Growing up in his family brownstone in Clinton Hill, Marlon Rice’s chore was to attend to his father’s garden in the backyard.

“As a kid, I would do everything in that garden,” he recalled. “I would turn over the soil. I would handle the compost. I’d pull up the weeds. I’d clean up the backyard. Even though a part of me hated the chores, I learned so much from just that interaction with the earth in my backyard.”

Now, Rice, an author, educator and business consultant, is inspiring youth and families in Bedford Stuyvesant about urban ecology and environmental programs as the newly appointed executive director of Magnolia Tree Earth Center.

Prior to his appointment, Rice worked during MTEC’s 2018 Earth Day celebration with Project Green on teaching students from School District 16 how to plant trees.

“What we did with Project Green was to show the kids how things grow,” he said. “We had a great relationship with the students, teachers and principals planting the trees. We gave kids real-time exposure to the environment. What kid does not want to be outside playing in the dirt?”

Marlon Rice and students at Magnolia Earth Tree Center. Photo courtesy Magnolia Earth Tree Center

A former special education first-grade teacher at Maryland’s Montgomery County School System, Rice currently heads an elementary school writing program for New York public schools.

“Although I’m not a full-time teacher, I’m in classrooms during the school year interacting with kids,” he explained. “I’m a vendor at the New York Department of Education, where I’ve created a workshop that I’ve been doing the last four years called ‘First Voices.’ I teach kids how to be better creative writers.”  

Rice himself is a writer; his novel “Blow One Down: A Tragedy” was featured as the book of the month in XXL Magazine. He is the former communications chair of the Maryland Writer’s Association’s Montgomery Chapter and a former culture editor for Heart and Soul magazine. He is a contributing writer for numerous blogs, including the New York Society for Ethical Culture.

As an entrepreneur, Rice is the owner of Good People NYC, a production company responsible for overseeing, marketing and promoting events in the NYC area. For over 15 years, he has consulted restaurants and lounges on management, marketing and events. He held the popular “Back to Brooklyn” events in Bedford Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene. In addition, he served as the director of operations for Pamoja House Men’s Shelter in Brooklyn.

“Everything in my life has been geared to be a community servant,” said Rice. “At MTEC, I want to create an educational pipeline on STEM and STEAM. I’m meeting with community leaders, elected officials, block associations and community boards and schools like Brooklyn Tech High School and Medgar Evers College.” 

Hattie Carthan

The Magnolia Tree Earth Center was founded in 1972 by Hattie Carthan, a Bed-Stuy  environmental activist, fondly known as the “tree lady.” She was one of the first African-American community-based urban ecology environmental activists in the U.S.

“I think Hattie Carthan was a genius because of her vision, what she put together in her vision in 1972,” said Rice. “She couldn’t possibly have foreseen the movement of sustainability of urban ecology of urban greenery that exists now — that over 40 years later we are living in a space where urban ecology was so important.”

Magnolia Tree Earth Center is considered one of America’s oldest nonprofits dedicated to urban ecology and environmental education. Today, MTEC is a leader in creating community awareness of ecological, horticultural and environmental concerns for Bedford-Stuyvesant residents of all ages.  It is the site of the famed Magnolia Grandiflora Tree, which was planted in approximately 1885. It is New York City’s only living landmark.

“On behalf of the Magnolia Tree Earth Center board of directors, I want to welcome Marlon Rice to MTEC,” announced David Greaves, chairman of MTEC. “We are very excited to have Marlon in this leadership role. His management, education and creative experience – and his knowledge of Brooklynites — will be an asset to MTEC. We are looking forward to his guidance in taking MTEC to the next level as an innovative urban ecology and environmental education institution.”

Hattie Carthan Mural at Magnolia Tree Earth Center. Photo credit: Wikipedia

To celebrate April’s 2019 Earth Month, MTEC is planning urban ecology events in Brooklyn for April and May that include creating flower window boxes, STEM and STEAM speaker’s bureaus at schools, distribution of tree care brochures and parent workshops on food sustainability.

For more information, visit https://www.magnoliatreeearthcenter.com/


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of BK Reader.

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