Outdoor Afro Welcomes Ashley Williams, Global Marketing Director of KEEN, to its Board of Directors

Oakland, CA –December 10, 2018– Outdoor Afro, a national non-profit whose mission is to create and inspire Black leadership in nature, just announced its newest board member, Ashley Williams, Senior Director, Global Marketing  KEEN, Inc. (KEEN). KEEN and Williams have been long-standing supporters of Outdoor Afro.
Williams has spent the last two decades in the Sports and Outdoor industry for brands like adidas, Yakima and Amer Sports, with the last four years at KEEN helping to connect the brand with more fans and tell its values led stories. He is a passionate outdoors person and never happier than when on the trail with his family. Williams has served as Senior Global Marketing Director of KEEN since October 2014.
“We are overjoyed to have Ashley join the board,” said CEO of Outdoor Afro, Rue Mapp. “His depth of industry knowledge and marketing experience will help us continue to stay innovative and will be extremely valuable as we continue to expand our reach into more industries.”
“I’ve been inspired by the work of Outdoor Afro for many years and proud to join their family” said Williams. “The mission of celebrating and inspiring African American connections and leadership in nature is one that I fully support. To watch how they have grown and continue to stay on the cutting edge of this work is inspirational. I am thrilled to join the Board and look forward to using my experience in helping guide the team in the next phase of their growth.”
Williams will be joining an experienced board with expertise in business, philanthropy, wildlife conservation and public lands stewardship.

KEEN boot in dirt

Image Credit: Outdoor Afro


About Outdoor Afro: Outdoor Afro has become the nation’s leading, cutting edge network that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature by helping people take better care of themselves, our communities, and our planet. Outdoor Afro is a national non-profit organization with leadership networks around the country. With nearly 80 leaders in 30 states, Outdoor Afro connects thousands of people to outdoor experiences, who are changing the face of conservation. For more information, visit www.outdoorafro.com.
About KEEN: Driven by a passion for life outside, KEEN is a values-led, independently owned brand from Portland, Oregon, that’s on a mission to create original and versatile products, improve lives, and inspire outside adventure. Founded in 2003, it launched a revolution in the footwear industry with the introduction of the Newport adventure sandal, and has donated more than $17 million to non-profit organizations and causes around the world to promote responsible outdoor recreation, including conservation efforts to protect open spaces. KEEN strives to show the world through its products and its actions that a business for good can actually be good for business. By giving back, reducing impact, and activating communities and individuals to protect the places where we work and play, KEEN puts its values in motion and takes action to leave the world a better place. Learn more at https://www.keenfootwear.com/our-purpose.html

Go RVing Sponsors Family Fest Field Day – Find Your Away!

Outdoor Afro and GoRVing – Perfect Together

On September 29, 2018, one of our good friends, Go RVing sponsored a Family Fest Field Day at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro, MD., for the DC Outdoor Afros and their families.
The day started with a yoga session among the trees with Khepera Wellness Yoga leading the session. It was a picture-perfect day with mild temps and not a drop of rain in sight. Then it was time for a delicious lunch followed by some field games – limbo, balloon toss, a giant Connect Four, corn hole and more!
Go RVing brought a family friendly motorhome made by Winnebago to tour. This RV was fantastic with room to sleep seven, a full kitchen and bath and even an outdoor kitchen with a flat screen TV – perfect for tailgating. Thanks to Christy Hamilton & Jim Boyle from the Go RVing team for providing us with details about the RV and why there’s a RV for everyone. With all the different sizes and styles, there’s an RV that’s just right for an epic road trip with the family, a weekend away with your friends or a tailgate in the park.
Find Your Away at www.GoRVing.com

Yoga in the Park

An Interconnected Life – A Profile of Myrian Solis Coronel of REI

Myrian and her son, Lucca, doing what they love best – playing and laughing.

Myrian Solis Coronel has been an instrumental part of Outdoor Afro ever since CEO and founder, Rue Mapp, shared her vision back in 2009. Myrian has been a supportive friend and partner ensuring introductions and connections were made when Outdoor Afro was just a blog – because she saw the potential. Myrian is currently the chair of the California State Parks Commission, where Rue is also a commissioner. 

