Awareness and Education: Bay-to-Sea Poster Competition

The Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation and Ocean Conservancy partner on educational project “Bay to Sea”

This blog was co-written by Vincent Leggett, the Admiral of the Chesapeake and founder and president of Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation, and Deedee Strum, the chief administrative officer of Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation, in collaboration with Ocean Conservancy.

The Chesapeake Bay is a thriving region of diverse ecosystems and communities. Home to charismatic species such as the horseshoe crab, blue crab and the osprey, this bay is the largest estuary in the United States and third largest in the world. The Chesapeake watershed spans six states and Washington, D.C, and is recognized as the ancestral lands of the Piscataway, Anacostan, Monacan and other Indigenous peoples. The region is also home to historically Black communities that have shaped fishing, aquaculture and maritime industries for centuries.

Today, pollution from fertilizer runoff, wastewater overflows, and coastal development makes its way into the Bay and reduces the Bay’s ecosystem productivity and impacts surrounding communities. This situation has forced many Black families away from the coast and out of maritime livelihoods.

One of the most notable groups leading the preservation of  the Chesapeake Bay region’s  maritime and aquaculture relationship to African American culture and generational knowledge and stewardship practices is Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation (BoCF). BoCF  is dedicated to sharing the Black maritime experience within the Chesapeake Bay watershed by providing a broad range of historical and experiential learning activities through quality research and culturally diverse programs to inform and inspire all people. 

One of the pillars of Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation is cultivating the next generation of stewards and leaders starting with their own backyard. In a collaborative project between Blacks of the Chesapeake Foundation and Ocean Conservancy called “Bay to Sea,” BoCF created and led a poster competition in partnership with Edmund Burke High School to elevate local conservation actions that reflect the importance of youth leadership in conservation and in mitigating climate change. 

At Ocean Conservancy, our advocacy for the global ocean is predicated on our commitment to ocean justice—which we define as “the fair and equitable distribution of both the benefits of the ocean’s bounty and the burdens of its complex care.” This is an essential component of our vision: “A healthier ocean protected by a more just world.”

At Edmund Burke High School each grade level had a year-long theme that was embedded in their curriculum. For the 11th grade class, the theme was environmental justice. For this inaugural poster competition, the students were asked to illustrate themes of environmental justice and saving the Chesapeake Bay. The winners of this competition capture the disproportionate negative environmental impacts on lower-income communities and communities of color in the Chesapeake region from degraded water quality and plastic pollution. Drawing attention to this connection between justice and environmental degradation is critical to protecting communities and the Bay. 

The posters included in the joint competition reflect the skills and attitudes that are needed to solve environmental issues like water pollution, injustice, and the ongoing climate crisis. The Chesapeake Bay is a regional local icon; it should serve as an example globally of environmental justice and solutions to environmental issues like climate change and ocean pollution. By providing local context and stories through posters and other resources, educators and advocates can better inform approaches in the Bay and other local, national and international fora to address these problems.

The Bay-to-Sea Poster Awards:

The Bay-to-Sea Poster Competition is an example of effective collaboration to identify the problems affecting the ocean and showcase their solutions.  The competition demonstrates how trust between conservation stewards and organizations are working at different scales, local to international, can co-produce projects, spread awareness and create solutions to coastal-ocean problems that have more impact than working alone. As partners, we share a commitment to coastal communities, healthy waterways and ocean justice. We are stronger when we work together.

Want to know more about Blacks of the Chesapeake? Learn more here. Follow on LinkedIn.

Our work is focused on solving some of the greatest threats facing our ocean today. We bring people, science and policy together to champion innovative solutions and fight for a sustainable ocean.
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