Here is Part Two of my interview with Audrey Peterman, author, Breaking the Color Barrier Conference Founder and inspirational speaker.
Rue: For some, physical mobility might decline after mid-life. What might you suggest to someone who feels they are not physically able to enjoy a National Park?
Audrey: Mobility declines after mid-life? It’s not a necessity. I was on blog radio this week with a 78 year-old black man who recently competed in two categories in the Senior Olympics. It really vexes me how our culture promotes the idea that you’re “over the hill” when you turn 40, and you can expect your physical attributes to decline.
I think in many cases it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What if we were visualizing ourselves as the Christ within us, what an inspiring idea that would be. The parks are very accessible for differently-abled people. They are federal properties so of course they have to comply with federal rules. You know the amazing thing? Some of the parks are so huge – Yellowstone is ten times the size of New York City – so you can just drive around in your car all day if you choose, and just gape at the natural wonders if you didn’t have the luxury of getting out and hiking.
Rue: What do you think is the most pressing problem facing our National Parks today, and what partnerships are necessary to solve them?
Almost 50 percent of the American public does not know they exist, therefore, they can’t visit them. Fall in love with the Earth and fall in love with yourself! No matter how negatively you have been programmed, standing before the majesty of the Grand Canyon, you see and feel the truth of your being – that you are a minute, individualized portion of creation, ..”a child of the Universe…like the sun and the stars, you have a right to be here.”
Because people don’t get that experience, they don’t get to see how climate change is affecting the parks, from the rising sea levels eating away at Everglades National Park in Florida to the changing temperatures making it untenable for the 2000-year-old Giant Sequoias to survive in Sequoia National Park, in California. Because people don’t know, they don’t get the urgency to care passionately, and to try to do something about it. The love and care we feel as a result of experiencing them, the searing conviction in our souls, motivates Frank and me to keep on keeping on, keep on spreading the word.
Seeing the relics of the Anasazi Indians from over 10,000 years ago in Bandelier National Park New Mexico, we realize that one day our descendants are going to look back at our culture too. What are they going to think? That we used up everything and condemned them to an inhospitable planet? God knows I don’t want our great-grandchildren to suffer that fate. We know from the conference that there are multiple community based-groups reaching out to the public land managers, and these are the partnerships that need to be formed, strengthened, expanded: the public land managers using our tax dollars to support our organizations on the ground that has the ear and the trust of the community, that knows the needs, and literally, can do the work that is required that the agencies cannot do by themselves.
Rue: Thanks Audrey for sharing with the Outdoor Afro community!
Audrey: You’re welcome!
To learn more about Frank and Audrey and their journey to discover the our National Parks, and help them to spread the word to others, show your support by buying their book:
Also, check out her recent interview on a local PBS affiliate
What is your favorite National Park?