A Reflection on Harriet Tubman’s Relationship with Nature

Reflecting on Freedom in America

One month ago today (7.19.21), on Juneteenth, we asked you to join us in nature for 2.5 hours and reflect on the question, “what does freedom in American mean to you?” So many of you took to nature to reflect and many of you shared your reflections with us.

What is Juneteenth?

On June 19, 2021 hundreds of people around the United States joined us outdoors in commemoration of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth is an annual recognition of the moment when 250,000 enslaved Black Americans in Galveston Texas were told they were free in the year 1865 – 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect – January 1, 1863.

Many accounts of history appear to leave out the “how and why.” How was it possible for President Abraham Lincoln to draft and sign an executive order known as the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery in September 1862 and despite the three months until it took effect, no one told the enslaved?

  • Why didn’t the slave holders tell the enslaved?
  • Why didn’t the sheriff tell the enslaved?
  • Why didn’t the mayor tell the enslaved?
  • Why didn’t the governor tell the enslaved?

What You Shared

“I was able to celebrate Juneteenth with my granddaughter at Egmont Key National Refuge in Crystal River, Fl. We spent a wonderful three hours enjoying the beautiful island beach. As I approach the age of eighty, feeling so blessed and grateful for my life, I realize as Dr. King said that “None of us is free until all of us are free.”

“Reflecting on the meaning Juneteenth, I have always had mixed feelings about it. As Black person, I did not learn about the day until I was an adult. Also, in a black family where we often remember the emancipation in April and learning about Juneteenth for the first time as an adult made me scratch my head. That is because I felt it was celebrating the fact that Texas could no longer lie to its enslaved population and seemed out of place. But I also have learned to appreciate and grow in understanding about the significance of the day. It also can now be a day to reflect on how far we need to go and to not take small victories for granted.”

“Resilience-like the mighty trees and the water appearing still, but moving and providing a reflection of everything, beautiful souls grew strong and never stagnant-so is the freedom that our ancestors desired, somewhat achieved. Freedom now is the chance to grow strong without fear of another cutting you down because “you’re in their way to getting what equally belongs to all”. Freedom is the peace and tranquility reflected back to anyone looking at our society -no muddied waters or distorted reflections.”

 

“I spent a few hours at a park reflecting about what Juneteenth means to me. I marvel at how resilient we are as a people. Our ancestors endured the imaginable. I’m grateful to be living and choosing joy and rest as resistance on this day.”

 

“While I was unable to spend time outside on 6/19, I made up for it today, 6/20, in an event I partook in called WINGS, Women in Nature Gaining Skills. With a group of 17 awesome gals, we SUP’d on a small lake in Bloomington, IN. Some gracefully floated, some swerved, some tracked straight and fast and others sat back and relaxed. No matter the experience level, paddling preference, or personal identity, we all supported one another with a common purpose out on the lake today – to enjoy nature with other women. Spending time outdoors with like-minded individuals, and sometimes also alone, is where I begin my reflection. The element of time and how we choose to spend it is an incredible source of freedom, and to me, it’s one of the most treasured parts of being free in America. The choice to decide what you want to do during those evening or after-work hours, and going out and doing it while feeling welcome, safe, and supported – that matters. Today, I felt free to make my choice to spend time doing SUP yoga. I felt supported by these other women and thankful I could be a part of the experience, and hope the Program helped each participant feel welcome in the space and grow in their relationship with the outdoors.”

“To me, being able to spend time outside, and just “be”, is what it means to be free in America. To be able to make my own choices, about myself, my body, and my time is an incredible freedom. I chose to spend Juneteenth outdoors and just be, listening to the trees blow in the breeze and feel the sun shine down on me. Freedom of choice, to just be.”

“This is the first year I’ve formally celebrated Juneteenth. But something told me months ago that creating my own long-weekend writing retreat would free me from the unfinished manuscript I’d been dragging in my wake for the past several years. My back-country weekend has given me much more than that, though. The outdoors has always been my sanctuary and soothing balm–a socially acceptable form of solitude for an introvert like me. But this weekend– in the wake of last year’s social justice awakening and this new federal holiday–this Juneteenth weekend has made me appreciate what has brought me to this place. For my family and friends, for my education and opportunities, for the many other freedoms I enjoy, I have walked and remembered and embraced the outdoors this weekend as a symbol of the unlimited potential of life.”

 

“Today is a day brimming with celebration in our community of Oak Park Illinois-our first bike tour of important black history, influencers, and achievement. Our family learned a new perspective on the history here and are richer for it. The historic narrative has changed and the current one and current black experience is slowly changing here.”

 

“To be free in America is to be humbled by our past and committed to improving our future as a nation. It requires being open to admitting that we are a deeply flawed nation, a deeply flawed people but to have hope and determination that we can do a whole lot better. To be free in America requires that we the people allow everyone to stand in their truth and speak their truth. It means being more curious than afraid, more humble than defensive, more compassionate than aggressive, more united than divided. Is it to understand that this democracy is fragile? Is it an experiment that we must remain engaged in bettering and strengthening?”

