The Good Fight for our Humanity, Mother Earth and our Uni-verse

The Good Fight for our Humanity, Mother Earth and our Uni-verse – Taishya Adams

My earliest childhood memories always involve trees. Big trees. Trees that were three stories tall and imaginably transformed into homes with my family and friends in the trees around me, my community. The outdoors can mean many things to many people. To me, its as expansive as playing golf with my grandpa as a kid to climbing Kilimanjaro last year. It’s connection, it’s adventure, its responsibility. As an Outdoor Afro leader in Colorado, I build on their 10-year legacy of reconnecting black people to the outdoors and our role as leaders in it. I believe that human relationships are at the center of our work towards justice, the foundation each of us can build upon. I will always remember hearing a 6-year-old Outdoor Afro participant yell “believe in yourself” to his grandmother as she carefully scrambled up Red Rocks in Boulder, Colorado. This moment of intergenerational connection was healing for many of us and as COVID-19 has disrupted life as we know it, these connections become even more crucial. Our outdoor community has been transformed into a thriving virtual one where members now meet others across state lines and time zone. Creating a space for healing through sessions on meditation and nature journaling. In addition to connection with each other, Outdoor Afro raises the awareness of our members about the environmental issues impacting their families and communities. Empowering more Black people to become informed and engaged in recognizing the need to protect wildlife and their habitats, promote more equitable access to green spaces in their own communities are a critical part of a healthy human ecosystem.

As an educator, trainer, organizer, collaborator, and leader, I stand firmly at the intersection of education, health, and the environment, to help create a more humane world and sustainable planet. My service journey began with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School program in the mid-1990s.  Marion Wright Edelman spoke about servant-leadership and believed that in order to be a successful leader, you must learn how to serve.  Outdoor Afro also has provided me with opportunities to expand my own civic engagement. In 2019, I was appointed by Colorado Governor Polis to serve on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife commission. As the first black women to serve on the Commission, I believe it is critical to create more culturally and linguistically responsive policies, protocols, and practices. We must unpack our own bias and privilege to collectively address issues of access and representation head on while increasing opportunities for meaningful participation. Giving agency and voice to Coloradans throughout the state and intentionally centering members who have been historically in the margins has been a priority. In addition, I am eager to strengthen bridges across local, state and federal agencies, organizations, communities, and funders.
In my volunteer civic engagement roles on the Commission for Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) and with Outdoor Afro Colorado, I have been able to leverage experiences and expertise gained in the public education sector to drive meaningful change in the environmental space. I look forward to deepening these connections to fight the good fight for our humanity, Mother Earth and our Uni-verse.

Stereotype or Fact? Black People Don’t Camp

Mother and daughter sitting around the campfire at the annual joint campout with Outdoor Afro Chicago and St. Louis networks.

For black people, feeling welcome and safe in the outdoors isn’t a given. Even without insensitive or ignorant actions from others, everyone feels intimidated about trying something new, especially when none of your friends and families are exploring the outdoors in a recreational way. Outdoor Afro is changing that. The organization creates a space where black people and nature meet. That isn’t to say that others aren’t welcome, including non-black people like best friends, wives and husbands, but the point is to center the African American experience and create a safe place for black people that hasn’t existed on any broad scale before.
That’s why Outdoor Afro offers a variety of outings that meet people where they are. That could be as simple as sitting on the grass in the city and taking in a movie, doing yoga in the park, or hiking at an area forest preserve. It’s a journey and a continuum. Not everyone wants to climb a mountain, but maybe someone will start down a path and then be surprised by how much they enjoyed it and will want to do more.
Other opportunities for Outdoor Afro participants include visiting and learning about significant places. A walking tour through Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood offers a combination of history, art, and culture related to the Great Migration and a window into a historical hotbed of African American culture. Other outdoor activities simply focus on experiencing joy and trying new things. At times the group may address emotional trauma, like police violence, or center the activity around personal and collective healing.

Playing games near the campfire at the annual Camping 101 event where first-time campers learn the basics of sleeping in the outdoors.

Building Individual and Community Connections
Christine Meissner got involved with Outdoor Afro in the fall of 2016 in Chicago, her home city. Her passion for hiking and backpacking started in the Peace Corps, living in Macedonia, a mountainous country for two years. Since coming home, she wanted to do more. She liked the organization’s message of a multi-generational approach, and after participating in a couple of local events, including a two-day camping event across two of the organization’s networks in both Chicago and St. Louis, she was hooked. The community felt safe and she loved that they could enjoy each other’s company while celebrating their culture and history.
When one of the founding network leaders in Chicago stepped down, Outdoor Afro put out a call for leaders, Meissner was one of many who applied, and she was selected. “I jumped in,” she says. “Being a volunteer leader is not an extra burden or responsibility. It’s woven into my everyday life.”
Now in her third year as an Outdoor Afro leader, she can see how she’s changed and grown by attending the organization’s annual training and professional development and through surmounting challenges outdoors. She sees the same changes in the participants that join her, as they return again and again, doing increasingly difficult hikes or getting involved in activities they wouldn’t normally do, like kayaking. She also sees people who join and then start doing the same kinds of things on their own, such as camping, and then they bring more people along.

Participants learning how to start a campfire at the annual Camping 101 event where first-time campers learn the basics of sleeping in the outdoors.

Promoting Safe and Welcoming Experiences
It’s not only important to inspire connections and leadership in nature among Outdoor Afro participants, it’s also important for the world to expect and welcome African Americans on the trail. This was underscored for Meissner one day as she got ready to lead about a dozen participants on a hike at the Indiana Dunes. Her group was excited to be there, to shed some stress, and enjoy one another while they experienced the glorious world around them. That’s when two people on their return route came off the trail and headed toward them. Rather than offering a simple greeting on the way to the car, the woman seemed affronted and said, “What are you doing here?” Her dogs sniffed the group, upping the sense that this was her territory and their group was somehow trespassing.
This jarring interaction reflects a landslide of traumatic context, history and experiences for black people in American history; the group found themselves ambushed by fear and mistrust, when they’d set out on a mission for joy, some on a hike for the very first time. Meissner took a deep breath and responded. “We’re going hiking, just like you.”
It should go without saying that we all have a right to those universal pleasures and benefits that come when we move our bodies and take in vitamin D. The positive impacts get compounded when we strengthen community bonds. Outdoor Afro outings start with an opening circle that sets the tone where the leader shares the mission of why they are there. At the end, a closing circle gives people the opportunity to talk about what they gained. “Sometimes people share a word, or more, but often what I hear people tell me is that they feel rejuvenated and excited,” says Meissner. She also enjoys finding out who’s a first-timer and seeing that it’s always a balance of repeat participants and new people coming in, making the family bigger.
This process of showing up means that more people can have a safe, welcoming and meaningful experience in the outdoors. Meissner particularly likes seeing people her parents’ age getting out to hike and going on overnight camping trips even when the message they heard growing up was, “Black people don’t camp.” The fact that they are out there makes that statement a stereotype rather than a fact. In fact, black people do camp. And because they are doing it, it sends a strong message to younger people that they can too.

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!

Gear I LOVE

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