By Della Watson
Grilled: Rose Johnson | Outstanding Environmentalists
Invading the Privacy of the People Who Make the Club Tick
Name: Rose Johnson
Location: North Gulfport, Mississippi
Contribution: Executive Committee vice chair of the Club's Mississippi Chapter, founder of the North Gulfport Community Land
Website: North Gulfport Community Land Trust
Is it true you live in the house next to the one that you were born in?
Absolutely. I still live here on this land. I moved away, and my parents were getting up in age and needed me to come back. And I wanted to be here with my family, to care for them, because they were such good parents.
Do you have any favorite childhood memories of the area?
Oh, wonderful childhood memories. I remember the closeness, the fun with my friends, picking flowers and blackberries, playing in Turkey Creek. We'd play softball in the streets.
How do you get people excited about the environment?
We call it our African drumbeat. We go door-to-door, store-to-store, wherever there's a gathering, to churches. We do whatever we can to reach our people. And it's been very successful.
When you go to the grocery store, do you allot extra time because you know you'll be talking to people?
Well, yeah. Usually my kids and grandkids walk off and go to the car and sit because they know it's going to be quite some time.
Do you use Facebook or Twitter?
[Laughs] Now, I'm in my 60s. I'm not on Facebook.
Tell me about the North Gulfport Community Land Trust.
It was created to protect our land and preserve our cultural heritage. I saw white developers and outsiders coming in and buying up the land, selling it back to us for exorbitant prices. Iwanted to find a way to stop that and also to stop the gentrification. This is what we can do: Buy the land, put it under a 99-year ground lease, and the land will stay in the hands of the people and out of the hands of the speculators. My dream has been to make this community desirable so our children want to come back and build homes here.
I have a feeling that you might know everybody in town.
[Laughs] Basically I do. It's a close-knit community. We want clean air, clean water, good schools. We want our kids to get a good education. And we want them to be good people. So that's basically why I work so hard.
—interview by Alison Brick
Do you know a Sierra Club volunteer who deserves recognition? Send nominations to email@example.com.
John Muir would be proud of this year's crop of award winners. On August 4, the Sierra Club honored 28 eco-heroes. Read more at sierraclub.org/awards.
- Ansel Adams Award use of photography to further a conservation cause: Florian Schulz
- Communication Award use of print or electronic communications: West Virginia Chapter
- David R. Brower Award environmental reporting: Jeff Goodell
- Distinguished Achievement Award conservation act by a public officia: State Senator Dale Schulz (Wis.)
- Earthcare Award unique contribution to international conservation: Barbara Bramble
- Edgar Wayburn Award outstanding environmental service by a government official: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood
- Environmental Alliance Award forging partnerships to achieve environmental goals: Edward McArdle, Vermont Chapter
- Francis P. Farquhar Mountaineering Award contributions to mountaineering: Tina Bowman
- John Muir Award the Club's highest award, for outstanding conservation achievement: Don Parks
- Joseph Barbosa Earth Fund Award environmental service by those younger than 30: Joseph Manning
- Madelyn Pyeatt Award working with youths: Nicole Veltre-Luton
- Oliver Kehrlein Award Outings program service: Helena Coughlin
- One-Club Award using outings to instill awareness or increase membership: Didi Toaspern
- Raymond J. Sherwin International Award volunteer service toward international conservation: Richard Ball
- Special Achievement Award single act of conservation or Club service: Alamo Group, Chicago Group's Air and Water Committee, Kathy Little
- Special Service Award strong and consistent commitment to conservation: Linda Bremer, James Kotcon, Elizabeth Little
- Susan E. Miller Award administrative contributions to Club chapters and groups: Bob Cates, John Spahr, Wallace Taylor and Pam Mackey-Taylor
- Walter A. Starr Award continuing service to the Club by a former member of the Board of Directors: Marilyn Wall
- William E. Colby Award Club leadership, dedication, and service: Kenneth Langton
- William O. Douglas Award outstanding use of the legal/judicial process to achieve environmental goals: Robert Wiygul