Meet Chaya Harris. An Educator, Writer, Camper, World Traveler and First Year Outdoor Afro Leader! Chaya shares her reflection on our recent national training held in Yosemite National Park and a preview of what Outdoor Afro Boston should expect for this year!
What inspired you to apply for the Outdoor Afro leadership team?
Outdoor Afro somehow found me! I love being outside, but was frustrated that I was often alone on these adventures, and rarely saw anyone that looked like me. Sometimes I’ll hike with my dad, and we have a running tally about how many black people we see on the trail; he’s perfected the head-nod and “How ya’ doing?” that comes with the minority territory.
As an educator in my community, I also noticed a disconnect between many children and the outdoors. I know nature can play a crucial part in child development, whether it’s exploring, growing food or learning how to ride a bike, and I want every child to have access to these experiences. Lastly, since Outdoor Afro celebrates and inspires black people and their connection to nature, it is important to share our history and contributions. Learning more about our cultures and our collective impact on nature while having fun outside is a huge bonus!
Why is Boston ready for an Outdoor Afro network?
There’s a huge range of outdoor activities in and around Boston for all interests, ages and fitness levels. Plus a wealth of black and Native history here that isn’t shared widely or frequently enough. Bringing the Outdoor Afro network to Boston gives us the space to explore and connect with our rich culture and history.
How would you characterize your experience joining 60 leaders from the Outdoor Afro training in Yosemite?
In one word: nourishing.
When I headed home from the Outdoor Afro training, I felt like it was high school graduation. I was motivated, excited and felt like I had an understanding family to support me with not only developing a group here in Boston, but also with developing myself. It was bittersweet to leave my new friends so soon, yet inspiring to be a part of a nationwide network.
All of the workshops were just as entertaining as informative. I learned helpful tips for planning events, important elements of community activism, and interesting facts about black wellness, all in an engaging and open manner. Presenters were knowledgeable, and their passion permeated the sessions. In addition to learning, I loved connecting with the other 60 outdoor enthusiasts from veteran leaders, fellow educators to die hard sports fans was just a wonderful experience. Even our partners from REI, Keen, Columbia, Klean Kanteen, and Sierra Club were very welcoming and spoke with me as a friend, not as a customer.
And to top it off, founder Rue Mapp closed out training with a pinning ceremony and a giant Soul Train line!
What was your favorite workshop at the training and why?
I really enjoyed the Risk Management workshop with REI and St. Louis leader Duane Williams. The workshop included and a interactive icebreaker activity, learning risk management the Outdoor Afro way and applying our new tools and knowledge to various scenarios. This lively workshop taught me about facilitating a group, boundaries and cooperating with various personalities. It also revealed that everyone has their unique experiences, and that leaders need to offer empathy encouragement and support during Outdoor Afro events.
Tell us 3 main lessons you learned at the training that you are excited to apply in your Boston outdoor Afro events
- Fostering a community the Outdoor Afro way. I look forward leading our signature opening and closing circles and also connecting and engaging with members.
- Learning and sharing history. I’m excited to learn about and share the history of outdoor spaces as they relate to Boston’s diverse culture.
- Be prepared! I look forward to applying trip planning skills to preparing upcoming events.
Can you give us a preview of what’s in store for Outdoor Afro Boston this year?
This year, Outdoor Afros in Boston should look forward to a variety of activities: exploring the Black Heritage Trail around Beacon Hill, hiking in the Blue Hills, visiting the Inkwell on Martha’s Vineyard, and tracing Sojourner Truth’s footsteps in Western Mass. We’ll also hit the water with standup paddle-boarding and explore a Harbor Island in honor of black seamen. During the winter, of course we have to hit the New England slopes with skiing and snowboarding. I look forward to sharing with my community the many ways to enjoy the outdoors without breaking the bank!
Connect with Outdoor Afro Boston for your next adventure!!!!