From Mount Whitney to the Appalachian Trail: Oh the Places We Go with KEEN!

“These KEENS are made for Hiking and Biking and Kayaking too With or without socks, these KEENS will play all day with you”


Written By National Program Director Zoë Polk

Like most outdoor enthusiasts, we love all things gear! We love researching and then buying a new product at our local REI store. We love breaking it in on the trail. We love talking about how footwear keeps us safe and encourage all our participants to invest in a good pair of shoes that protect you during your adventures, We also love cleaning and maintaining our gear so that it can stay with us for years of explorations.  

Our KEEN footwear has been good to us since we founded the Outdoor Afro Leadership Team in 2012. An early supporter of our mission to reconnect Black people to nature and each other through outdoor activities, KEEN has consistently been both a partner and a friend in this work.


When KEEN was founded in 2003, they made a commitment to act on inspiration quickly and now have a history of supporting good causes. They have given more than $7 million in cash and resources to nonprofit organizations around the world, including Outdoor Afro.

KEEN shares Outdoor Afro values of building stronger communities and a healthier planet. They have stood behind us and other partners,  as we have worked to inspire responsible outdoor participation, and land and water conservation. We have witnessed the KEEN Effect, the company commitment to preserving and the places we play around the world, firsthand through our networks from California to Florida.

We asked some of our 2016 Outdoor Afro Leaders to share the adventures they have had in their KEENS.  Whether backpacking on the Appalachian trail, urban hiking, training in Yosemite, crossing water or vacationing, our team finds it easy playing in KEEN:

Outdoor Afro Los Angeles Leader Ivan Guillory wore his Voyaguer Mid Boots to lead a group to the summit of Mount Baldy.When leading kayaking expeditions, Outdoor Afro Afro Austin Leader Starla Simmons wears her Newport H2 SandalsWhile scouting Myakka River State Park for an upcoming Outdoor Afro event, Orlando Leader Hillary Van Dyke wore her Voyaguer mid boots because she needed ankle support and low arch boots that could handle any kind of terrain.
Whether hiking with his son on a sunny day in the Bay Area or trekking 40 miles in the rain on the Appalachian Trail, Cliff Sorrell relies on his Summit County boots.When climbing on rocks on the White Oak Canyon Trail in Shenandoah National Park, Outdoor Afro Baltimore Leader, Brittany Leavitt wears her Koven Mid WP.On a family hiking in Castlwood State Park,St. Louis Leader Mario Charles, found his  Logan Mid WP  to be perfect for a hot day hike with challenging terrain with numerous elevation changes. His Dad found the same comfort in the Durand Low.
Because of their breathability and style, the Skyline Ankle Wedge are perfect for day of wine tasting in Sonoma for Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO, Rue MappAtlanta Leader Stefan Moss likes the freedom of movement, security and adaptability of the KEEN Uneek for lounging on the beach or ziplining through the rainforest.When climbing the San Francisco hills to reach local city parks,  Leader Zoe Polk prefers the versatility of the Santa Cruz Canvas
When hiking the Taum Sauk Mountain potion of the Ozark Trail St. Louis, Leader Duane Williams wears his  Durand Mid WP. According to Duane,
“My Keen Durand Mids give me the comfort, durability, and keep my feet dry so I can conquer the mountain!”
While crossing streams, basking in the spray of the waterfalls, and tromping through the steep mountainous trails in Pisgah National Forest,  Outdoor Afro Miami Leader Ta-Shana Taylor wore her  Maupin and  Outdoor Afro Charlotte Leader Yanira Castro wore the Newport H2.At Rocky Mountain National Park, Outdoor Afro Boulder Leader Roz Katonah wore their Durand Mid WP, which were perfect for the rocky, wet ascent to a waterfall.

Thank you KEEN for being trusted ally in our outdoor movement!


Get Free in Nature with #UndergroundTrailMode

This weekend, Hike with Outdoor Afro and Honor the Legacy of Harriet Tubman, and all of Freedom Seekers of the Underground Railroad.

Written By National Program Director Zoë Polk
From October 6-9, 2016, seven members of the 2016 Outdoor Afro Leadership Team  will hike the Maryland Portion of the Appalachian Trail. Beginning at the Pennsylvania border, our team will Blackpack along the South Mountain Ridge Top to the Harpers Ferry National Park. Their 40 mile trek will be done in tribute to the thousands of African Americans in history who found their freedom in nature.
In honor of this history and in solidarity with our Blackpackers, we invite you get in #UndergroundTrailMode with us:

Atlanta, Georgia

#UndergroundTrailMode on the Appalachian Trail October 8

Austin and San Antonio, TX

#UndergroundTrailMo­de: African Americans in Austin – A Lasting Legacy tour October 8

