10,000 Steps to Denali, Temescal Hike, and National Outdoors Day!

It’s Alisha, Outdoor Afro Los Angeles Leader. This Saturday June 8th we had a Temescal Canyon Hike planned in the Santa Monica Mountains to support the first African American group to hike Denali. So our hike was in support of the 10,000 steps to Denali trek. Our hike also coincided with National Outdoors Day.
We started our day at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook where there were activities planned for the kids. They had camping gear set up to show how to set up a camp.
Along with camping gear lessons they also allowed children (and big kids like myself) to create buttons and bookmarks to show their support of 10,000 steps to Denali.
From BHSO, we met up with another group of teens from Watts and Compton inner city program who have had little exposure to the outdoors. We were paired with them through the Santa Monica Mountains Conservatory to encourage them to get outdoors more. Santa Monica Mountains Conservatory provided a bus and an amazing guide Anthony to take us on our hike and explore the canyon.
We got to Temescal and had a quick snack on the lawn, took a photo with both groups and paired off into two different groups to meet at the waterfall. There were so many of us we didn’t want to overwhelm the trail.
On our way up we saw caterpillars, lizards, a garden snake and a red-tailed hawk. In true LA fashion we also saw a film crew filming a movie, haha. When we reached the top we sat for a bit and let the kids play around the waterfall which was dry. Anthony explained we’re in a dry season. We had to watch out for poison oak. Quick tip: if its three let it be. If you see leaves in clusters of three leave them alone.
Many thanks to Kleen Kanteen and REI for keeping us hydrated. Thank you REI for keeping me warm and to Keen shoes for making my hike comfy. I also want to acknowledge Clif Bars for snack bars for the kiddos. We had an amazing time. Looking forward to many more collaborations with Santa Monica Conservatory, your rangers are amazing and knowledgeable. Thank you Anthony and Iann the volunteer.
Oh yes on our way down the canyon we came to a beautiful open field and my sister and the kids decided to jump and play.

Exploring Ruins and Playing in Waterfalls

Outdoor Afros in Los Angeles explored local African American history and nature over the weekend – read on!

20130324-212640.jpg 20130324-210709.jpg

Alisha Pye here, I’m the Outdoor Afro Leader for Los Angeles. This week we decided to celebrate Spring by hiking at Solstice Canyon in Malibu which is located in the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s a beautiful hike with flowers in full bloom, waterfalls to enjoy, valleys and canyons to climb and picnic areas. We started on the stairs and continued on a steady incline until we came to an area of ruins that we felt compelled to explore.
If you look closely between the trees you’ll see the ruins of a burned out house. It’s now a historic park of the Santa Monica National Recreation Area. According to the story this house was built by a renowned African American Architect Paul R.Williams in 1952. The area is susceptible to many fires so Paul designed the home for his clients with a fire protection system that would protect the home against fire damage. The waterfall and pool were designed to pump water in case of fire as a protection to limit damage. Unfortunately after the owners death the pumping system wasn’t maintained and the home was damaged by fire in 1982.
The backyard of the home was a beautiful waterfall that was breathtaking. We decided to stay and climb a little. We ended up staying for 45 minutes exploring, climbing and playing in the waterfall. At the very top was an outdoor fireplace the family used.
The view was so amazing we decided to take our group picture there along the rocks. If you look at the picture you’ll notice we had a very diverse group ranging from an 11 year old to a grandfather with a cane who served as motivation for us to keep climbing.
Getting to the top we were able to see exactly how far we’d come. It was a great sense of accomplishment to get out explore and enjoy the ruins of the Santa Monica National Area. We plan on doing more exploring in the coming months so join us in our adventures.

And Let the Church Say Amen – To Nature

Just recently, I had the privilege of being invited to my Levias family church, St. Paul Church of God in Christ, to speak on the topic of community health. I was raised in the sanctified COGIC tradition, where I learned how and was encouraged to become a public speaker. That girl sure can talk, I would hear the saints say, and felt then a sense of pride in a skill that serves me well in my work today.

While my traditional church participation has fallen off considerably as an adult for many reasons; like most African Americans, I still consider the church an important, sacred space and source of support.
It felt great to share the work of Outdoor Afro as a native daughter of the community, but it was even more energizing to exchange ideas about how people can begin to re-activate their connections to the outdoors. We talked about memory – historic traditions from the South to easy things to do today in the city, such as noticing birds, or investigating local parks, and getting to know neighbors better. The reception of this discussion was warm, punctuated by many Amens!  that reinforced the fact that people are already engaged with the topic, and it led me to imagine what is possible if we deliberately included the church more in the quest to connect more people to nature in ways that mattered to them.

For many, the church is not only a place of worship, but also our town hall. There we receive the most relevant and discerning messages from the larger community. Thus, the church can be a key influencer of African American social structure and behavior.

In this work of connecting more people to nature, I find myself in many rooms, advisory meetings, and email threads with the discussion of relevancy of the outdoors for African Americans (and other less represented populations) in the center. How can we connect the outdoors to more audiences people ask. With 87% of African Americans who associate themselves with a church (Pew Center for Research), the church must play a key part in our planning and partnerships.

While some mainstream environmental organizations and programs shy away from the topic of religion, other non-profits are connecting the church to environmental concerns and nature as a part of congregational values and activities – and we can learn from their success. For example, Chicago’s Faith in Place, an important partner of Outdoor Afro, works across several denominations to inspire and support environmental education within the common value of stewardship. From their website:
Our mission is to help people of faith understand that issues of ecology and economy—of care for Creation—are at the forefront of social justice. At Faith in Place we believe in housing the homeless, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. But even if we do all those things, and love our brothers and sisters with our whole heart, it will not matter if we neglect the ecological conditions of our beautiful and fragile planet.
In Oakland, California, Memorial Tabernacle Church has built a ministry dedicated to organizing activities in the community through their Health and Garden Ministries. “We focus on improving several aspects of congregant life,” says Tiffany Grant (33), who leads this effort that includes church hikes, and a productive church vegetable garden.
Most in the outdoor related fields agree that a key way to connect more people to nature starts with being relevant to the intended communities. Therefore, we are remiss if we exclude the black church from the table of discussion to support connections to the natural environment that ultimately benefit us all.
Does your church have a ministry that connects members to nature? Do you need support to make this happen? Let us know in the comments below!

A Wonderful Week with the Maryland Coastal Bays

Just got back from a terrific stay in Maryland, specifically in the DelMarVa region, presenting at the second annual, Get Out! Get Green! Get Paid! Conference to encourage local youth to consider careers related to the Great Outdoors!


I had the good fortune to work with the dedicated Carrie Samis, who directs the program, and my esteemed co-panelists, Dr. Bert Davis, President, Zoological Society of Milwaukee; Frederick Tutman, Patuxent Riverkeeper; Academy Award winning filmmaker Errol Webber; and Brittany Smith of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Outdoor Afro is proud to partner with the amazing Coastal Steward youth to foster their outdoor leadership, so look out for  forthcoming information that shares more of what we plan to accomplish together!
Thanks to everyone, especially the National Parks Service, Maryland Coastal Bays, and EPA for producing such an important event!
For now, here are just a few images that convey the spirit of camaraderie, dedication, and excitement about youth and their families connecting meaningfully to nature: