MILWAUKEE — In honor of Black History Month, the nonprofit organizations, Nearby Nature Milwaukee and Sierra Club Great Waters Group, are hosting the 5th Annual African American Environmental Pioneer Awards on Monday, Feb. 19.

What You Need To Know

  • The 5th Annual African American Environmental Pioneer Awards recognizes African Americans who have dedicated themselves to being stewards of the environment

  • Five people have been recognized as Pioneers and four others have been recognized as Rising Stars

  • The ceremony will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Ivy House, 906 S. Barclay Street, on Feb. 19

The awards recognize African Americans who have dedicated themselves to being stewards of the environment.

Alexander Hagler is one of the people receiving an award. He’s one owner of Kuumba Juice and Coffee, at 224 E Keefe Ave., in Milwaukee.

The business is located along the Beerline Trail, which connects Milwaukee’s Harambee and Riverwest neighborhoods. Kuumba has a mission to always do what it can to leave the community more beautiful and beneficial than it inherited it.  

At Kuumba, Hagler makes juices from fresh produce, with the goal of bringing a healthier option to an underserved area. He said the business is an avenue to help people become more aware of their health and the health of their environment.

“Lord knows in Milwaukee we have been neglected in many ways, but this is our way of doing something about it, providing a much-needed resource in a location where you might not necessarily find it,” said Hagler.

In his free time, Hagler volunteers with organizations like Groundwork Milwaukee, helping monitor water quality and build community gardens.

He also helps the Sweet Water Foundation, Victory Garden Initiative and the Milwaukee Water Commons, which are all organizations focused on helping the community and environment.

Hagler said his environmental work was inspired by learning about food deserts, or areas of the city where it’s difficult to access fresh food.

“Realizing, ‘Oh wait! That’s where I grew up in a food desert,’ without even knowing what that was, so it just opened my mind,” Hagler said. “I started to learn so much more about the world. My first reaction was to share that knowledge and information with other people, especially young people like me, born and raised in the inner city.”

Hagler said he is honored to be recognized as an environmental pioneer in the city. He wants to encourage other young African Americans to expand their horizons and get involved.

“We don’t really have the same mainstream movement that exists in white communities, so to give ourselves those flowers, and to be able to honor each other is important,” said Hagler. “I think the word pioneer is important because we do come from a long line of pioneers, especially in the African American community.”

(Spectrum News 1/Phillip Boudreaux)

Another young man being awarded as a rising star at the 5th Annual African American Environmental Pioneer Awards is Hassan Richardson.

Richardson is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He studies conservation and environmental science.

“There are a lot of African Americans doing good work, but they don’t get recognized as much, so especially during this month, I think it’s important,” said Richardson. “A lot of the figures we learn about in college, they did very good things, but it’s nice to look up to someone that looks like you.”

During a summer internship with Nearby Nature Milwaukee, Richardson helped research the Butler Garter snake population in the city.

Richardson said he wants to do conservation work after graduating.

“I plan on working in ecological research, and then after those skills I pick up from this long journey, I want to translate that into wildlife education in urban areas in Milwaukee,” said Richardson.

Richardson and Hagler will be recognized as rising stars at The African American Environmental Pioneer Awards, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Ivy House, 906 S. Barclay Street, on Feb. 19.