“As a non-black person of color, freedom in what is now called the United States means liberation and shalom (wholeness) for all of our human and non-human relatives, particularly our black relatives. For healing to be supported and pursued for us to be in right relationship with each other, ourselves, and Creation. ”

“I spent 2 1/2 hours in a nearby forest riding my bicycle and reflected on how fortunate I am to not have to fear for my safety while spending time in the outdoors due to me being a white male. I have often thought about how it is different for women, but not for people of color until this past year. I will continue to discuss this with people I know in hopes of bringing about awareness. I also reflected on the enslaved people of Galveston and how after they were set “free”, they basically had the clothes on their body, likely no home, no money, and living in a part of the country that was hostile towards them. It is pretty much impossible for me to know what they went through. Brutal, sums it up. My mind rotates in thinking that the U.S enslaved people for 246 years! Not only that, this country was far harsher to the enslaved than happened over history in other parts of the world. As I typed this, I just now had the realization that I let out a verbal sigh. A minuscule act on my part, but a firm realization to how messed up humans have treated and continue to treat fellow humans, simply based upon the color of their skin. It is frustrating how far we have to go to make some amends. I will continue to work to educate myself on our racial past and do my best to be an ally. I know as a white male I have been provided a lot of opportunities that are simply denied to others that aren’t white male. Thank you for being a part in bringing about my awareness,” – Warm regards, Chris

“While out riding my bike, I reflected on what my freedom means to me. My freedom to practice my religion, free speech, buy a house, and spend time outside riding my bike, walking my dogs, visiting friends with no fear. My hope is that we all spend time thinking about how lucky we are and how we can help others be free to pursue their passions. 

 

“I spent the day with my family thinking about how beautiful it was to be in one another’s company surrounded by nature and love. I thought about how it must have felt for those enslaved individuals that waited so long for their freedom to feel that same joy on their own terms. It made me feel incredibly grateful to know that the freedom I experience today draws a direct line to those enslaved individuals that fought for it then. I look back at the history of Juneteenth with humbled admiration for the strength, love, and righteousness those folks faced each day with, and pray that I can reflect those characteristics in even the smallest of ways as an example to my son, on how not to repeat one of our nation’s most grave injustices and approach each day with love and an open heart towards others. ”

 

“I felt so fortunate to be able to have leisure time outdoors in this free country, and reflected on those who were forced to labor (outdoors) to make this country what it is today. ”

“The more I do the work of anti-racism and decolonization, the more I understand that “freedom” is shackled here in America. It is encouraging to look back and witness progress in our country, but in a place that was founded on slavery, white supremacy, and genocide, there is endless work to be done progressively so that “freedom” is equitable. In the meantime, as we work to obtain this goal, we can feel freedom.”

“ Having the empathy and courage to take action and support others when we see an imbalance within the social scales. Having the freedom to collectively fight regardless of how we look, where we come from, or how we identify or what we believe in.”

“I spent the day with my family at Jordan Lake Park in Apex, North Carolina, with the Outdoor Afro Raleigh/Durham Network. I reflected on how strong Black Americans are because of our ancestors and that we need to own and recognize our strength. However, our Ancestors chose to survive the brutality of being enslaved; the future generations are stronger because of their sacrifices. Whether after being enslaved, they jumped off the slave ship, worked on the plantation, worked in the slave house, or escaped, we are stronger because their blood runs through our veins. May the atrocities ”

Outdoor Afro x Ford Bronco


I have been a volunteer leader of the Birmingham network for Outdoor Afro for five years now, and have enjoyed every minute of it. As a brand new mom, it’s easy to lose sight of your interests. So joining Outdoor Afro provided a sense of community that catered to and helped to reacclimate me with my interests, passions, and hobbies. And as of this year, I have been named the southeast regional leader, having the opportunity to advise and support others in the southeast.
Recently, I did a brief test drive behind the wheel of the 2021 Ford Bronco and also sat in the back seat. When I first saw it, I quickly noticed that it had a Yakama camping rig on top of it and immediately said to myself how much I wanted this vehicle. It was just one of those camping systems that I had never seen in person before. I also paid attention to the length of the roof and how it’s built to carry things such as my kayak.

Another thing that I noticed was how well the Ford Bronco rides. If I had to describe it,

“I would say that it was a deceptively smooth ride. While in the back seat, we went over lots of gravel, and I didn’t feel any bumps or ridges, nor was it too top-heavy.”

 

The car that we were in had a very soft, deep-brown, cognac-colored leather. Which made the ride equally luxurious as we were riding around over rocks in the woods. But what I loved most about the inside was there were hooks in the backseat that could be used for anything. I could use them for my carabiners when I’m climbing, they could be used to hold your child’s bottles, it just depends on whatever your lifestyle permits. Also with the bag, there was a paracord zipper. So if you’re like me and carry a lot of gear, you could easily zip things up on the backseat.