Bay Area, California

Hike 10 Miles in Solidarity with OutdoorAfro Blackpackers October 8


Underground Trail Mode: A House of My Own October 8

Charlotte, NC

#UndergroundTrailMode at Latta Plantation  October 8

Charleston, South Carolina

#UndergroundTrailMo­de Solidarity Kayaking Trip on the Combahee River (CANCELLED DUE TO HURRICANE MATTHEW) October 8

Chicago and Northwest Indiana

Burnham Wildlife Corridor Hike in Solidarity with #UndergroundTrailMo­de October 8

 Cleveland, OH

Night Hike Along the Hemlock Loop Trail October 8

Detroit, Michigan

#UndergroundTrailMode Walking Detroit October 8

Los Angeles, CA

#UndergroundTrailMode Solidarity Hike on Mount Baldy October 8

Louisville, KY

Fall Black History Hike October 8

Miami, FL

#UndergroundTrailMo­de 12 mile hike in Fakahatchee October 15

Miluakee-Madison, Wisconsin

Explore the Underground Railroad in Wisconsin October 8

Minneapolis, MN

Solidarity Hike at Wild River State Park October 9

Newark, NJ

#UndergroundTrailMo­­de 7.5 mile hike Jockey Hollow – Grand Loop Trail October 9

Portland, Oregon

#UndergroundTrailMode: Animal Tracking and River Exploration October 8

Phoenix, AZ

Healing Hike at Lost Dog Wash Trail October 9

Richmond, VA

#UndergroundTrailMode Solidarity Hike at St. Petersburg National Battlefield October 8

Seattle, Washington

#UndergroundTrailMode Solidarity Hike and Seattle Black History Exploration October 7

St Louis, Missouri

Hiking Through History – 3 Mile Hike in Hop Hollow #UndergroundTrailMo­de October 9

Tampa, FL

Urban Hike in Solidarity with #UndergroundTrailMode October 6

Washington DC- Maryland- Northern Virginia

#UndergroundTrailMo­de: Harpers Ferry Maryland Heights AT Hike October 9

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE: Assemble your Friends and Family for a Hike October 6-9, 2016 and share your experience using #UndergroundTrailMode on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram!


#UndergroundTrailMode: BlackPacking the Appalachian Trail

In Furtherance of our Mission to Celebrate and Inspire Black connections to Nature, Outdoor Afro Invites You to Hike History October 6-9, 2016

By National Program Director Zoë Polk
This October, Outdoor Afro is going Blackpacking again! Last year, hundreds of Black people around the country honored the Buffalo Soldiers’ trailblazing of Mount Whitney through #WhitneyHiking.  In 2016, we will lift up Harriet Tubman and all of the freedom seekers of the Underground Railroad by getting in #UndergroundTrailMode

BlackPacking the Appalachian Trail

From October 6-9, 2016, six members of the 2016 Outdoor Afro Leadership Team  will hike the Maryland Portion of the Appalachian Trail. Beginning at the Pennsylvania border, our team will Blackpack along the South Mountain Ridge Top to the Harpers Ferry National Park. Their 40 mile trek will be done in tribute to the thousands of African Americans in history who found their freedom in nature.

Meet the Team:

PicMonkey Collage (1)
Beky, Outdoor Afro Leader, North Carolina Triangle                            Brittany, Outdoor Afro Leader, Baltimore, MD

Cliff, Outdoor Afro Leader Bay Area, CA                                       Melody, Outdoor Afro Leader, Baltimore, MD
Kelly, Outdoor Afro Leader Newark, NJ                                       Chris, Outdoor Afro Leader Chicago, IL


Val, Outdoor Afro Leader Chicago, IL

The Appalachian Trail and the Underground Railroad
Before the Appalachian Trail was founded in 1937, formerly enslaved Americans of African descent crossed the Potomac River, trekked through the Appalachian Mountains, and made their way to freedom. Harriet Tubman was one of the most famous “conductors” on this intricate system of hiking trails and safe houses. Abolitionists, freed Blacks and slaves referred to these paths as the Underground Railroad, and they used railway metaphors as code to discuss escape plans. Slave catchers stated that when Black people were on those trails they seemed to just “disappear underground.”
In fact Black people on the Underground Railroad weren’t traveling via loud machines on trails made of concrete, iron and steel. They quietly hiked on grass, dirt, moss, and through rivers. They relied on the illumination of the moon to light their paths. They foraged for herbal remedies and food. Their leaders, Harriet Tubman and other “conductors,” weren’t steering massive machines and shoveling coal into fires. Instead they were following memorized paths, gazing up at the vast night sky to identify the Big Dipper and the North Star. They studied birdcalls and mimicked them to communicate danger and safety. They used their relationship with nature to get them to freedom.


