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By Julie Amato       Follow East Palo Alto Today on
East Palo Alto Today              Facebook    Twitter         Blog
March 3, 2015                
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Children on a nature walk at celebration
                             Photo courtesy of Ellie Van Houtte
Children on a nature walk with a guide at the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve during the Midpeninsula Open Space District's African American History Month celebration on February 21, 2015.


The East Palo Alto and Belle Haven communities came together to celebrate African American History Month at the Ravenswood Open Space Preserve, next to Cooley Landing Park. 

Over 120 people of all ages attended the celebration on February 21, as they enjoyed a beautiful day on the San Francisco Bay.  The event was organized by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen), which manages the preserve, and co-hosted by the East Palo Alto Center for Community Media.

Youth volunteers from College Track in East Palo Alto came to help out.  The celebration featured nature discovery activities, guided walks, crafts, and a speaking program focused on African Americans’ history of land conservation.

East Palo Alto Mayor Lisa Yarbrough-Gauthier attended the event and spoke about the city’s development of a community space at Cooley Landing Park.  City Councilmembers Donna Rutherford, Ruben Abrica, Laura Martinez, and Larry Moody were also present.  Senator Jerry Hill, Assemblymember Rich Gordon, and County Supervisor Warren Slocum also attended and spoke at the event.  Former County Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson was in attendance as well. 

Midpen Founding Director Nonette Hanko welcomed guests and provided opening remarks, and Henrietta Burroughs, Executive Director of the East Palo Alto Center for Community Media was the emcee of the dynamic program.

One of the highlights of the event occurred when Sen. Hill presented the California Buffalo Soldiers, the special guests at the event, with a certificate of recognition from the California State Senate.

The California Buffalo Soldiers are a part of the California Buffalo Soldiers Association (CBSA) and they re-enact and share the history of the original Buffalo Soldiers, the African-American soldiers, who were among America’s first park rangers.
In the late 1800's and early 1900's, the Buffalo Soldiers traveled from their base at the Presidio in San Francisco, passing through East Palo Alto and the Peninsula, on their way to patrol Yosemite and the Sequoia National Park (Read more about the Buffalo Soldiers in American history at http://www.nps.gov/prsf/learn/historyculture/buffalo-soldiers.htm and see a brochure about them at http://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/upload/folder-buffalo-low-res.pdf.).

Teresa Baker, founder of the African American National Parks Event, also attended and spoke at the African American History Month celebration.  Baker shared an inspirational story about her personal connection to nature and her passion to expand the conversation about land conservation to include diverse perspectives. 

Baker organizes an annual gathering at Yosemite to highlight the need for greater diversity in America's parks and in environmental organizations, nationwide. She said that she would like to encourage youth to connect more with the outdoors. 

Readers can find out more about Baker and the park events she sponsors at the African American National Parks Event Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/African-American-National-Parks-Event/355974594517522.

Ravenswood Open Space Preserve is open to the public every day, from dawn to dusk, and is free of charge.  Midpen invites all members of the community to come out and enjoy the space – take a walk, ride their bikes, and watch the many birds that visit the shores of the bay.  Ravenswood is located at the eastern end of Bay Road in East Palo Alto.  More information about the preserve, and the many outdoor activities that one can enjoy at all of Midpen’s preserves, can be found at www.openspace.org.

The author of this article, Julie Amato, can be contacted by email at jamato@openspace.org.