While much of the world seems intent on dividing us, Myrian draws inspiration from the great outdoors as a means to connect to her authentic self and to bring communities around the world closer together. As a young child, Myrian’s abuela (Spanish for grandmother) took advantage of adventures right outside her back door, which allowed Myrian to see and appreciate the world from very unique perspectives. Myrian smiles today as she reflects on the good times with abuela and shares fond memories from her outdoor experiences, to which she credits her strong desire to form genuine, empathetic relationships.

Myrian grew up in San Diego, specifically the South Bay Area. San Diego is a city by the sea known for its relatively large immigrant population. A couple times a month, Myrian’s abuela would take her to visit Border Field State Park, a place that Myrian calls “magical.” Border Field State Park sits right on the border of San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico. They were two worlds that were so close but so far away, divided by the border wall. The magic of Border Field State Park, containing a structure created to divide worlds, was that it became a place where people gathered and told stories about their lives both in Mexico and in the States. In spite of the fence that separated them, this was a place where Myrian was able to experience the richness of her Mexican and American cultures. These outdoor experiences as a child created long-lasting memories and instilled in Myrian a passion for family and community that she holds dear to this day.

Myrian and her husband love traveling and exploring new parts of the world. Colombia, was a perfect trip combining her appreciation of big cities – Bogota and her love for warm beaches, Cartagena.

What is your favorite outdoor childhood memory?
Two really come to mind.

My first is when my abuela would pick my brother and me up from school and take us to her house. We spent a lot of time with her as children. The townhomes in her community sat on big plots of land. I can remember spending most of my time playing outdoors, running around, hiding in the bushes, playing in dirt, getting muddy, and playing in puddles without a care in the world. I would walk into my abuela’s living room after spending the afternoon playing, covered in dirt and mud, and hear her say, with a humorous worry, “Ay dios mio. ¡Tu mama me va a matar!” (Your mother is going to kill me!). I want my kids to have that childhood. All children should be able to experience that kind of joy without worrying about getting dirty or sick.

Another strong memory is visiting Border Field State Park with my abuela. During our walks in the park, my abuela would share vivid stories of her childhood, her fascination with food, and my abuelo’s love for music. My abuelo loved music so much that we would have conversations in which he responded to our questions with a melody. Abuela would also tell us stories of my mom’s adolescent years. These walks were our special moments. Today, every time I hike Border Field I feel the ocean breeze that hits me as a sign of her whispers or her way of caressing my curly hair.

From Buenos Aires to the Mighty Mount Tronador and the Black Glacier in Bariloche (Patagonia, Argentina), Myrian blends her love for music, food, nature and big metro cities in her globetrotting.

How does your past influence the decisions you make for the future?
As a child, spending these special days at Border Field Park with my abuela and the community beyond the fence instilled so many values in me that have influenced the woman I am today. It took us three hours to get in and out of the park. The highlight was walking between the dirt trail and sandy beach and listening to abuela’s stories from her childhood and upbringing in Mexico. Abuela would meet strangers and share her stories. This allowed her to meet new people and relive loving memories of her past. When I go to the park now, it reminds me of who she was, what she did, and how, unintentionally, she instilled all these values – love, respect, connection, and empathy – in me. The love of nature. The love of culture. My abuela showed us the joy in connecting with people and storytelling.

Today, connecting with people is where I feel my truest sense. I have the opportunity to do this professionally by leading REI’s national partnership program and uplifting the co-op’s mission and our partners’ incredible work. Through this program, I’m able to connect with organizations offering space and community to people of color who love the outdoors. My goal is to weave in the partnership to various parts of the co-op to disrupt the “normal” image of who’s playing outside.

I also have the opportunity to connect with a larger community in my role as chair for the California State Parks Commission. With 280 parks across the state, including Border Field State Park, we learn about the rich history these places hold, the vast recreation opportunities they offer, and the deep connection people have for parks. I believe my love for parks and commitment to volunteerism led me to this incredible civic duty.

I take tremendous pride in both roles and think it’s because of my emotional and personal connection to open spaces. They’re part of my story.

