When people ask me how Outdoor Afro began, I gauge how I’ll answer by how much time the listener has to hear about it! The site began a mere two years ago, but the material for its inspiration began decades before.
During my childhood, I had the fruitful experience of splitting time between urban Oakland, California and my families’ working ranch in the Northern woodlands, where I cultivated a passion for unstructured natural spaces, farming, and I learned how to hunt and fish.
Also as a youth, I participated in the Girl Scouts; and as a young adult, Outward Bound and my college roommates helped to broaden my outdoor experiences to include back country activities like mountaineering, rock climbing, and road bicycling. I was also fortunate to live in a region all of my life with accessible wild spaces no more than 20 minutes away in any direction.
But over time, I struggled with the consistently low numbers of African Americans participating in activities with me, so I turned to early 90's forums like internet mailing lists and newsgroups to connect with people of color who loved the outdoors. In spite of my diligent networking, many times I felt like I was the only one in my local community who deeply engaged with the outdoors, but I discovered that many others felt the same way, and when you put together all the “only ones” we are numerous!
Outdoor Afro emerged naturally from these experiences.
The site has now grown into a vibrant and fun online community that reconnects African Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, fishing, gardening, skiing — and more! Outdoor Afro uses social media platforms to create interest communities, promote events, and partner with regional and national organizations that support diverse participation in the Great Outdoors.
I am looking forward to helping engage the Scientopia community with the conversation of diverse participation in the outdoors. To this end, Outdoor Afro maintains an upbeat conversation on Facebook and in its online community, so please join the fray -- no afro required! User stories and pictures about outdoor engagement are central and important to share as one way to dispel the myth that African Americans do not care for the outdoors.
For the next two weeks, expect posts from me on topics such as camping, children and nature, urban connections to the outdoors, and other ideas and inspiration to get outside. I am so excited about getting to know you, and all your upcoming outdoor adventures - thank you for having me!