Happy Birthday Outdoor Afro!

The reach and audience of Outdoor Afro is greater than ever before, and comprised of a diverse, smart mix of folks who hail from all over the globe. These last few weeks have represented some compelling milestones for the Outdoor Afro community:

  • 1 Year Old
  • 100 Blog Posts
  • 1000 Facebook Fans
  • …and did I mention a trip to the White House? (more about this later)

But this site would not have grown without the influence and support of some very amazing and inspiring individuals. The first conversation I had that started the OA journey in earnest was with Dr. Carol Finney, who is an amazing human being.

One conversation with her at a local coffee shop catapulted me into the hands of Frank and Audrey Peterman, an enviro power-couple who shepherded a tiny army of us into a monumental conference last September. The relationships cultivated in that conference continue to shape a national agenda about this important area of life, and is the cause of new, dynamic relationships forming that continue to collaborate.

Frank and Audrey, Photo: Dudley Edmondson

Dudley Edmondson was an early Outdoor Afro contributor with his stunning photography, and he and I became good friends as we have helped one another to reach new audiences in innovative ways.

Last summer, I had the pleasure of featuring Denene Millner of My Brown Baby on her camping trip with her family. To this day, her story has the distinction of being the Outdoor Afro page with the most individual views, totaling over 1K in a single day!

Since then, I have experienced some fun social media partnerships with James Mills, Queen Quet, Dianne Glave, and Danielle Lee; each of these individuals work together to extend the message of outdoor diversity in unique ways to new audiences – – great job you guys!

Lastly, I cannot thank my children enough who have been Outdoor Afro cheerleaders on the playground and rock the gear whenever possible. To my sister, brother, nephews, nieces, childhood friends, classmates, neighbors, facebook homies, and business partners: I thank you all for believing in this effort from the very beginning! And I know my parents are somewhere smiling about this whole affair!

So here is to another year — with some exciting programs and activities on the way to transform our digital conversations into outdoor action!

Be Well,
Rue

Spotted on (Easter) Sunday

Danielle Lee of Urban Science Adventures shares an SOS moment at the St. Louis Gateway Arch and Jefferson Nation Expansion Memorial with her family!

Danielle is a Biologist and studies Animal Behavior, Mammalogy, and Ecology at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. She is preparing for a career in Science and Science Outreach, and completing her doctoral studies in Biology. Her blog is a web reference for environmental science, environmental education, and ecology.
Thanks for posting Danielle!

Outdoor Afro Blog Carnival!

Welcome to the Inaugural Edition of the Outdoor Afro Blog Carnival!

Wooo hooo….confetti falls…

So what is a Blog Carnival anyway? Well, I learned it is a terrific way to spread your blog wings into new topics, while connecting with more people. And that’s all I needed to know before signing up!  But I also recognized the term ‘carnival’ has a cultural meaning for some that is different than the experience of a spin on the ol’ ferris wheel. So I decided to honor the festive connotation of another kind of Carnival with this image:

NOT a Ferris Wheel!

But this carnival you are reading now (assuming you are not still staring the picture above) is actually a sampling of topics near and dear to the Outdoor Afro community: youth, environment, and getting outdoors. Each carnival contributor offers fresh and insightful views around these topics, and a window into their larger body of digital or academic work. I hope you’ll visit each of the contributor’s sites and become fans.

It’s about the youth…

Speaking of fans…DNLee is someone I have followed for the last several months, and I was thrilled to share her blog during my presentation at the Breaking the Color Barrier Conference in Atlanta last fall to a crowd who was wowed by her efforts to expose more people to the practical wonders of STEM. Today, she presents Urban Science Adventures! ©: Adventures from Summer Camp posted at Urban Science Adventures! ©, described as, “a recap (full of pictures of little OutdoorAfros) of my experiences as a day camp urban nature camp counselor. I think I had as much fun as the kiddies”

Photo: Olena Zhadko

She was so excited about this carnival, DNLee decided to share more of her wealth of knowledge from her blog:  Urban Science Adventures! ©: 100 + Things You Can Do Outside! saying, “Okay, this is really old, but the things I recommend for kids, families, and individuals to do outside never gets old. How many of these things have you done?” And she is right! See for yourself!