Why is volunteering in the community important for you?
Volunteerism was always something we did growing up. Whether it was participating in a food drive for the needy, cooking for a neighbor who was going through a rough time, or spending time in an orphanage in Baja playing dolls with the girls, my family always demonstrated a sense of gratitude for what we had while giving to others who might be less fortunate.
Today, this same spirit is what draws me to volunteerism. Whether it’s representing a perspective at a California State Park public meeting that is not present or advocating for more access to our public spaces, my hope is to represent and invite unheard perspectives to the conversations. By bringing people in, we become more inclusive, welcoming, and, as a result, gain perspective. The more people see themselves, their stories, and ideas in our parks, the more connected they’ll feel to the place. If we can feel a sense of pride and ownership for these public places, we can pass this spirit on to the next generation.

Myrian, her son Lucca and daughter, Luciana, explore around an urban garden in San Diego learning how food is grown and harvested.

What do you see as the most important part of your role?
The most important thing for me is changing the narrative around the traditional form that the industry has labeled as outdoor recreation. Hiking and backpacking are not words usually used by people of color who love the outdoors. When my abuela took us to Border Field State Park, she didn’t say, “Let’s go hiking” – despite the three-mile hike. She would say, “Let’s go to the park” or “Let’s go walk at the park.” The day was also about having fun. It wasn’t about making it to Monument Mesa. It was about the stroll in the park and the stories my abuela would share. If we made it to Monument Mesa, it was a bonus! I want us to continue to challenge the traditional outdoor narrative and change the imagery to reflect the America we truly are.

What is your vision for the future of the outdoor industry?
I want to show multicultural communities that this is an industry filled with incredible job opportunities. If you love the outdoors, you can actually make a living in this space. We have accountants, photographers, HR professionals, legal teams, writers, and IT. You name it, we got it! People should join the industry and influence the traditional thinking model by bringing a fresh perspective and change the face of who is running this industry.

How has the industry changed since you have been involved?
So much has changed in the past 10 years that I’ve been at the co-op. We’ve seen changes in consumer behavior, from social media to our inclusion efforts. Though we’ve made tremendous strides engaging with multicultural customers, we still have opportunity for growth.

At REI, we’ve used research data to cultivate relationships and deliver more relevant engagement strategies for multicultural members. We have invested and uplifted the work of national partners, such as Outdoor Afro, because we have a shared value and commitment to the outdoors. The partnerships are reciprocal, but the biggest winners are the community and the open spaces. By connecting and providing rich experiences in nature, public lands gain advocates, and we become a healthier and more active society.

We also acknowledge that representation matters. It’s hard for people to relate to a brand if they don’t see themselves reflected in the teams or their marketing. REI has become a stronger platform for representing a wider range of narratives. We need to continue this theme and help other content platforms and brands source these incredible stories. The more people see themselves and their stories told, the closer we’ll bring them as fans and consumers.

One of the most impactful things I’ve seen over the course of my journey at REI is Force of Nature. This initiative has disrupted and changed the status quo for women – from career opportunities, to sizing, to representation in marketing and content, and to experiences. I can see how this innovative model can embed other dimensions of identity and build upon our inclusion efforts.

What do you want your legacy to be? Professionally? Personally? Or is there a difference?
One of the things I have been able to do – professionally, as a volunteer, and for fitness – is ensure that everything is interconnected. This also exemplifies an expression of my purpose – to do what I love and what I’m good at, have fun, and make a positive difference for my and future generations.

Myrian loves every aspect of her life and is helping people by making communities brighter, more positive, and more connected. Sometimes we get caught up in the fact that it’s work, but we have to always remember to have fun! It’s nature – and it’s healthy for all – if we’re able to connect as humans, have fun, invite others, and enjoy the work. We’re looking forward to what Myrian does next.

Integrating Kilimanjaro Training into Daily Life

by Olatunde Gbolahan
You ever have that feeling like there is just not enough time in a day? If I’m ever sitting around not doing anything, I feel like I should be doing something else. Walking the dog, attending a meeting, dropping off the kids, picking up the kids, swimming at the pool, heading to the gym… and the list goes on and on and on.
When did I get this busy? August 2017 to be exact. For the past year, I’ve been training to summit the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, at 19,341 ft. From the beginning, my biggest concern was the altitude. I live in Austin and the highest elevation we have is a whopping 489 ft.

