February is Black History month and as a company, it’s important for all of us here at iksplor to celebrate this annual reminder of the powerful achievements and contributions of Black Americans to this country. Elevating the voices and experiences of people of color in this country is critical and we’re grateful to have a platform we can use to do just that.
Yet, as an outdoor adventure business, we’re well aware of how far our industry has fallen short in this regard. The gap in representation and access for people of color in outdoor sports and adventure is real and problematic. According to a 2022 report by the Outdoor Foundation, the nonprofit research and grant-making arm of the Outdoor Industry Association, while diversity in outdoor recreation is growing, it’s slow. Still nearly three in four participants are white and Black people have the lowest participation rates when compared to Hispanic, Asian / Pacific Islander and white people. It’s also not yet routine enough to see people of color modeling outdoor clothing and gear in magazines or marketing emails, nor does the media often highlight businesses and organizations owned and led by people of color or non-white athletes. Yet they are out there.
So, for this Black History month, we wanted to highlight some of those businesses and people in an endeavor to help bring more balance, diversity and inclusivity to the outdoor world.
Founded by Danielle Williams, an avid sky diver and disabled Army vet who served for 10 years, Melanin Base Camp is an award-winning blog that aims to “increase the visibility of outdoorsy black, indigenous, people of color, to increase our representation in the media, advertising and in the stories we tell ourselves about the Outdoors.” It’s chock full of interesting articles – everything from why leashing your dog is important to how to dismantle biases to the relationship immigrants have to rest – and incredible resources for planning outdoor adventures and learning to be a real ally to people of color in the outdoors.
A national non-profit, Outdoor Afro “celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature.” With year-round events across the country including outdoor leadership training, swim classes for youth and activities ranging from fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking, gardening, skiing and more, Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people and communities to nature.
This nonprofit works to ensure that all children have equitable access to nature so they can reap the innumerable health and development benefits of time spent outside. Knowing that children today spend, “on average, up to 44 hours per week in front of a screen, and less than 10 minutes a day playing outdoors,” the organization aims to share resources and advocate for policy changes that will help all families – no matter their race or socioeconomic status – get out into the natural world.
There are so many more great organizations we could list here! But it’s simply impossible to mention them all. But if you’re interested in learning about more great groups, check out this list that REI put together. You can also read through this run-down from Hike It Baby of organizations working to make the outdoor industry more inclusive and also helping to get more people and youth of color into nature. Closer to our home in Jackson, Wyoming, we so admire the work of Coombs Outdoors and the City Kids Wilderness Project.
Social media is another great tool to amplify the voices and experiences of Black people and other communities of color in the outdoors. As individuals, we can all make a point to follow and share important content from non-white influencers, athletes, parents and others whose connections to nature and outdoor adventure can help dispel stereotypes and misinformation. Some that we love include:
Any of the women from this story published in Condé Nast Traveler a few years ago. We wrote about it in one of our Weekly Summits in 2021 and it bears highlighting again here. The 10 women profiled (including a few behind some of the organizations we mentioned above) are working tirelessly to make adventuring in the outdoors feel accessible and welcoming to those who may not be white, male or cis-gender, which, of course, is not always a given.
* photo by Shelma Jun
Wynn-Grant is a large carnivore wildlife ecologist who holds research positions at UC Santa Barbara and the National Geographic Society, as well as being a visiting scientist at the American Museum of Natural History. While we love her photos from the field of her cuddling wild bear cubs and ring tailed lemurs and the like, we get especially excited about posts like this one (of her older daughter), featuring her two girls – or as she likes to refer to them, her #miniexplorers.
* photo from raewynngrant.com
Tariq is the founder of the social media campaign @BrownPeopleCamping, an effort to push for greater diversity, equity, access, and justice in the outdoors. As an advocate, outdoor activist and author, she uses storytelling to share her experiences as a Muslim, South-Asian American immigrant woman. In 2021 she published a children’s book called “Fatima's Great Outdoors,” a story that underscores just how important it is that this nation’s public lands remain freely and equally accessible to us all.
* photo frombrownpeoplecamping.com
Other ways to promote a more inclusive world of outdoor adventure might involve engaging with organizations that prioritize diversity by participating in activities with them, donating money or volunteering. We can also educate ourselves on how to be better allies to people from communities long underrepresented in outdoor spaces.
Because, of course, the natural world and wild spaces are meant for us all – freely and equally. These are spaces where anyone should feel welcome, comfortable and safe. A critical fact not just for the sake of justice and equality, which in itself is enough, but also because the more people who spend time in nature, the more we hope and believe they will grow to love it and work to protect and preserve it. Which benefits us all. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we started iksplor in the first place: to help more families get outside and nurture nature-loving children who will grow into nature-protecting adults.
So, this February – and all year long – let’s recognize and remember how much stronger we are the more diverse we are on the trail, in the mountains, at camp, on the water and everywhere else.
When I became pregnant with my daughter in 2015 I decided to move back to Jackson permanently to raise her among the mountains and wild spaces. Previously, I had split time between Jackson and New York. We ski and hike, bike and camp and are serious travel buddies. “When are we going to the airport?” is her favorite question.