Additionally, the backseat was very spacious. I didn’t feel like I was in a box and liked that it could potentially hold both of my kids’ car seats. There’s even a tuck hatch that looked like it could hold mine, my husband’s, and our kid’s gear, with additional room to spare. One of the nice things about the Ford Bronco was the attention to detail, as it is both elegant and approachable. We tend to orient ourselves by what we drive and people like to categorize us based on that. So it was clear that there was some consideration taken regarding the various demographics in customers. It’s just nice to know that I have the option to use my four-wheel drive to go over some rocks. But if I don’t want to, it’s equally nice to know that I’m in a vehicle that speaks to other parts of my personality.
In Outdoor Afro, we encourage you to define the outdoors for yourself. It isn’t just what we see as stereotypically outdoorsy, so we try to create narratives and images that show other representations of what the outdoors is. And I felt like that in the Ford Bronco.
It was a similar reflection in that it could be used outdoors to navigate the terrain, but it doesn’t have an off-putting or overly aggressive feel. I once viewed this vehicle as a “dad car” but this iteration of the Bronco can take me from brunch with my girls to the backcountry with Outdoor Afro.

Let’s Get Outside with our 2021 Leadership Team

We're Ready to get outside with you!

Announcing our 2021 Outdoor Afro Leadership Team!

We recently gathered virtually for our annual Outdoor Afro Leadership Training, and along with learning, connecting and reflecting on our love for nature, it was a celebration. We celebrated how our 103 Leaders who are teachers, doctors, grocery store managers, parents and outdoor employees among other roles, showed up this past year. Through the challenges we’ve all faced, they continued to show up connecting people to nature and each other. 

This year, our inspiring volunteer leaders come from diverse backgrounds in 56 cities and the District of Columbia. These volunteers embody the promise and passion to continue what Outdoor Afro trail blazed more than TEN YEARS ago!

As we continue to transform the narrative about Black leadership in the outdoors, we are honored to welcome the volunteer leaders who will continue the success of the previous classes of Outdoor Afro Leadership. Each volunteer leader will create and guide monthly trips, leverage media and create collaborations to strengthen connections with the outdoors.

Learn more about our training here.

We invest in our leaders through our annual in person training. However, during our online experience this year, we dug deep into two sessions of risk management, broke into small groups by activity to “choose your own adventure,” were grounded in our story as we planned our own mission statements as outdoor leaders,  and had so much fun with an OALT teambuilder.  We are grateful for an amazing team who have worked diligently to create a meaningful experience to deepen relationships with each other and build on existing expertise. You can look back on our training journey with #OALT21.

 

Throughout the year, Leaders will affirm Outdoor Afro values through ongoing training that reflects not just outdoor skills, but building community and relationships as well. We celebrated that nature never closes, and look forward to getting outside with you this year. 

Couples Camping and Roasting Marshmallows

Etiquette Tips For Camping with Friends and Family

Couples Camping © Steve Prezant/Corbis

You can’t change your friends and family, but you can change the way you camp with them. Some moderate planning can make a big difference in your camping experience together. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your camping trips with loved ones:

Shared Space
In some areas, the outdoors still has boundaries, and it’s important to honor both the environment and neighboring campers. If you are planning to visit a drive-up or RV campground, make sure you have reserved a site that can accommodate your entire group plus equipment, to avoid encroaching on neighboring sites. It’s also nice to offer neighbors a hand with tents or with getting a campfire lit. Good stewards leave no trace of trash, but leaving a bit of firewood for the next group in your spot is always a welcomed gesture.

Morning Oatmeal: Dudley Edmonsdon

Food
Plan your meals together at home and share the shopping tasks so there are no surprises. Meat eaters might eat vegetarian fare, but don’t expect your vegetarian friends and family members to eat the steak and bacon you brought, even if it is free range and hormone free! Decide on meal plans that accommodate everyone.

Marva and Daughter: Marva Cherry Flowers

Kids
If you have kids, and are planning to camp with folks without children, discuss logistics, such as the possibility of hands-on help with recreation or watching over little ones. If everyone is bringing little ones, get a watch routine together, so all the adults can plan for breaks in the action.

Music
If your camping mates are all persons of color, don’t assume folks want to hear Li’l Wayne on blast all weekend.   Bring acoustic instruments, like a hand drum or guitar that can be enjoyable and easy to play, even if you are not an expert. Singing or telling stories, while gathered around a campfire is classic, and timeless.

Booze/Drinks
Some drink, others don’t; some like Bud Light, others like Grey Goose. Discuss and get clear regarding alcohol consumption preferences, and know your campground policy on alcohol in advance (see Nancy’s comment below!).

Above all…just chill

Camping trips are a time to let go, and go with the flow. You might stay up ’til the wee hours to stargaze; your kids might eat a ton of s’mores, and all of you might laugh louder than you ever would at home after a long day at work. Enjoy it all! The best part of my own camping plan is to leave the city constraints behind and have fun!

What are some of your tips and experiences when camping with friends and family?

Chillin’: Dudley Edmondson

Black Firefighters Blazing Trails

Every month is Black History Month with Outdoor Afro as we seek to honor ancestors who’ve paved the way before us along with those who walk with us today.