About The Third Place - ECO-BIPOC
Learn more about ECO-BIPOC from its leaders:
Building a BIPOC Conservation Community
The Third Place is a cross-sector network that connects Black professionals, students and entrepreneurs to social, civic, and economic opportunities that advance Maine’s Black cultural landscape. We believe that advancing Maine’s Black cultural landscape requires intensive community building within the Black community, between communities of color, and in partnership with white allies and institutions. Looking at our work in this manner, we are better able to identify the unique needs and priorities of the Black community, partner with other communities of color to address our mutual needs and align our needs with the collective mission of Maine’s outdoor sector.
ECO-BIPOC is one of several networks The Third Place facilitates to identify the unique and mutual needs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in specific economic sectors. The network is for those who share a deep passion and enthusiasm for the environment.
ECO-BIPOC was formed in March 2020 in direct response to the lack of a platform for the BIPOC community to offer input and guidance on grant funding for land conservation. After realizing that decisions were being made without input on structure and design from BIPOC communities, we set out to identify individuals who were employed in or had an interest in environmental-related fields.
The excuse for lack of engagement had always been that white-led organizations did not know who to consult on such issues. It is our hope that development of an organizational mechanism to represent the voices of diverse BIPOC voices in the field can put that excuse to rest.
The network has grown from an initial group of five to over forty. Online meetups are held each month with individuals representing their own self interests to organizations representing their organized constituents. Participants work/volunteer in several areas including outdoor recreation, watersheds, land conservation, farming/gardening, outdoor education, climate, etc. These online meetups are designed to 1) Network and build community 2) Determine areas of structural and programmatic overlap to create joint programming 3) Find ways to support each other in our individual work by sharing successes, concerns/challenges 4) Share field-level expertise 5) Understand what outdoor opportunities are available.
Incorporating the Outdoors in All Programs
As important as what we do within the network is what we do to bring it to those who are not directly connected to the sector. We recognize that bringing the work to the community is where awareness and education gets amplified. Here’s some of what we do.
Blackowned Land & Farm Collective – Transforming Blackowned Land & Farms into “third places” for community land access, recreation an arts & cultural activities. He hold gatherings at 5-6 blackowned farms throughout the year.
Plan network outings and awareness activities – We gather as a network representing various communities of color for fun outdoor recreational activities and/or educational events (i.e. statewide or regional conferences/workshops) These include park days, hikes, boating, island adventures, farm days and more.
Integrate Outdoor Access into Other Programs – Our major community celebrations Junteenth and Maine Black Excellence Awards are held on Blackowned farms or an outdoor environment difficult to access or rarely accessible by communities of color.
Share Leadership Opportunities – Connections to historically white environmental organizations allows us to facilitate contacts for board and advisory opportunities
Finding Third Places
The Third Place prioritizes the needs of Black Descendants Of The Enslaved (D.O.T.E). As such, the programming we do on Blackowned lands and farms represents a significant way we seek to build connection and belonging. These properties represent the largest “third places” for our community and allow us to gather with each other while building and connecting our shared cultural practices. For many, these opportunities for outdoor access represent a greater urgency for development as they symbolize our fragile relationship with economic autonomy, food security, land ownership and heritage. When we gather to build community, we also amplify the needs of our farmers, connect those in need of land with landowners, address issues of food insecurity, and reshape our relationship with each other through our contact with the land.