Is Your Hair Keeping You Out of the River?


We sure hope not!

Earlier this year, I was so excited to present in Atlanta for Keeping it Wild to share how outdoor organizations might be more relevant through meaningful partnerships. I appreciated the candor and honesty of the audience, many of whom took the time to share their successes and challenges when working with organizations and communities to connect more people, especially black people, to the outdoors.

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Check out how one mother connects her family to the river:

One participant, Gwyneth Moody, Community Programs Coordinator of the Georgia River Network, began a question with a disclaimer that she meant no disrespect to the predominantly black room before asking, “What is the issue for African American women and water activities?” in response to her experiences with low turnout of black women for the local river activities she organizes.

After a beat of silence in the room, I began to share how our hair texture changes when wet and how it often requires a lot of expense and time to restore hair to preferred styles, hence the reluctance to get our hair wet recreationally. I also added that attitudes were changing, as more black women are choosing natural styles to free themselves of the high maintenance often associated with straightening and other styling techniques.

Gwyneth was visibly relieved. Finally, she was aware of one of the best known facts about black women, though rarely discussed outside of our community. And our conversation inspired her. When I returned home from Atlanta, Gwyneth contacted me and we discussed strategies for how we might work together to get more people, and especially black women engaged with rivers and lakes for fun, health, and for future conservation.

So over the next few months Outdoor Afro and the Georgia Rivers Network have decided to collaborate to share how more African-Americans can connect and enjoy their local rivers and waterways.

We will feature examples of African American historical and current participation along waterways, and finally share ideas and resources where people can get connected to programs and other resources.

It is our hope we can help empower people and organizations with the information they need to choose rivers and waterways as a part of a relevant connection to nature and conservation.

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This blog series is sponsored by the Georgia River Network


2 Thoughts on “Is Your Hair Keeping You Out of the River?”

  • Rue, you are the ever-faithful environmentalist. I take such pride in how much you have done and do concerning diversity and the environment. Of course, I have much to say on this subject. On black women and issues concerning their hair and water recreation, people can read the latest from your blog. I’m also thinking about Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m-4qxz08So. There’s a point in a doc where someone tells the story of being on a yacht. An African American woman did go swimming but took forever to dry out her weave. She was there with her white boyfriend nad he was beyond frustrated about the time it was taking for her to come back out for dinner. I’m also excited that here in Pittsburgh Women for a Healthier Environment has been working on the toxic effects of women’s personal products including cosmetics and hair products. I believe they are going to expand into the impact on the health of black women particularly concerning THE RELAXER. http://www.womenforahealthyenvironment.org/

  • I was really excited to read this and it prompted me to discuss with some friends. I spent lots of time at the beach as a kid (when I had a relaxer) and now (when I wear a natural). There are certain realities associated with getting you hair wet and not combing through immediately, but dialogue and eduction on caring for your hair outside of the beauty parlor can free us to enjoy water based activities.

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