Introducing the Outdoor Afro Leadership Fellows of 2014!

What might a Los Angeles women’s health practitioner, a DC public policy director, and a Seattle real estate appraiser have in common?

They are a part of the Outdoor Afro Leadership Fellows Team who are on a mission to reconnect African Americans in their community back to nature! A total of 15 individuals were hand-picked out of a competitive pool of applicants from around the United States to join the team. This 2014 class represents a variety of professional backgrounds, outdoor expertise, and key urban centers around the country.

Stefan Moss OA Headshot

Continuing the success of the previous two years of leadership development, each leader is tasked to help expand the national Outdoor Afro social and nature network by leading trips, sharing experiences via social media, and forging partnerships with relevant outdoor organizations and groups.

Think: nature ambassadors

Next month, the new and returning leaders are gathering in person to kick off a year of innovative partnership and training on the coast of Northern California. Leaders will receive a crash course in trip planning, conservation ethics, risk management, social media, and policy supported by leaders from non-profits, leading outdoor industry brands, such as REI, KEEN Footwear, Klean Kanteen, Sierra Club, and National Wildlife Federation – California, and more. OA
As you know, Outdoor Afro began as a social media site in 2009 to celebrate and inspire African American connections to nature. Now more than ever all people of all ages need a stronger connection to nature for both our health and to support a sustainable environment. The strength of the team lies in their ability to help families feel welcome and supported in active nature activities close to home. We are so proud of this team!

The 2014 Leaders:
Autumn Saxton-Ross, Washington DC – Program Director for the Joint Center’s Health Policy Institute and green space advocate
Beky Branagan, Cary, NC – Girl Scout leader and environmental educator
Clay Anderson, Bay Area, CA – Naturalist, ecologist, and artist
Clifton Sorrell, Richmond, CA – Father of five; landscape architect and Boy Scout Leader
Deidre Bryant, Richmond, VA – Community health professional and mom
Josh Garubanda, St. Paul, MN – Outdoor educator, kayak instructor and avid biker
Mashawn Butler, Austin, TX – Graduate student and Team Lead for Texas Parks and Wildlife
Matthew Reese, Seattle, WA – Real estate appraiser, husband, dad, and snowboarder
Nicole Jackson, Columbus, OH – Nature educator, animal lover, and former rock climbing instructor
Nkem Ndefo, Los Angeles, CA – Women’s health professional and Tension Release Exercise coach
Stefan Moss, Atlanta, GA Professor of Environmental Science; researches ecotoxicology and environmental education
SteVon Edwards, Louisville, KY – Community health specialist
Teresa Baker, Bay Area, CA – Housing coordinator and National Park champion
Vi Yeboah, Chicago, IL – Accountant, auditor, beach lover, and conservationist
Zoe Polk, San Francisco, CA – Outdoor enthusiast and human rights attorney
We would like to thank our sponsors, staff, and volunteers for their generous time, creativity, and resources to make this work come to life! REI, KEEN Footwear, Clif Bar, The Sierra Club, Swarovski Optik, Klean Kanteen, The National Parks, National Wildlife Federation – California, and the Kapor Center for Social ImpactTHANK YOU!
Check out what leaders are already doing in the Bay Area!
Do check our Twitter page and Facebook in the coming weeks for dispatches on our training weekend #OALT

REI and Outdoor Afro: Continued Partnership in 2014!


We are so grateful to announce a new year of partnership between REI and Outdoor Afro to help inform and strengthen our work to get more people outside! Significantly, REI and its staff will provide direct support for our Outdoor Afro staff and Leadership Team through training, gear, access to local store meeting spaces for special events – and more!
OAtrainingAs the official outdoor retailer of Outdoor Afro, you can count on the REI co-op for superior outdoor products, staff expertise, and fun outdoor events that will help strengthen your connection to nature.
Many Outdoor Afros already know that REI lifetime membership has several benefits, including annual dividends paid directly to you based on your purchases, and a very flexible exchange/return policy.
We are especially enthusiastic about this partnership because of REI’s internal, and genuine commitment to relevant and accessible outdoor engagement for everyone — and we consider headquarter staff members as trusted friends and advisers.

This year, you can look forward to more visible collaboration between REI and Outdoor Afro to promote events that suit a wide-range of outdoor interests, and gear that helps you stay comfortable while looking fly!
Please join us in celebrating this partnership by becoming an REI member today, and getting out in nature wherever you are!

Rue Mapp and Barb Williams

We want to acknowledge Laura Swapp, Myrian Solis Coronel from headquarters, along with Amber Miksza and Brad Bostrom from the REI Berkeley store, who altogether helped to vision and pioneer such an awesome partnership! – Thank you!
We are looking forward to a terrific year ahead together helping more people connect with nature!
Visit REI

Show-Me Skiers of St. Louis

By Outdoor Afro Contributor Danielle N. Lee
My first time skiing was an experience. I’m from the south, so frolicking in the cold or snow wasn’t a bog part of my childhood experience.  However, I love the outdoors and I love trying new things, so I joined a group of friends who introduced me to the basics of the slopes.