Brown and Green

Dianne Glave presents Mother, Lumberjack, and Turpentine!? posted at Rooted in the Earth: a companion blog to her forthcoming book Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage coming out in August 2010. She talks about the ambivalent relationship between African Americans and trees, and weaves in her own family history that notes some generational shifts relating to trees and the outdoors:

Trees as a means to earn a living

Getting Outside

axel presents Traveling And Personal Growth posted at axel g., a journal of travels all over Africa, that provides vivid detail of his personal experiences in each region.

Appalachian Trail

Scott Amundson gives us a turn-by-turn evocative tour of the Appalachian Trail with his post: AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM: THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL from the HIKING ADVENTURE blog. The Appalachian Trail is now definitely on my list of go-to places!


Jehan became a fan of the Outdoor Afro Facebook page and I found her blog, and fell in love! Here is her post: A Walk in the Woods posted at “She pulled in her horizon like a great fishnet…” that chronicles the stirrings of love for the outdoors she experienced as a child; feelings that guide her to this day.

Gloria Ware’s Blog is another blog-crush of mine. She adds to the mix: Leading The Way Into The Wilderness: Re-Engaging Black Folks With Nature posted at Black and Into Green, saying, “Let’s get out there!”

Gloria

Her other wonderful posts related to gardening, spirituality, and healthy food will keep you (like me!) coming back for more.
~*~*~*~*
Look for future editions of the Outdoor Blog Carnival that push the envelope regarding what it means to get outdoors.
You can submit a blog article to the next edition of Outdoor Afro Carnival using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Where the Black Anglers Are

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Outdoor Afro just received a note from Arthur Bronson, President of the International Federation of Black Bass Anglers (IFBBA) to let us know what his organization has been frying up these days. The IFBBA’s members are comprised primarily of people of color and its membership and outreach spans the globe. The organization also targets and mentors urban kids of color to participate in various fishing derbies and clinics.

Arthur Bronson and IFBBA members Ed Hasse and Reynaldo Anderson

Arthur Bronson and IFBBA members Ed Hasse and Reynaldo Anderson

Mr. Bronson says that fishing for African Americans is not new, “we have always fished for food first and recreation second. Our families came out of the South where we fished the river, creeks, and lakes for crappie, bass, and catfish.”

Two Toads

Two Toads

He is so right. And for those of us who don’t fish regularly now, most have memories. I recall catching my first crappy at age three in Clear Lake, California, along side my southern Daddy. As legend has it, once I had the fish on my line, I exclaimed, “Look daddy, the fish is laughing!”
Kudos to the IFBBA for doing its part to make fishing a more visible tradition and to create more memories — and delicious fish frys for a new generation!
pesqueria1
Please click their logo up top to learn more!

Fears of Nappy Hair in the Outdoors

Scuba diving in St. Croix, UVA

 