To help prepare, I researched and learned that swimming helps prevent altitude sickness through breathing and breath control. I added swimming to my list of training activities. When I started swimming, I could not swim for more than five minutes at one time, but I set a goal of being able to swim continuously for one hour, three time a week. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I do not struggle with achieving goals I set for myself. My struggle is often achieving goals at the detriment of all else. I am proud to share that for the past two months, I have been consistently swimming my hour laps, 2-3 times a week. I’ve been dealing with sickness and anemia, but still I make it to the pool consistently. To ensure that I did not achieve this at the detriment of all else, I have been following three pillar practices.

My first pillar practice is that I have to schedule the important things, like dedicated one-on-one family time.
My father/daughter and wife/husband date nights are non-negotiable. I wouldn’t be able to do this expedition without the support of my daughter and wife, so these repeating events in my calendar and are not overwritten. There have been times that we had to resolve to a simple meal out and conversation instead of the more active trampoline park due to fatigue, but these have been some of the best outings in my opinion. I have gained greater insight into the minds of my family.

My second pillar practice is using daily life events as training opportunities. For example:
When I walk the dog, I do it with a weighted, 35lb pack.
When the tractor has a flat, I change the tire myself and use the opportunity to get my squats and core workout in. Farm work is a great workout. Nothing gets your core and large muscle groups worked like flipping tractor tires on 250lb rim.
When managing my apiary (bee farm), I’m cutting down trees, putting up fence posts, running barbed wire, lifting and pushing/attaching three point tractor implements, pushing a mower, and/or lifting and relocating hive bodies.
When I am doing my Outdoor Afro events, I use them to train. Thursdays after work we have been hiking the Violet Crown trail which is an out and back that goes from South Austin to Central Austin. If we are able to do the entire trail it would be about 11 miles. So far, we typically average about 6.5 miles with a group due to darkness. My record mid-week after work hiking distance from two weeks ago is 10.2 miles.

My third pillar practice is to use what I have.
I’m fortunate to work for a company that actually has an on-site gym that offers great equipment and group classes. When the weather is too bad to go out, I’ve been able to use the gym to do stairs with a weighted pack. I also participate in the bootcamp group class twice a week.
So, how do I manage to train while still taking care of the many responsibilities of life? Just like I plan to do the mountain. One step, one breath, one activity, one achievement at a time, while trying to make sure not to miss the important things. I don’t want to summit at the detriment of experiencing the climb.

Grasping Possibilities – A Mother’s Motivation for Climbing a Mountain

by Katina Grays
My three year old daughter, Seraphina and I have talked about me climbing this mountain in Tanzania called Mt. Kilimanjaro.  I’ve shown her pictures of the mountain and Seraphina has taken a curious interest in what I do at the gym to train. She has randomly said to people, “You know what? My mom is very strong.”  It is the cutest vote of confidence and at the same time, I feel a little unworthy of that endorsement. Honestly, I am still quite nervous about a lot of it (e.g., the altitude, no showers for 7 days, the cold, my fear of open heights…did I mention no showers?)

June is here and I actually can’t quite believe that in days, I will be up there…on a mountain…in Tanzania!?!  I lead a pretty regular life – I’m a 44 year old, working mom in New York City. Like many mamas, my week typically consists of commuting, work meetings, errands, and spending time with Seraphina.  Kilimanjaro feels like a world away from all of that.
There’s certainly a part of me that’s always loved a good adventure and a new experience.   While those new thrill reasons are there, my biggest motivator for this is Seraphina and my experience as a mother.
I believe that one of the best things that I can do as a mom is to live a full, holistic life that allows my daughter to see me as a whole person, with my own interests, dreams and goals – in addition, to being her mother.  Motherhood is often portrayed as pure loving sacrifice. And sometimes, it is that.  But having come to motherhood later in life, I knew that I still wanted to be the complete person I was before Seraphina.  I never wanted to diminish or martyr myself to meet society’s “sacrificial mother” standard.

I recognize that it’s much easier to say that than to do it.  Pursuing this Kilimanjaro dream means that I am choosing to focus on my own desires and needs.  It means that I am choosing to spend a considerable amount of time away from my daughter, probably with infrequent opportunities to communicate with her.  *Blinks away tears* I don’t take those choices lightly (and I recognize that it is a privilege to even have these choices in the first place.)

