Expensive gear, remote locations, and limited transportation options make outdoor exploration inaccessible to many communities. Phil Henderson recognizes that the world of outdoor adventure is lacking diverse representation and plans to push change in the industry by leading the first-ever all-Black American expedition to the top of Mount Everest.
Henderson has worked for years to expand access to the outdoors. He taught at the National Outdoor Leadership School and led an all-African American team to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Henderson’s team, the Full Circle Everest Expedition, is currently looking for sponsors and hopes publicity about their experience will encourage more people of color to cultivate an interest in exploration as well as push more companies and parks to expand the accessibility of their programs and gear. The team plans to make their summit next year.
The first person to summit Mount Everest reached the top in 1963, the same year Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Since only eight Black people have reached the top, but no Black Americans.
“He has accepted the responsibility of being a mentor, a guide, and a role model for a whole generation of people of color and certainly Black people in the outdoors,” mountaineer and mentee of Henderson Misha Charles told NBC News. “He is very conscious of the fact that he is carrying all of us to the top of Everest and that means an awful lot to this community and to quite a few of us personally and individually.”