Home Outdoor education The movement seeks to make the outdoors safe for people of color

The movement seeks to make the outdoors safe for people of color


Outdoor enthusiasts want people of color to embrace activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, camping, and bird watching – and to feel safe and secure while enjoying it all.

Why is this important: A national report has drawn attention to the discrimination some people of color face when running in the mountains or walking on a trail. The outdoors can be deadly due to bigotry, not just the wildlife, lurking in the woods.

Details: Since, Outdoor groups and businesses across the United States have launched campaigns and initiatives to transform the way black Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans engage with the outdoors.

  • Kampgrounds of America has banned the Confederate flag from campgrounds, put people of color in marketing materials and started diversity training for staff, President and CEO Toby O’Rourke told Axios.
  • Retail company REI said in April it had launched a six-month retail pilot to increase black representation in its workforce and has developed a long-term work plan on racial equity.
  • The American Ornithological Society announced in May its commitment to change “exclusive or pest bird names” to make birding more welcoming to people of color.

The plot: About 32% of campers are now people of color, an increase of 17 points over the past five years, according to Kampgrounds of America, which is owned by Asian Americans.

Shamay Thomas, 49, nurse practitioner and member of Outdoor Afro, hikes at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, Wash. Photo: Jovelle Tamayo for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Yes, but: Some mountain peaks and rivers still bear racist names, and some popular outdoor spaces and national parks are linked to horrific lynchings or the expulsion of indigenous peoples.

  • “As much as I love the outdoors, the history of national parks is rooted in a lot of ugliness,” Christian La Mont, program director for Latino Outdoors, told Axios.
  • Katina Grays, the New York executive of the national group Outdoor Afro, said people of color reclaim these spaces and reframe the story when they visit and go out. “I always come with the black story to share.”

Go back: Putnam County, New York, faced calls to create a human rights commission last year after a resident called out sheriff’s deputies on a group of teenagers black people from a foster home seeking to hike.

Iris Zacarías, Michelle Piñon and Alfonso Orozco, volunteers for Latino Outdoors, in Seattle, Washington. Photo: Jovelle Tamayo for The Washington Post via Getty Images

What they say : “Going out jogging, sleeping in our own beds or going fishing on a lake… it’s all our right and in some ways our obligation,” Baratunde Thurston, host of the upcoming PBS Six-Part Series, America Outdoors with Baratunde Thurston and author of How to be black, said Axios.

  • “I think for me it’s very restorative. The outdoors has always been for us. Look, historically we’ve always been able to find our way outside, from south to north,” Grays said.

A funny thing: Outdoor Afro and Backroads have teamed up to create a biking, biking and kayaking experience in October from Savannah, Ga., To Charleston, SC, while visiting sites connected to the Underground Railroad.

Do not forget : President Biden announced Thursday that he would appoint Charles F. Sams III as the next director of the National Park Service – an agency that has struggled with diversity for decades.

  • Sams is a member of the Cayuse, Walla Walla, Cocopah and Yankton Sioux tribal nations.