I am making these choices precisely because I want to push my own particular boundaries as a mother. I want Seraphina to hopefully remember the experience of her mother pursuing a personal goal and trying hard to see it through.  But more than that, I want to expand her awareness of everything that is possible for her.  As Alice Walker once wrote, “My mother has handed down respect for the possibilities – and the will to grasp them.”

But I also make this choice because I want other moms to know that they are seen and that their personal goals and dreams matter.  While those dreams may or may not involve anything like Kili, I’m hoping that my trek up the mountain offers a metaphor, or a moment of reflection for them to see themselves achieving anything they set out to do.

“I Don’t Think I’m Supposed to Be Here” — An Accidental Outdoors Story

To get lost is to learn the way – African Proverb

by Alora Jones
As a (somewhat) outdoorsy Black woman at a very white non-profit in a super white state, finding Outdoor Afro was like the answer to my prayers. I’m not entirely sure how it all happened, but I often tell people that I stumbled into this life — getting lost and finding my way.

I’ve always had an appreciation for the outdoors and my connection to nature, but even so classified the whole lifestyle of being “outdoorsy” as one of those things that just white people do. Despite my skepticism, I applied to join the 2016 Outdoor Afro Leadership Team after enough people encouraged me and convinced me I could do it. Upon arriving at the leadership summit in Yosemite National Park, my world was rocked and my life changed forever.

Since I’ve had the great privilege of joining this organization, finding my tribe, and learning to forge my own way, I’ve become addicted to seeking new heights to climb and new challenges to overcome. This is why when I was presented with the opportunity to join the 2018 Outdoor Afro Kilimanjaro Team, I made up my mind to make it happen long before I had any idea of what that might look like or how I would get there. Being told by a couple people in my life that these ambitions were unrealistic only fueled my thirst for adventure.

I was elated when I found out I had been accepted onto the team, and immediately began scheming ways to incorporate altitude training into my fitness regimen — a tough task in Minneapolis, at 830’ elevation. My best training trip to date was to Cortez, CO to climb with our Kilimanjaro leader and veteran mountaineer, Philip Henderson. Phil is one of those people who teaches you worlds about life and yourself, but still leaves you feeling like it was all your idea.

In addition to reaching my first summit, Centennial Peak at just over 13,000 ft, I was incredibly fortunate to better get to know Phil and my teammates, Katina and Ray, while learning valuable lessons on what it means to be a leader in the outdoors. The trip taught me humility, teamwork, compassion, and self-care. But most importantly, the time I spent out west with my tribe was an important reminder of why I wanted to be an Outdoor Afro leader in the first place — because I love my people and I deeply believe in the mission of this organization.

I feel so incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to carry this love and this mission with me to the top of Africa — and to have a place on the Kilimanjaro team amongst a group of leaders that truly embodies Black Excellence, even if I sometimes feel that I’m not supposed to be here. I hope our journey inspires other people at home and beyond, who maybe think they’re not supposed to be where they are but forge ahead on their own path anyway.

Because as it turns out, “supposed to be” is actually just whatever you decide it is!


Favorite Snacks

  • Peppered beef jerky
  • Coconut almond chocolate Clif Bars
  • Nutella and pretzel rods

What’s On My Trail Mix

  • Road to Zion – Damian Marley
  • Tightrope – Janelle Monae
  • Raspberry Beret – Prince
  • Rise to the Sun – Alabama Shakes


Training to Climb the World’s Tallest Free-Standing Mountain

By Stephen Scott
I am climbing 19,341 feet to the top of a volcano. Yes! Mount Kilimanjaro is a volcano (dormant but not extinct), but why?  For me, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime to ascend one of the Seven Summits1 with individuals who look like me. So, why ascend to the highest point in Africa?

  • To reflect on the relationships with those closest to me.
  • To inspire my children, my family and my community.
  • To encourage the next generations to breathe thin air.
  • To immerse myself in the local culture of Tanzania. I love to learn about culture (food, language and music), history and geology.