Preparing for my winter time Outdoor Afro adventure with Show Me Skiiers

It was an adventure!  I was far from great at it.  But I wasn’t deterred. So when I was invited to a Beginners Ski Trip with the Show-Me Skiers of St. Louis, the verr first African-American Ski club of St. Louis, Missouri, I decided to go for it.  Since 1983, this group of winter outdoor recreationists have been planning ski and snow boarding outings for adults and families.
It’s a rather popular outing because there were two busloads of skiers of all ages headed to Sundown Mountain Resort of Dubuque, Iowa.  One reason was the affordability.  The group negotiated a package that cost less $200 person (on average) for the weekend.  Related to skiing, the cost of lessons, equipment rental, lift and access to the slopes for two days of skiing or snowboarding was $60 for the whole weekend!  I know, super affordable and a great incentive to attract anyone interested in skiing or snowboarding.

Fellow Outdoor Afros taking a break from the slopes

I decided to give snowboarding a try.  I was no better at snowboarding than I was at skiing.  Both require muscles that I obviously have no command over! LOL!
It was a fun time and I recommend Show-Me Skiers, skiing or the Sundown Ski Mountain to anyone, especially to a newbie.  Here are more photos from the Ski Trip.

Image is Everything

By Outdoor Afro Contributor, Javaughn Fernanders
There is an uneasy predictable phrase I hear after requesting my family’s presence in the great outdoors: “You don’t see us out there!”

Seeing. We are told not to believe what we see, and yet we trust our eyes not only to reveal truths about our immediate environment, but to tell us about our cultural practices.  This is why in 2010, I created a campaign of six posters named “Your History is Waiting For You,” to encourage African-Americans to reconnect to an environmental community from which we have been visually disconnected.
The creation of the posters were part of a three-part project, which also included a comparison of photography of African-Americans in nature.
Before the Great Depression, images of Black bodies in nature could be categorized as exploited laborers, lazy workers, or as terrorized victims. Of course, these images are not our true story. African- Americans have and continue to be in nature, which includes vocations,  religious ritual, environmental justice, and in the preservation and conservation of natural resources.

Unfortunately, many mainstream environmental publications have omitted images of African-Americans positively engaged in the outdoors. And this has created a popular perception that African-Americans are not connected to environmentalism and outdoor recreation. Therefore, I encourage my fellow readers of Outdoor Afro to share family photos that depict people of all hues engaged with and enjoying the great outdoors. Share your photos with this site, or with schools, and in other places where our faces are not often visible. Also, download the posters and put them in your home, classroom, church, or environmental organization. Let’s create a new vision of ourselves outdoors and return to the history that waits for us.
Javaughn Renee is a 40 year old writer and artist currently living in South Bend, Indiana, but missing sunny California. She is a nature loving, yoga teaching, parent, striving to live simply and with love. In 2010, she completed a Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts. Her research focuses on images of African Americans and nature and their effects on stereotypes. She has written for regional and national publications and blogs regularly about her unique parenting situation at “”

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,

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!

Part 2: Exercising Outdoors in the Winter Months

By Dudley Edmondson
Continued from Part 1
Now you need something for the head and hands. I usually wear a synthetic stocking cap. The word synthetic pops up a lot because it is the fabric most commonly used in designing “performance clothing” that is clothing specifically desinged to be used in a number of outdoor activities from climbing to cycling, running etc.
After a Run in 25 Below Zero Winds!
I think I own more performance wear than I do any thing else. A good fleece hat and they come in many weights can really help you regulate body heat. A good hat will be soaking wet at the tip top on the outside, leaving your head bone dry, that is the beauty of performance wear. The head, as you probably know, is like a chimney. Massive amounts of heat can easily be lost if it is left uncovered, so get a good fleece hat. Now you need gloves or mittens. My preference is mittens. Fingers together in a dark warm place are much warmer than gloves with fingers separated by fabric with cold spaces in between.
Footwear depends on what you plan to do outside. Don’t wear snow boots and go for a run. You will be sore and sorry you ever left the house! Blisters will do you in even before you get started. If you are going running, wear running shoes and wool socks. If you are going to hike, wear a boot that will give you full range of motion, that is not too heavy and won’t sweat your feet out causing more blisters. With skiing,  you  simply have to wear ski boots.
Now move your body! The trick here is slow and steady, slow and steady. When the temps are in the single digits or below zero you want to move just enough to get a work out in and just enough to heat the pockets of air between your skin and the clothing you have on. You will be amazed at how much heat you can produce running down a trail covered with snow in 20 below zero wind chills. Here in Northern Minnesota I will get in 20 to 25 miles of running a week on snowmobile trails through the woods in the dead of winter. I also cross-country ski most winters and find it a blast even when it is zero degrees out. I also bike all winter over snow packed country roads if conditions are not too bad. The same principals apply in all cases, dress in layers.
So if you’ve never tried exercising outdoors in the winter, treat yourself to a whole new world of fun. If you follow these tips you just might enjoy winter again, just like when you were a little kid.
Dudley Edmondson is the author of Black and Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places, and is available for speaking engagements.

Couples Camping and Roasting Marshmallows

Etiquette Tips For Camping with Friends and Family

Couples Camping

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

Morning Oatmeal: Dudley Edmonsdon

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

Marva and Daughter: Marva Cherry Flowers

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.
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.
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

Chillin’: Dudley Edmondson