson, a former NASA mathematician who was one of the first African American women to work as a scientist there and whose work led to the success of first and subsequent crewed space flights. Rachel Carson who was “pioneering environmental advocacy in a way that no man had ever done.” Harriet Tubman’s understanding of and deep connection to nature, as taught to her by her father, led to her freedom and the freedom of others during her brave leadership within the Underground Railroad. Celebrating the stories of these women couldn’t be any more relevant than in 2020, the Year of the Woman. When asked what advice she would give young women just getting started in their careers, Caroline responded, “Know yourself. Love yourself. And be yourself.”
Caroline’s leadership also creates space for others to share their own stories at events like Taking Nature Black. The Audubon Naturalist Society created the Taking Nature Black conference in 2016 when Brewer’s predecessor, Kelli Holsendoph, along with ANS’s Events Manager, Antoinette Sooh, saw a lack of representation of African Americans at local environmental conferences. Taking Nature Black is a space for Black environmental professionals to tell their stories and serves as a community of support. Caroline has gotten feedback from attendees that they are getting things from a conference that they haven’t gotten from any other. Attendees are having their needs met, which creates an impact far greater than what is measured by the average professional conference. Caroline says that she hopes that:
“[This work] become[s] a model. Taking Nature Black and Naturally Latinos are a model of connection and a model for how we can understand each other better. Embrace and celebrate our differences. The planet and this region needs all of us. We are all up against so many challenges and threats. The connections that we make and the stories that we tell and the work that we do hand-in-hand makes a difference.”
The 2020 Taking Nature Black conference reached an audience of over 400, the largest event to-date. This year’s event also had a special tie to an important Black figure, Chadwick Boseman, the star of Black Panther and a number of other films. One of the most memorable parts of the 2020 conference when I attended was the opening. The sound of drums, played by Jabari Exum, reverberated throughout the room to start the day by energizing and centering the attendees. Exum was close friends with Boseman, having met at Howard University in Washington, DC and connected through their art. Through their relationship, Jabari later lived with Chadwick during the filming of Black Panther and got a role drumming in the movie as well as doing choreography for the film.
It was a joy and honor to speak with Caroline about her life and her work during the Year of the Woman. To celebrate this year, the Alliance has been sharing an interview with a female environmental champion in the Chesapeake Bay watershed every month.