For far too long, the outdoors have been unsafe for people from underrepresented communities, a space where women face harassment while hiking, where people of color encounter racism while road-tripping, where disabled people are gawked at as they merely try to enjoy the pleasures of nature. But we all have the right to immerse ourselves in the outdoors, and the industry is shifting to accommodate people who want to enjoy the vast, open spaces from which they’ve long been tacitly excluded.
“The New Outdoors” is a weeklong series about adventurers from underrepresented communities who are grabbing their compasses, ice axes, dog sleds, and Instagram-ready vans and staking a rightful claim to the freedom of the outdoors.
When many of us imagine pioneers, adventurers, and other folks who love the outdoors, we envision mostly white men. In 2019, however, people from marginalized communities are changing this narrative by becoming the new faces of the outdoors: Black women are climbing and hiking; Indigenous people are reclaiming their right to land by developing programs that teach outdoor survival skills; and queer people are creating thriving online communities for outdoor enthusiasts who then hit the beaten path in real life. This list celebrates this new crop of adventurers and the work they’ve put into making the outdoors not just safer and more welcoming.
Rue Map is the founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a nonprofit organization that “celebrates and inspires African American connections and leadership in nature.” Outdoor Afro trains volunteers to help Black people get more involved with outdoor recreation. These trained leaders, who are spread throughout 30 states, facilitate myriad outdoor activities designed to help Black people “take better care of themselves, our communities, and our planet.”
Brown People Camping
Ambreen Tariq, the founder of Brown People Camping, uses social media to change narratives about the outdoors. She believes that digital storytelling is a useful tool for encouraging people of color to reclaim outdoor spaces, and her Instagram account shows exactly that. She’s a part of a massive community that uses the #BrownPeopleCamping hashtag to remain connected. More than 16,000 Instagram posts have used the hashtag, showing just how engaged people of color are with the outdoors.
Melanin Base Camp
Team Blackstar Skydivers
Danielle Williams founded Melanin Base Camp in 2016 to increase the visibility of people of color and queer people in adventure sports. Melanin Base Camp features POC bloggers, shares the stories of adventurers, and offers more insight into similar organizations. Williams is also the Executive Director of Team Blackstar Skydivers, which was founded in 2014 to specifically share the stories of Black skydivers.
OUT There Adventures
Queer youth sometimes struggle to find outdoor activities that affirm their identity; OUT There Adventures seeks to change that. Elyse Rylander, founder and Executive Director of the organization, believes that getting young queer people involved with the outdoors can empower them and foster positive identity development. OUT There Adventures receives donations to provide presentations and trainings to queer youth who want to become more involved in the outdoors.
Pinar Ateş Sinopoulos-Lloyd
Cofounder, Queer Nature
As the cofounder of Queer Nature, Pinar Ateş Sinopoulos-Lloyd prioritizes the teaching of place-based skills and survival skills in Arapaho, Ute, and Cheyenne territories (Boulder County, Colorado). These workshops teach LGBTQ, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color about nature, and going beyond whitewashed ideas about outdoor adventure.
Nailah Blades Wylie
Women of color who hike often face a number of microaggressions that mostly stem from the idea that they don’t seem like “regular” hikers, according to Color Outside founder Nailah Blades Wylie. Color Outside helps women of color practice “targeted, value-filled education” that brings them joy as solo hikers and as a part of a larger hiking community. Color Outside offers both one-day workshops and larger retreats for women of color.
Jessica “Jess” Newton & Tinelle “Tin” Louis
Black Girls Hike Global
Black Girls Hike Global is a Denver-based organization comprised of different chapters, each of which host events ranging from whitewater rafting to paddle boarding to camping. Each chapter leader is experienced in their arena, which allows them to pass along specific outdoor skills and imbue confidence in their chapter members. Though the group isn’t only limited to Black women, both of the founders are Black women, and view Black Girls Hike Global as a space for women of color to connect.