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Connecting Culture with Nature: Jasmine Crowell

February 23, 2023

Connecting Culture with Nature: Jasmine Crowell

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Julie Larsen Julie Larsen

Black History Month is a time to reflect on achievements by African Americans, embrace equality, and inspire future generations.

Jasmine Crowell is a Wild Animal Keeper at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium and co-leader of WCS’s Black Leadership and Advancement Consortium (BLAC) Employee Resource Group.

Wild View talked with her about both her roles and how they motivate others.

WV: Tell me about your career at WCS.

JC: I’m one of the Wild Animal Keepers for the aquarium’s Ocean Wonders: Sharks! division, caring for and training the various sharks (above, sandbar shark), rays, turtles, and bony fish species in our exhibits. I have recently become an intern co-coordinator and am also the co-lead of the BLAC ERG.

WV: What does Black History Month mean to you?

JC: Though being Black is my identity every day, Black History Month is the formal recognition of my people, my culture, my truth. One of the first initiatives achieved by the BLAC ERG was raising the Pan-African flag at all five WCS parks (inset above, at the New York Aquarium). Though it seems small, raising these flags is a sign to me and all Black people that walk through the parks that WCS is here for me, for us. They see us, they hear us, they’re standing with us. And with everything that has occurred and continues to occur, these flags waving next to our parks show solidarity, community, and hope.

The late great Martin Luther King Jr. once said “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”….out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

And that’s what we do. That’s what we have to do. In the face of systemic adversity and injustice, I surround myself with stones of hope. And though I am the first Black keeper at the aquarium, the love and pride of my ancestors and family both with me and gone too soon, allow me to hold the hope that better days will come. This flag is another step forward, another stone of hope.

WV: This Black History Month, how can we get more African Americans to connect with nature?

JC: We need to continue breaking down the internal and societal barriers between African Americans and nature by continuing STEM education initiatives such as the ones WCS has provided to show that these careers are just as possible for us. Being intentional about connecting with nature, even if it’s just going to the beach and enjoying the calm of the waves on the horizon as I do, is food for the soul.

Nikon D6

Brooklyn, US Map It


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