A long history of oppression against people of color has kept members of diverse communities from feeling safe in many public environments, even the great outdoors. This is a huge shame because the United States is a vast country with a wealth of beautiful landscapes that all adventurers from all backgrounds should feel free to enjoy.
Fortunately, there are now groups in Southern California and across the nation whose mission is to introduce Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) to nature in a positive way. They hope to tear down barriers that have previously limited access to the outdoors, like transportation, entry fees, and trail knowledge, and open up the outdoors for all as a space to experience connections with nature and with others. For many, the best way to break the ice is a hike with community members with whom they feel safe and comfortable. Here are some groups that are working towards making our outdoors a more accepting and diverse place.
Latino Outdoors: A national organization founded by José González, this group’s goal is for people of color to see themselves represented on the trail.
Christian La Mont, program manager of Latino Outdoors, recalls feeling encouraged by how many families participated, how easily conversations flowed between English and Spanish, and how González made sure that everyone felt seen and welcomed.
Connect with Latino Outdoors on Instagram and see how they’ve been progressing through the pandemic with live-streamed hikes and other online activities.
The Black Neighborhood: In the wake of the disturbing events of the past year, namely the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police, Bryce Savoy was motivated to present the Black community with resources that encourage them to prioritize their mental health. He used his community outreach program, The Black Neighborhood, to host a hike in June, providing a space for people to decompress, feel, and emote. The hike was a big success and the group plans on continuing to hold a hike every other month.
Black Girls Trekkin: Michelle Race and Tiffany Tharpe both found personal healing through hiking, which inspired them to start Black Girls Trekkin in 2017. The group focuses on creating community and dismantling stereotypes about who belongs outdoors. They now have a strong following of 33,000 on their Instagram.
Outdoor Asian: This national organization seeks to empower Asian Americans to connect with nature. During the pandemic, they have focused on building their online blog where people can submit articles about their outdoor experiences. Check out their Facebook group @outdoorasianlosangeles.
Disabled Hikers: Disabled Hikers is a resource center for people with disabilities who want to enjoy the outdoors. The group features hiking guides and trails that are put together by members of the disabled community and plans to expand the regions they cover so that other cities can benefit from their resources. Keep up to date with Disabled Hikers through their Instagram.
American Hiking Society: “The outdoors should be a place of healing and enjoyment for all” is a fundamental belief of this nonprofit group. It has created a web resource with lists of Black, Indigenous, and people of color hiking groups, providing people with the essential information they need to get in contact with whichever group they feel they might benefit from.