Monday, October 8, 2012

NTKO Series: This is What a Leader Looks Like - Nkrumah Fraizer

For our next few blog posts we will be looking into the lives of everyday leaders. Come along with us to learn about new people that have a passion for helping others and the outdoors. Want to tell us how you are a leader? Email us at, today!Our first blog post is from Nkrumah Frazier, a leader from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. All photos are credited to Nkrumah.
What does a leader look like?
Nkrumah Fraizer

My name is Nkrumah Frazier.  I attended the Outdoor Nation 2012 Summit inAustin, TX.  I’m a 33 year old husband and father. My love of the outdoors began when I was a young boy growing up on a small farm in rural south Mississippi spanning only about a hundred acres.  My family owned cows, many dogs and we cultivated several gardens. My father taught my brother and me that if we cared for and loved the land that it would care for us. He taught us how to hunt and how to fish.  My father didn’t believe in hunting or fishing for sport; took only enough for our own needs.

My girls, Cassandra and Catherine, enjoying
an afternoon at Lake Thoreau
My childhood summers were spent roaming the fields and forests near my home. We had many friends and relatives our age to play with. We made forts, castles, ships, space ships or anything else that our imagination could dream up. It was during this free play without the intervention of adults that I feel I learned a lot about myself; my physical abilities and my abilities to affect those around me. When children play in the absence of an adult to supervise all activities they are forced to learn social skills needed to get along with their peers. Without this critical period of unsupervised free play and time alone in the natural world I doubt that I would be the person that I am today.

One of the tigers at the Hattiesburg Zoo having fun for Earth Day
As a young boy I always knew that I would be a scientist or work with animals.  Throughout my short professional career I have had the privilege to do both.  I have worked in an environmental laboratory in which I spent 8 hours a day performing scientific tests in order to determine whether or not runoff water or effluent was critically toxic to fish and invertebrates. I have also worked at a zoo. For 5 years I worked at the Hattiesburg Zoo here in Hattiesburg, MS as an animal keeper.  Working at the zoo helped to mold me into the zealous nature lover that I am today. I learned that animals and humans can have a closer bond than I ever thought possible. Growing up on a farm raising cows and having pets I have always been aware of the joys that animals can bring to a person’s life.  Like many farmers (not all) I viewed the cows and pets merely as possessions and not as companions.

A giant eland playing with his enrichment
at the Hattiesburg Zoo

It was through working at the zoo that I 
expanded my mind to see animals as true 
companions. One of the most stressful challenges for me while working at the Hattiesburg Zoo was managing the population of lemurs that we had.  We had 5 species of lemur with several lemurs of 3 of those species. All of the lemurs were housed separately overnight but shared the same exhibit during the day but not all of the lemurs got along with one another.  Our 2 black lemurs would fight each time they were together.  We had 3 crowned lemurs; one of which was picked on by the other 2. Because of this behavior the 2 black lemurs were never to be on exhibit at the same time neither were all 3 of the crowned lemurs. 

When I first started working with the lemurs all members of each species looked identical to me.  So when I was charged with shifting them onto and off of exhibit by myself I was very nervous about making sure that the proper individuals were on exhibit and the proper individuals were shifted to the outside holding area. The more time I spent with the lemurs the more I began to realize that they each had their own distinct personality. Each one responded differently to me when I entered the building. In time I was able to identify the individual lemurs based on their physical appearance as well as by the subtle nuances of their individual behaviors. I knew these animals almost in the same way that I know the clerk behind the counter I interact with on a daily basis at the local convenience store. 
Holding a hard head catfish we caught in the trawl net
I am now a research technician in the Biology Department at the University of Southern Mississippi.  I get paid to venture out to the Mississippi Barrier Islands and other areas along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to catch fish via seining and trawling.  I thoroughly love my job and the great group of guys and gals that I work with. I find it amazing talking to the fisherman down there and realizing that I get to see things that men who have been fishing the waters down there their entire lives have never seen before. Science is a wonderful thing; it truly satisfies those with a curious nature. I find myself saying that I can’t believe that I get paid to do what I do because I love doing it so much. 
Holding a striped burr fish on the Mississippi Gulf Coast
Holding a cannon ball jellyfish
Holding some strange jellyfish on the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Recently I have begun working with an organization called Outdoor Afro (OA). Outdoor Afro is an organization that focuses on reconnecting African Americans to the natural world.  I am a member of the OA regional leadership team. This team consists of about 15 individuals across the nation that have committed to leading a minimum of 4 group treks into the great outdoors in celebration of the natural world. Through various outdoor recreation activities we hope to reconnect America to the natural world one person at a time. Connect with Outdoor Afro on Facebook, too!

The girls at Lake Thoreau with Outdoor Afro

 I have also founded a non-profit group called the South Mississippi Family Nature (FaN) Club. The South Mississippi FaN Club was inspired by the Children and Nature Network’s efforts to create a network of organizations that allow those interested to find resources in their own region to help them connect with the natural world.  The South MS FaN club is listed on the Children and Nature Network’s Movement Directory website located at
Being silly with my girls while
working in the garden

Because of my childhood and the path that I’ve taken in my adult life I now feel that it’s time for me to give back to society.  I am choosing to do that through the organizations that I am working with and the one that I am starting.  I have a deep and enduring love of the natural world and feel a connection to it that makes me want to protect it for future generations. I hope to instill the same love and adoration of the natural world that I have into as many people as I can. As humans we tend to care for and love only those things that we are familiar with.  If someone is not familiar with the natural world then that person probably won’t care for much less love it. There is an immediate need for many more people to love the natural world for only then will they work tirelessly to protect it for future generations.  Remember we are only borrowing this planet from our children and grand children so we must care for it wisely.
Getting ready to play
with honey bees


No matter what you're going through whether it's something positive or negative you can find solace in the great outdoors. If you simply take a walk in a forest you will find peace while being surrounded by all the sights and sounds of nature. If you pay attention you'll probably learn something you never knew about the world outside your window and about yourself. – Nkrumah Frazier


Do you have any questions for Nkrumah? Ask it in a comment below!

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