“Don’t get my hair wet!” I’ve blurted many times in a breathless panic anytime water came dangerously close to my heat straightened locks. I always joked that water near a black woman’s hair is like kryptonite near Superman – and in some cases, it’s actually true. Real tears have been shed for hairstyles unexpectedly ruined from contact with water folks!
I was raised to be afraid of what water could do to my hair. As a young girl, the only places permissible to get my hair wet, were either at a beauty salon, or in the kitchen sink under the frenzied hands of my older sister. And an immediate straightening, braiding, or twisting followed the wash to make me presentable for public consumption.
If I had just had my hair “did”, water activities, like swimming or even a short stroll in the rain, were completely off the table unless I wanted to get in trouble with mom. If I did get in the water, I had to “protect” my hair with two rubber swim caps and a Holly Hobby-like bonnet. But the swim caps were never successful. The inevitable water leak would begin around the cap’s edges and shortly after, my hair would rebel from its straightening and revert to its native happy nappy.
Some people like to catalog the black woman’s hair obsession as a form of self hatred – “be natural” say some, but I’m not there – yet. And as a mother myself now, I get that my mom’s fussiness (and later my own) sometimes had to do with time and maintenance management. I cringe now as I recall the thick plumes of hair my poor mom had to corral on my head, wet or dry. So when she sent me to get a new “do” at the salon, she was also trying to buy herself a little break.
I remain a press-n-curl black girl from Oakland, but the difference is now I have learned to balance my hair styles with my outdoor thrills. I just work it in cycles. When I am in a mode for water activities, I keep my hair in braids or wait until my press is on its last legs. I have to admit, I envy the black women who have gotten off the hair obsession train and instead rock tight short fades or natural locks full-time. I don’t know if I will ever get there with those sisters, but never again will hair be a reason for me to miss out on a good swim.
Update
Wow, reading this article today, I realize how I am so over it! I can’t tell you how grateful I am to enjoy my own natural hair and the freedom it has allowed me to take carefree pleasure in a wide-range of outdoor and nature experiences.
Also since the time of this writing, there has been an explosion of a “Natural Hair” movement that has elevated the discussion in beauty parlors and the blogisphere about natural hair care and its sustainable techniques to new highs. So now, I am proud to know and understand how to enjoy my native hair texture AND the outdoors.
What about you?

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough!

Chelsea Griffie

Chelsea Griffie

I took a climbing trip with Outward Bound in my early 20’s, and it changed my life. It was a physical accomplishment I did not think I was capable of achieving – and my awareness of possibility and faith from that successful experience remains with me today.
Chelsea Griffie was similarly inspired by rock climbing and the outdoors. Her Chicago parents were not campers, so she climbed for the first time as a young adult on a trip to Brazil, and was hooked. In the years since, Chelsea’s skills grew through her participation and leadership in  NOLS, the National Outdoors Leadership School.
In additional to reaching her own climbing goals over the years in the Yosemite Valley, considered the climbing Mecca, Chelsea teaches backpacking skills and yoga to women of color through the Balanced Rock organization. She is also currently the Program Director of Bay Area Wilderness Training, an organization that offers basic leadership courses and advanced seminars to prepare adults to lead youth safely into the wilderness. Here is more about BAWT:

If you are interesting in learning to climb, Chelsea suggests taking a trip to your local climbing gym, where you can test out the sport before deciding if it’s right for you, or if you are up for more of a challenge, consider Outward Bound or NOLS courses. These rigorously rewarding courses are organized around nearly every age group and located all over the world. Try climbing at least once — it just might change your life!
Listen HERE to my talk with Chelsea, which follows an delightful interview with Audrey Peterman, organizer of the Breaking the Color Barrier in the Great American Outdoors Conference.
Photo by Dudley Edmondson

I Hate Camping!

