Outdoor Afro reconnects African-Americans with nature and creates community through guided outdoor experiences.
I first fell in love with Outdoor Afro during a lunch with founder Rue Mapp, when she told me that the entire organization was born from a modest blog. Her mentor, Freada Kapor, had asked her what she would do if money was no object. At that moment, Rue’s answer was to focus completely on her blog and turn it into a movement.
This, she has done. Just three years later, Outdoor Afro now connects thousands of people to outdoors experiences and is changing the face of conservation.
I love people who are following their bliss. Relentlessly seeking their passions, ignoring the conventional wisdom that work is for money and life is for love. In fact, I believe those who combine the two into one holistic existence live the best lives and create the best work. The Japanese call it Ikigai.
This too, Rue has done.
Rue is a strong leader who has inspired me in many ways. Her confidence and courage has brought out the same in myself. Her voice on the need for a focused effort to reconnect African-Americans with the outdoors has sparked a fire that desperately needs to burn.
Let us not forget that in very recent history, African-Americans were not welcome in many of our public parks. While walking the woods, they had to worry about lunatic members of the KKK, hiding and waiting to lynch them.
Let us not pretend differently. This is our history.
And this is not just a story about our history. Last year, an African-American family camping in Nevada County was attacked by a racist in the middle of the night, wielding a shovel and screaming racial slurs. The local community rallied around the family, but the perpetrator wasn’t even arrested.
Let us not pretend differently. This is our reality.
It takes deep courage to commit your life to righting these wrongs and creating a space for healing and reconnection to occur.
As Rue once explained to our team over a lunchtime talk, change happens slowly, gradually and subtly—almost imperceptibly if you maintain a day-to-day mindset. But you can’t give up, because there is rarely a silver bullet or windfall moment. Rather many moments, people, and decisions combine to create a great sweeping unstoppable change. Looking around our conference room, she pointed out that just a couple decades ago, someone would have been smoking a cigarette. Today if someone did tried to do that, we would all think they were insane. That is the change Rue and the leaders at Outdoor Afro are working to create.
I am honored that Outdoor Afro is partnering with us. If you come to a campout, you’ll have the opportunity to support the important work they are doing and learn more about their mission. And even if you can’t come, I still encourage you to learn more and support this amazing organization. They are creating equality in the outdoors, which is critical to us all. They are celebrating and inspiring African-American leadership, which will benefit us all. We’re in this together.
Words by Alyssa Ravasio
Alyssa is the founder and CEO of Hipcamp. She has a degree from UCLA in Digital Democracy and her deepest passion is helping shape how the internet impacts our humanity and our planet.
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