Black History Month week 3: Increasing access to the outdoors
By Berit Thorson
If you’ve been through CCL’s Climate Advocate Training, you’ve probably heard the E.B. White quote, “Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Reflecting on those words, William F. Schulz of Amnesty International USA added, “But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.”
Last week, we introduced you to four Black climate activists doing incredible work across the spectrum of environmental activism. This week, we are reminded of the words of William F. Schulz and E.B. White, seen above. In the fight against climate change, taking time to remember why we love the earth is not only important, it is vital to sustaining this work. Beyond that, ensuring that all people can find comfort, acceptance, and joy in the outdoors without facing discrimination is an essential part of creating equitable access to the natural spaces we want to protect. Continuing our Black History Month highlights, this week we are focusing on individuals and groups working to increase access to the outdoors for Black people and other people of color so that everyone can savor the natural world!
Teresa Baker is an environmental activist and hiker working to increase diversity and inclusion throughout the outdoor industry. She is the founder of the In Solidarity Project, an organization working with businesses in the outdoor industry to provide diversity, equity, and inclusion consulting, as well as supporting them in committing to the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge. In January 2022, she launched The Outdoorist Oath with co-founders Pattie Gonia and Jose G. Gonzalez. The Outdoorist Oath is a nonprofit dedicated to providing “an educational foundation… to create a new wave of outdoorists [who] are committed to creating a healthier and better outdoors.” Through the organization, Baker will be able to support individuals and organizations as they collectively work to protect the planet and to create an accessible and inclusive outdoor community.
Black Girls Trekkin’ is an outdoors group focused on supporting Black women and other women of color to “spend time outdoors, appreciate nature, and protect it.” Started by Tiffany Tharpe (L) and Michelle Race (R), two Black women who grew up loving nature, but not feeling represented in the faces they noticed outside. They want to show other women of color interested in the outdoors that they belong in nature. Black Girls Trekkin’ focuses on diversity, inclusion, conservation, and education, and partners with other organizations to provide a space for people with various interests to get outside together. For now, the organization is based in Los Angeles, but if you have a suggestion for a new chapter location, let them know here!
Brown Girls Climb is a group formed to create space in the outdoor and climbing communities for women of color to feel safe and empowered. Its current CEO, Brittany Leavitt, loves to provide outdoor education, especially if it helps in “clearing pathways for the BIPOC community.” Leavitt helped launch BCG Marketplace, a “values based shopping experience for the outdoor lover.” The platform highlights and partners with outdoor brands owned by people whose identities are underrepresented in the outdoor industry. BGC Marketplace uplifts Black, Indigenous, queer, disabled, and woman-owned businesses in addition to businesses who are active allies of people who hold these identities.
Rue Mapp is founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a national organization that “celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature.” Since its founding in 2009, Outdoor Afro has spread across the country, with leadership in 56 cities. In addition to leading frequent nature-based adventures in communities around the country, Outdoor Afro advocates for policies that “(1) connect Black people to nature, (2) amplify contributions of Black people in nature, and (3) protect and enhance our lands, wildlife, and waterways.” Under Mapp’s leadership, Outdoor Afro has been recognized and honored by leaders such as President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
These four organizations founded or led by Black women emphasize the importance of access to nature. CCLers know that community, connection, and passion are all necessary to sustaining the climate movement. The Outdoorist Oath, Black Girls Trekkin’, Brown Girls Climb, Outdoor Afro and more organizations that we didn’t have room for here are providing opportunities for more people to build the community, connection, and passion for nature that will invite more people into the climate movement. Just as importantly, they are fostering a sense of adventure in people who do not always feel welcome in the outdoors, and representation and access are important to changing outdoor spaces to include everyone.
Come back next week for our fourth Black History Month feature where we will be highlighting Black environmental artists — from poets to filmmakers. Make sure to subscribe to our blog so you stay up to date with all our posts!
Berit Thorson is the CCL Spring 2022 Communications Intern. As an outdoors enthusiast, she is passionate about protecting nature and people from the impacts of climate change, and is excited to be working with CCL toward these goals.