sqoubdotcom
Some of my best friends swear on a stack of <insert sacred item of choice> they hate camping, won’t ever go, and there is nothing I can do about it. But I know they could not possibly hate on the mobility of a car, the comforts of home, and the serenity of nature (from a distance) all rolled into one. Enter the Recreational Vehicle or trailer camping trip, an experience that can transform what most people imagine about camping.
I know some of my traceless camping folks probably want to throw a pointy carrot at me for the mere mention of this gas guzzling option, but there are many variations, such as using a hip trailer (see above) hitched to a sedan and you don’t have to drive far necessarily as there are hundreds of campgrounds dotted all over the US.
Who says you have to buy an RV? There are many great companies who rent you the whole outfit just like a rental car by the day or mileage, such as El Monte RV and Cruise America. Some campgrounds have trailers on site available for rent as well.
It’s still not too late to book for the upcoming Labor Day weekend and several campgrounds are running specials, that include theme dinners, live music, local excursions and programs for people of all ages.
If you’re not up for driving an RV, several campgrounds have cabins, such as the Albion River Campground, south of Mendocino, California, which is one of the many sites promoted by the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. This campground has private cottages with wood-burning stoves for chilly nights, in addition to trailer rentals and campsites for folks who have their own “rig“. And there are plenty of boating, fishing and kayaking opportunities nearby.
Don’t think black people RV? BUZZZ! Check out NAARVA, the National African American RV Association, a club who puts together a slammin’ rally, regular educational tours, and social events for all levels of participants!
So if you hate camping, give RV and trailer options a long look, or even a try before summer ends. You might be pleasantly surprised by how much you enjoy yourself!
photo courtey of squob.com

Breaking the Color Barrier and the National Parks

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I simply cannot wait until the Breaking the Color Barrier conference next month where I’ll have the privilege of sharing the importance of social media to transmit the “outdoor” message to wider audiences than ever before!
As an example of this, check out the interview below with tireless conference organizer and champion of the National Parks, Audrey Peterman. I hear registrations are selling briskly. Buy your package now so you and your organization are included in this groundbreaking event!

Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

 

Field Report: Our Feather River Camping Trip 2009

We just got back from 8 days of Northern California bliss with some of the most fun and fantastic Bay Area folks who all had the same vacation idea: Feather River Camp!

Each year, I meet up with the self titled “Stumpers”. We converge on the camp’s Folk Dance Week theme, and are notorious for our daily all-inclusive Happy Hour, around a big old stump that doubles as a lounge table. Evan and Willa, our resident bards, came up with a theme song some years back (“Here at Feather River!”) that celebrates the camp, our group, and the City of Oakland — and each year they add a new, clever verse that summarizes the peculiarities of each session.

I have to admit, Folk Dance Week at Feather River took this Oakland girl some getting used to years ago, but once I realized all the dances were some form or another of the “Electric Slide” and when they added the “Cupid Shuffle” to the mix in 2007, I was hooked!

For the novice camper, this is your kind of place. You don’t have to bring a tent because you can choose from a sturdy canvas covered tent like this:

–or a wooden cabin with electricity!

I attempted to pen down some highlights while I was at camp, but whenever I tried to sit down and write, I was either whisked away for the next dance or was too zoned out in a wilderness induced stupor. But there are some moments I’ll never forget:
— Playing Disco B-I-N-G-O with my youngest. In our camp’s version, each time your number is called, you have to get up and do a 70’s jig, like “The Hustle” or “The Bump“!
Look at mama work it!

–Meeting new families; learning and laughing about how much we had in common with one another

— The whole dining hall singling Happy Birthday to my little guy and how proud he looked to be turning 6
— Watching my kids play with friends old and new in the freedom and dirt of the outdoors

— Tubing with my 7 year-old daughter down a gentle river, surrounded by austere forests on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon

— Having a late night heart-to-heart chat with my 12-year old by lamplight — and he was actually listening!
It has taken me a few days to get on track with the Bay Area schedule, but I am still basking in the rewards of our time away that was a gift that keeps promoting peace, connectedness, and love for my family and community through nature.

Photos Courtesy of Jon Borchardt
…who also makes terrific Margaritas!

Talk Tuesday Guest: Barbara Hillary

In case you missed it live, click below to play the interview I had with Barbara Hillary today.
At age 75 and a 9 year survivor of lung cancer, Barbara Hillary of Queens, New York became the first African-American woman to reach the geographical North Pole by skiing. Today she is 78 and joins Outdoor Afro to share a little about her passion and accomplishments that challenge assumptions about the participation of African Americans, women, and seniors, in the great outdoors.
Learn more about this amazing women or to book her for speaking events, click here for her website: BarbaraHillary.com