Great Books as Holiday Stocking Stuffers!

I have to disclose up front that I am pretty biased about these three book recommendations because I am privileged to know each of the authors as partners through the development of Outdoor Afro and our shared passion for people of color and the outdoors. But aside from my excitement and gratitude for these folks, they have each produced some pretty extraordinary work well worth buying for your loved ones this holiday season.

As many of you know, Frank and Audrey Peterman have been at the forefront of outdoor conservation and advocates for greater diversity in our National Parks. Their recent ground breaking conference energized and organized a constituency that supports more people of color to get out and enjoy our natural resources. The work of this couple, and their enlightening book, Legacy on the Land, will inspire you.

$19.95 USD – Click to Purchase!

Shelton Johnson has been with the National Parks as a ranger for decades, but his recent appearance in the Ken Burns Documentary and recent meeting with President Obama, brought his role as a conduit of historical Yosemite’s Buffalo Soldier to new audiences. His book, Glory Land, is a beautifully written historical narrative that’s fun to read aloud.
I blogged about Dudley Edmondson some months back, and since then we became good friends. But every now and then someone will come up to me with a copy of his book The Black & Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places and ask, “have you seen this before?” Well, indeed I have! And it enjoys a prominent spot on my coffee table so my guests and kids can look at amazing photos of people of color in wild spaces whenever they want.
Three different books about similar passions to engage everyone in your family. Can’t decide? Go to your local, independent book store and buy them all!

It’s About the Youth

Breaking the Color Barrier in the Great American Outdoors

Day 2

The second day of the conference swelled with more people and energy. The morning speakers each powerfully conveyed forward looking messages of sustainability for organizations, family heritage, and the environment, through narratives about personal and generational ties to the land.  Some highlights include:
Ranger Jerry Bransford, a 60-year-old guide at Mammoth Caves, discussed his family legacy at the site, which is now a National Park. His family members have been tour guides since before the Civil War. He is the great-great-grandson of Mat Bransford, the original Mammoth Cave guide and slave.

Bill Gwaltney, a D.C. native who now works for the National Park Service, spoke eloquently in vintage Calvary uniform of his awakening and awareness of African American soldiers and pioneers of the West, as told to him by his grandfather when he was a child. He  said that those conversations with his grandfather ignited a desire to learn and share with others the African American Civil War heritage.
Robert George Stanton was the first African American to serve as director of the National Park Service. His accomplishment and endurance to break through a past of Jim Crow to a cabinet position was an inspiration for us all.
At the break, Dudley Edmondson and I caught up with Dr. Carolyn Finney of UC Berkeley:

Sailor-author-adventurer Bill Pinkney, the first Black man to sail solo around the world via Cape Horn, was a delightful lunchtime speaker who conveyed both humor and wisdom as he shared what he learned about life on the high seas.
I also had a chance to chat with Atlanta’s own Angelou Enzielo about her program, Greening Youth Foundation.

Dr. J. Drew Lanham, a professor at Clemson University and his Grad Student Marla Hamilton, chimed in during the afternoon break, representing a new generation of outdoor pioneers and educators.

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to facilitate a discussion on Adventuring, and its benefits through outdoor programs.  Attendees representing various groups and agencies took the opportunity to candidly discuss outdoor diversity in a forum of peers, and related some of their organizational and regional challenges around reaching out to broader communities. One of the speakers, a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) Base Manager Phil Henderson, told how he experienced outdoor adventuring for the first time later in life, and believes the outdoors is great for young adults also, who might discover new outlets to make a difference for themselves and their communities.
If there was one message that rang out from virtually every talk I heard, it was the need for youth to plug in for both their sustainability and as torch bearers for the future.  The conference itself underscored the value of youth by including children, such as the Girl Scouts and several young adults from the local colleges as presenters and conference workers. But it was Juan Martinez, a young Latino male and newly appointed coordinator for the Natural Leaders initiative of the Children & Nature Network who brought it home in his talk how easy it is to make a difference in the life of a youth. He described his own life-changing youth trip outside his native Los Angeles city lights that allowed him to actually see stars in the night sky for the first time — stars that pointed Juan to his future of advocacy for diverse youth participation the outdoors.
Video shot by Dudley Edmondson

Photographer Captures African-American Connections to the Natural World – Dudley Edmondson

Dudley Edmondson, Outdoor Afro guest blogger, photographer, and author of Black and Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places, goes on in this second part to share how he came to photograph African Americans in the outdoors.
Read Part 1
In the four-year process of doing Black and Brown Faces in America’s Wild Places, I have met some pretty cool people who understand what I am talking about. It has clearly changed the direction of my photographic work. I find myself not just interested in the plants and animals that live on the land but the people who sometimes share those environments with them.
People like Steven Shobe and Elliott Boston, two World Class climbers and mountaineers. These two men have climb on nearly every continent on earth in places like Russia, France, Germany and the continents of South America and Africa. They’ve seen a lot of places, a lot of people, and a lot of the natural world. I became interested in their stories after finding Elliott and getting him to agree to be featured in my book.
I was fascinated by mountains and mountaineers after reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into thin Air” and people who risk their lives climbing them intrigued me. In order to photograph climbers I learned you also have to climb as well. That did not sit well with me at first and still bothers me a bit. I wanted to watch them do what they do but not do it myself. Needless to say hanging out with these two I have now climbed in the Ozark Mountains, climbed halfway up Devil’s Tower in Wyoming and ice climbed in Ouray, Colorado. It is something I don’t think I will ever get use to but would jump at the chance to work with Steven and Elliott wherever they find themselves in the world. Working in the open voids of mountain gorges, ravines and peaks does give you a view of the world most people will never see and I am glad I have had the experience and as long as Steven and Elliott are there it will be memorable.
I believe focusing my lens on people like Steven and Elliott will help paint a more complete picture of what African Americans and other people of color are doing. It shows the world that there is diversity among ethnically diverse people and we are capable of so much more than the narrow scoped, negative images the media shows us. I believe in this so much that I have staked my photographic future on it and I very comfortable with that.
Photo: Dudley Edmondson on the shores of Lake Superior near Silver Bay, MN by Nancy Latour-Edmondson

Photographer Captures African-American Connections to the Natural World

Dudley Edmondson

Introducing guest blogger Dudley Edmondson, an African American photographer who shares how he came to photograph African Americans in the outdoors. This is the first of 2 parts:
You know photography has been a part of my life so long it is difficult to remember when it all started. It began as a way to document my bird sightings as a birder way back when I was a freshman in college. Then the idea of it becoming a potential career became a reality when I decided to move from Ohio to Minnesota. I decided Minnesota had everything I needed to be a successful nature photographer so I put down roots in Duluth the gateway to the great north woods full of eagles, wolves and many other exciting species not found in Ohio.
Things all came together after several years and after a very successful career as a nature photographer I decided to challenge myself again and become an author. The subject matter would be very different from what I had done as a photographer. This time I wanted to tell the story of people like me, African Americans who had a deep and unwavering connection to the earth and nature. The book project became “Black and Brown Faces in Americas Wild Places”
These people I felt could help black folks from coast to coast find their way back to the natural world their African ancestors once knew as well as they now know their own backyards. I am certain that as humans our mental and physical being is inexplicably tied to the natural world around us. People who submerge themselves in nature both physically and mentally our simply healthier people. That is the message I have tried to convey with my book. Trying to get people to understand that is not always easy. If you tell someone that the health of the ecosystem not only effects their health but that it is actually more important than anything else going on in their lives right now, few would be able to grasp that concept. Without your mental and physical health what do you really have? Without clean water and clean air what good really is anything else you might posses?