19 actionable ways we can support advancement for Black folks in the outdoors

By: Jahmicah Dawes + Save to a List

Let's honor Juneteenth by getting intentional and staying consistent with our advocacy. Here's how.

On the eve of Juneteenth, I've given a lot of thought and held several conversations with my family, friends, and community about what this day means to me. I'm going to be real about this, and I'm also going to keep us pointed toward positivity.

There's cause for rejoicing on the day that, 151 years ago, finally liberated the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas.

Yet. At nearly the same time, we've just acknowledged the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Black Wall Street massacre.

Though it has been illegal in this country since then to enslave any person, Black people as a race have individually and collectively experienced countless means of oppression -- an impact that feels much like slavery but by other names.

Oppression in any form is most certainly not advancement.

Beyond rejoicing, I'm reflecting on and considering how much advancement we -- my Black family and community as a people -- have experienced since June 19th, 1865.

Consideration of the word advancement

When I think of that term, advancement, it feels gradable. For instance, from last year to this year, have we advanced? Have there been opportunities? Moments for advancement? If we have advancement, assuredly, we can rejoice.

So let's focus here and now on advancement as a way to work toward a more equitable, inclusive, and safe outdoors.

We can do so by asking ourselves these questions: What am I trying to do to help advance this group of people? Have I consistently been intentional with my dollars and my time to support Black people in this country?

Dollars and Time

When I say support, I frankly mean dollars. If you're continually intentional with your dollars to support Black people and Black-owned businesses, you'll also be supporting us with your time. Because it takes a little time to consider how and where you can focus your dollars.

Perhaps this month you intentionally buy from a Black grocer, and next month when you need a new pair of running shoes, you support a Black-owned footwear shop. And the next time you might look for a Black CPA. Or if you're a company hiring, you're going to seek out (take the time) a Black expert. And so on!

Below is a list I've created in collaboration with the folks at The Outbound Collective. We hope you'll come back to these ideas on a regular basis to advocate consistently. Because it's intentional consistency that will advance us all.

Grace and peace,

Jahmicah

19 ways you can advocate for the advancement and inclusivity of Black folks in the outdoors:

  1. Support (with your dollars) outdoors-focused organizations and businesses who have Black leadership.
  2. If you find that a business in the outdoor industry is lacking Black representation in leadership positions, reach out to them and let them know you’d love to see them hiring, promoting, and consulting Black experts and would be eager to support them as a result.
  3. If your business or organization is hiring, seek out Black professionals for open positions. Participate in a job fair at a historically Black college or university (HBCU), post on job boards and recruiting sites focused on connecting employers with historically underrepresented communities, and invest in internships for Black students.
  4. Pay Black talent and standardize pay equity across all touchpoints (in-house, freelance, contract, etc.).
  5. Consumers: When you need to make a purchase, take the time to find a Black-owned small business where you can invest your money instead of a big box retailer. This is where your time applies as much as your dollars -- Do your research, make phone calls, and be patient. There's a good chance your purchase is being hand-packaged and shipped to you directly from a shop (like we do at Slim Pickins Outfitters). Happy with your purchase from a Black-owned business? Be sure to leave them a positive review on a public platform.
  6. Look beyond what you traditionally think of as outdoor-focused. Support a Black-owned gear shop and also support Black-owned grocers, farmers, florists, nurseries, and any other small business you can.
  7. Follow Black explorers, community leaders, creators, and environmentalists on social media to expand your understanding of the outdoor community.
  8. Participate in workshops held by Black leaders and leaders of color to better understand how behaviors like unconscious bias play a role in your actions and decisions (It's ok, by the way, we all have some sort of unconscious bias we can practice re-learning).
  9. Vote for local leaders who are running for office with platforms focused on community programs like park infrastructure, community pathways, green spaces, increased access to supportive resources like mental health care, food banks, after-school programs, etc., and alternatives to policing.
  10. Hold in-office elected officials accountable. Remember that your politicians should answer to you and your community. If they promised the revitalization of a green space or the repurposing of an existing vacant area in a non-white neighborhood, hold them to it. And go the extra mile to ask, "how can I help make this happen for our city?"
  11. Support non-profit organizations (like Outdoor Outreach, Black Outside, and HBCUs Outside) that are hard at work to bring outdoor programming to underserved and historically excluded youth. You can donate, spread the word, and volunteer your time. If you're a for-profit company, consider how you can partner with nonprofits to amplify their work?
  12. Speaking of for-profit companies: If you're a business leader and you're working on an initiative for diversity and inclusivity, I strongly recommend applying this filter: If return on investment (or profit in general) is a performance indicator for the success of your initiative, you're not on the right track. Do the thing for people, not profit.
  13. Ask the leadership at your company to set up Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice training for employees. Are you a manager or C-suite executive? Initiate setting diversity goals, create a diversity report for your company, support the development of affinity groups within your organization by empowering leaders of color and advocating for the resources they need.
  14. Be a conversation-starter! Discuss with your friends or personal community about why it’s important to shop consciously when looking for new gear.
  15. On the topic of new gear. Got extra gear collecting dust in your garage? Research a community organization in need of new or previously loved gear, and donate it.
  16. Don’t be a passive bystander. Take training or understand how to support in the moment. Hollaback! provides free training on how to deescalate harmful situations and support those being harassed and attacked.
  17. Do your homework and help spread knowledge by sharing and amplifying our country’s long history of oppression and racism. Accurate historical context is vital to understanding the role institutionalized racism continues to play in modern society.
  18. Advocate for and nominate Black leaders for board positions in your community organizations.
  19. Don't be afraid to begin now. There's a starting point for most things and the upsides to beginnings are that you get to learn, broaden your perspective, and meet some awesome folks along your journey.

Cover image: Wondercamp

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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