Find an ohDEER in Your Neighborhood
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

The Great Outdoors Needs To Be A Place That Is Accessible, Inviting, And Safe For All

Nature Promotes And Fosters Harmony And Understanding

 

Within the ohDEER family – on our team of co-founders and co-owners, employees, and franchisees – there are many outdoors enthusiasts.  The same is true of our base of highly-valued customers.

Yes, within this constellation, a large percentage are lovers of nature – as a place to bike, swim, paddle, watch, listen, study, photograph, hunt, fish, walk, camp, draw, paint, run, ride horses, read … and to meditate, and lie back and relax.  

The outdoors – and outdoors activity – strengthen and renew us; it is all good for our mind, body, and spirit.

And, at ohDEER, we were thinking that in the wake of, and ongoing, societal unrest and tension, with discord and division so rife and prominent, that the outdoors needs … more than ever before … to be a place that is hospitable to and can happily and enthusiastically encourage coming together of peoples of every gender, race, creed, ethnicity, economic status, political leaning, or political party.

ohDEER also thinks it appropriate during Women’s History Month to highlight and herald the work and commentary of two Black women who advocate for and encourage increased opportunity for African-Americans, and all people of color, to access and benefit from nature and nature programs, and to ensure that conservation areas, and local and state and national parks, are welcoming and safe.  

Latria Graham is a lover of the outdoors who writes beautifully and is published in major magazines and newspapers.   Ms. Graham grew up in the South, in Tennessee and South Carolina, living close to and routinely engaging with nature; she played and explored the woods and fields.  She was a Girl Scout; her brother was a Boy Scout. 

Published in the May 1, 2018 issue of Outside was a story by Ms. Graham in which she addresses the history and the present of African-Americans and the outdoors. 

In the article, titled, “We’re Here. You Just Don’t See Us”    Ms. Graham explains that – contrary to widely-held perception – Blacks enjoy and are drawn to nature with the same pull as whites, yet a history of injustice and regulations of deprivation either prohibited or discouraged Blacks from going to and spending time in nature.

But Ms. Graham, and the article, are hopeful about places in nature – and nature activities – becoming more inviting and accessible to all. 

Here is an excerpt from Ms. Graham’s story: 

“ … the big takeaway – that black people dislike the outdoors – is wrong.   I’ve loved the woods and wild places all my life, and the same is true for my family and friends.  According to a 2016 poll by New America Media’s Next 100 Coalition – a group of civil rights, conservation, and community organizations to bring diversity to national parks and other outdoor spaces – we’re not alone.  Seventy percent of those surveyed, all people of color, said they regularly participate in outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, photography, and picnicking.  In that same poll, 57 percent said they’d visited U.S. public lands.

“So why do these stereotypes persist, despite statistics and visible evidence that prove otherwise?

“In part it’s because African Americans don’t always go where white people do.  Swimming?  Pools used to be segregated in the South and other parts of the country, so it wasn’t easy to join a team and practice your freestyle kick.  Skiing? Not in the cards if you’re poor and live in an inner city.  Beaches?  In many places, blacks were banned by law or custom.   And national parks weren’t especially welcoming, either; many were created as an escape from urban sprawl, at a time when urban was shorthand for blacks and immigrants.  The parks were designed to be clean and white, and if we let data tell the story, that’s how they’ve stayed.  In 2009, the National Park Service did a comprehensive survey of the American public, consisting of phone interviews with more than 4,000 participants. According to their data, African Americans comprised just 7 percent of visitors.”   

In the wake of Latria Graham’s article, she and Outdoors received a mountainous number of comments and inquiries.  Many people asked – via email and a variety of social media channels – of Ms. Graham her advice on how to stay safe in places where people of color have not been routinely warmly embraced.  

Ms. Graham responded; but not immediately, not for two years.  Her response was an essay for Outdoors.  Why the wait?  As explained in the preface to that second essay, it was because, in those early days following publication of her 2018 piece, “she did not know what to say” in the way of answers or advice.  

It was on September 21,2020- – following the societal protests and demonstrations of last spring, and amid those of last summer –that Latria Graham’s follow-up essay,  “Out There, Nobody Can Hear You Scream,”  was published in Outdoors. .

Ms. Graham was also the guest and featured in an Outdoors podcast episode, “Latria Graham’s Love Letter To Black Adventurers,” first broadcast on November 11, 2020.  

In “Out There, Nobody Can Hear You Scream,” Ms. Graham recommends organizations to support that are out front and effective in creating opportunities, events, and programs in nature and the outdoors for Blacks.  Among those organizations she listed is Outdoor Afro, a non-profit which is the “nation’s leading, cutting edge network that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature.”

Rue Mapp, CEO of  Outdoor Afro, founded the organization, as a blog, in 2009.  Today, Outdoor Afro has “more than 80 leaders in 42 cities around the country,” and connects “thousands of people to nature experiences, who are changing the face of conservation.”

Ms. Mapp, an in-demand writer and speaker, has been honored with awards for her work, including a Heinz Award, Jefferson Award, and National Wildlife Federation National Conservation Achievement Award.

The outdoors is for all of us. All of us hold equal right to enjoy its beauty … its energy, sights, sounds, and smells … and its restorative power.  

And, for sure, the “face of conservation” should be a palette that contains all the colors of humanity.