I have come to really enjoy an adventure!  Whether it be the thrill of playing sports or simply exploring a nearby creek.  The byproduct of my parents’ divorce was travelling between the two of them on school breaks.  My mom and stepdad were big on the outdoors (car camping, backpacking, canoeing, snorkeling, etc.).  They would tell you that I was miserable during the adventures and are surprised that I am now the most active out of my brothers.
Spending the school months with my Dad, I was able to develop a love for fitness and training.  He was a middle school teacher and coach who loved working out (lifting weights and running).  Maybe it was an inspiration of bodybuilders and movie stars of the 80’s.
Needless to say during my adult years, I have continued to remain active in the outdoors through: flag football, pickup basketball, volleyball, snowboarding, Nordic skiing, rock climbing, camping, canoeing, snorkeling and more.

Our journey to the summit of Kilimanjaro and back will occur over 8 days.  I had previously researched training using Mark Twight’s Extreme Alpinism2.  Twight emphasizes climbing light and fast through building power via cardio and muscular excercise.  I completed one cycle of training (22 week cycle) after being notified of my selection for the Outdoor Afro Kilimanjaro team.

Single Leg Squats

During the first cycle of training, I was informed of another great mountaineering book by Steve House called New Alpinism3.  His book was very impressive with the amount of information provided around training plans, real world examples, science behind the training, prep for altitude and more.  For my second cycle of training, I decided to implement House’s New Alpinism methods.
My training has been broken down into 5 phases based on the New Alpinism book. The total length of this training cycle is 31 weeks with training occurring 5 to 7 days a week.  Each part builds upon the previous part to provide the optimal mental and physical needs for the climb.  Each of the first three phases ranges in timeframe from 8 to 11 weeks.

  • Transition: This is about getting your body ready (8 weeks)
  • Base – Strength: This is about building strength so your body will be able to handle what’s coming (8 weeks)
  • Base – Endurance: This is about switching the focus so your body can do longer activities (8 weeks)
  • Taper: Will allow my body time to recover while maintaining the foundation built during training (2 weeks)
  • Showtime: Put all the hard work to the test (8-day climb)

The biggest challenge for me in switching up methods was shifting from primarily using anaerobic system training to aerobic.  These methods totally flipped my training due to my history of training for explosive movements with football and track.  By switching to aerobic training, my training is slowly converting my body to use fat for energy versus carbohydrates.  This system will be extremely helpful for the 8 day journey at a pole pole4 pace. I am putting my trust in the training plan to prepare me not only physically but mentally.  Beyond the hiking and altitude challenges, one must be prepared for long days of hiking (up to 8 hours a day).

Weighted Pull Ups

Is all of my training relegated to indoors due to my location in Minnesota? Not at all! Throughout my training, I have been able to train outdoors as well. Upon learning of my selection to the OA Kili team (June 2017), I started training by taking 1-3 mile hikes through my neighborhood pushing my twins in their stroller. I use work travels to Las Vegas as an opportunity to get elevation training in the Mt Charleston area (Mary Jane Falls and Fletcher Peak).   Winters in Minnesota can be a buzzkill if you don’t find ways to cope. I was able to go cross-country skiing and hike snow covered trails in my ski gear. Recently, I have been utilizing the twilight hours (4am) to get in 3-6 mile hikes without interruptions to my family time.

Photo Credit: onlyinyourstate.com


  • Aerobic Threshold (AT) Heart Rate Zone 1 Rolling Hill Climbs (build my aerobic system base)
  • AT Zone 3 (anaerobic system maintenance)
  • Step Ups with Weight (build leg strength and balance for the uphill climb of Kilimanjaro)
  • Scott’s Killer Core Routine5 (build core strength and stabilizer muscles)

The North Face Ambition Shirt – Perfect shirt for staying cool during my workouts
The North Face Kilowatt Thermoball Jacket -Great warm hoodie for days above freezing in Minnesota
KEEN Durand Mid Boots – Nice sturdy boot for hiking

Thank you to The North Face and KEEN Footwear for providing gear for our journey!

Rolling Hill Walk on a 40F Day in Minnesota


  1. Seven Summits – The Seven Summits are the highest mountains of each of the seven continents.
  2. Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, High, and Fast Paperback by Mark Twight
  3. Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete by Steve House
  4. Pole Pole – pronounced Polay Polay – means slowly, slowly in Swahili
  5. Scott Johnson – world class Nordic skier who developed