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Morningside Park

The Daily Plant : Monday, April 2, 2012

Wangari Maathai Honored With Tree Planting


Photo by Daniel Avila

On March 30, Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe joined Columbia University professors Gayatri Spivak and Kenneth Prewitt to honor Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dr. Wangari Maathai by planting a tree in her memory in Morningside Park.

They were joined by friends and colleagues of Dr. Maathai including Ambassador to the Kenyan Mission to the United Nations Josephine Ojiambo, Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Njeri wa Ngugi of the University of California, University of Nairobi Professor Vertistine Mbaya, Marion Kamau from the University of Nairobi, and Community Board 9 Chair Georgiette Morgan-Thomas.

A pine tree (Pine limber vanderwolf pyramid) was planted off of Morningside Avenue between 120th and 121st Streets in memory of Dr. Wangari Maathai, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, founder of the Green Belt Movement, and advocate for better management of natural resources, social justice, human rights and democracy.

Dr. Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 to plant trees across Kenya to fight erosion and to create firewood for fuel and jobs for women. Since then, the Movement has planted more than 30 million trees in Africa and has helped nearly 900,000 women while inspiring similar efforts in other African countries. In 2004, she became the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

“The New York City Parks Department is honored to celebrate and commemorate the life of Dr. Wangari Maathai,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe. “In her passing, we remember the life of Dr. Maathai and her hard work and extraordinary dedication to social justice, civil rights and to the environment. Her unique concept of enhancing the environment to reduce poverty and empower women through the Green Belt Movement is an inspiration to all. This new tree will serve as a small reminder of her great accomplishments and her impact on the world.”

“Wangari Maathai began with the greening of her native Kenya, but her vision was the greening of the world, and the transformation of the people who live in it, so that they can value this,” said Columbia University Professor Gayatri Spivak. “Her Green Belt movement is soldiering through with this vision. Our tree-planting expresses this great city's solidarity with Maathai's challenge, the most crucial challenge for our time. I promised in Nairobi that I would plant a tree in New York, and New York responded with characteristic passion.”

Dr. Maathai was one of the first African women to receive a Ph.D. and through her involvement with the National Council of Women of Kenya she became a strong advocate for women’s education. As a Member of Parliament, she was able to serve as a critical voice for peace and justice in her country.


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(1799 - 1888)

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