Artwork by Kadir Nelson


#UndergroundTrailMode: A National Black to Nature Movement

In remembrance and in honor of these #OutdoorAfros of their time and in solidarity with our Blackpackers, we invite you get in #UndergroundTrailMode with us Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend, October 6-9, 2016:

*Join your local Outdoor Afro leader on a solidarity hike

*Discover and Hike the #OutdoorAfro history in Your City

*#FindYourPark and Find Underground Railroad Stops and Passages

* Assemble your Friends and Family for a Hike October 6-9, 2016 and share your experience using #UndergroundTrailMode on Facebook,  Twitter, and Instagram.

Thanks to The North Face Explore Fund for their generous support!

Placing Waterfalls: How Niagara Falls Powered the Niagara Movement

“To ignore, overlook, or apologize for these wrongs is to prove ourselves unworthy of freedom.”

Declaration of Principles, Niagra Movement, 1905


Today, on 111th anniversary of its founding, we are reflecting on the significance the Niagara Movement, a civil rights organization that held its inaugural meeting on banks of one of the most prominent natural spaces in the United States.
Niagara Falls had long been a simple of Black Liberation. Underground Railroad conductor and Outdoor Afro of her time, Harriet Tubman demanded her passengers to “Come look at the Falls!” as they made their way to freedom in Canada.  Niagara Movement Organizers, W.E.B. DuBois and William Trotter connected the roar of the falls to their demand for racial justice and their rejection of accommodation and conciliation.
So from July 11-13, 1905, intentional on the significance of their environment to their cause, they named their organization “The Niagara Movement” to be representative of a “mighty current” of change its leaders sought to bring about.
Over the course of three days, the participants met around the dining room table of prominent Black American Mary Talbert and created their Declaration of Principles. The nineteen paragraph document which urges Black Americans “to protest emphatically and continually against the curtailment of their political rights” resonates as we reread them today. And it is an important reminder of how the outdoors have inspired Black leadership and revolution.

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Implementing #BlackLivesMatter in the Outdoors

“What is my role in the Movement for Black Lives?” has become the most critical question of our time. 


Black Lives Matter flag

Written By National Program Director Zoë Polk

Each year, Outdoor Afro enlists individuals from all over the country to advance our agenda: to celebrate and inspire Black connections to nature. Founder and CEO Rue Mapp, launched the Leadership Team to activate Black leadership centered on Black Health and Black Joy in the outdoors.   During leader recruitment, we encourage applicants to reflect on how their outdoor leadership fits in with the Movement for Black Lives.  At our annual training, we challenge leaders to adopt our strategy for Black outdoor engagement and to return home as “nature community organizers.”
Inspired by Black history, literature, stewardship, music, and radicalism, our leaders have implemented “Black to Nature” tactics in cities including Minneapolis, Oakland, New York, Cleveland, Baltimore, Chicago, and Charleston, cities that by name recall despair, trauma and rage. Cities that we know by other names: Jamar Clark, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Laquan McDonald, Rekia Boyd, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson.

In 2014, Outdoor Afro issued a call to action for #HealingHikes. Outdoor Afro leaders around the country invited friends, families, church groups and organizations to turn to nature to provide a pathway to healing.  In one #HealingHike in Oakland, California, folks descended into the bowl of second growth redwoods and came upon a waterway. The weight of current events held within the light of the beautiful scenery recalled the words of a Negro Spiritual:

Gonna lay down my burden,

Down by the riverside

 And on that river bank, participants released their pain and then collectively resolved to take action within their families, workplace and communities.

In 2016, the need for #HealingHikes has continued and Outdoor Afro Leaders have organized forums for communities in response to murders in Orlando, Baton Rouge, and Falcon Heights. In Boston, leader Chaya Harris reflected that after learning about the execution of #AltonSterling, she started the day feeling angry, lost and feeling defeated. That evening she lead a healing hike in the Blue Hills and reflected  “Thanks to these Outdoor Afro who joined me,  my day’s ending with strength, positive energy and a smile. We shared how we practice self-care, and ways we can support others with mental health. At the end, we felt energized, strong and refreshed.”
In the wake of continued racial discrimination and violence, Outdoor Afro is reaching out to our networks to affirm our commitment to healthy and free Black Lives:

Our Renewed Commitments to You

1) We will continue to create relevant outdoor experiences, including #HealingHikes, that promote Black Health and Black Joy.

2) We will continue to strengthen relationships between our communities and the outdoors by telling known, little known, and unknown stories about Black connections to public parks, watersheds and wilderness. We will continue to reclaim our green spaces.

3) We will continue to urge our network and our communities to take care of themselves, in the spirit of Audre Lorde:


“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”


4) We will continue to cultivate and empower Black Outdoor Leadership. We will steward a network of Black Outdoor Leaders who love each other and the communities they serve.

5) We will continue to lift up legacy of Outdoor Afros in history through their own words:

“Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and mole hill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream”


Our New Commitment 

Starting today, Outdoor Afro will launch an open enrollment for our Leadership Team.  Motivated individuals who share our values  and want to make a difference in their communities can complete an application by visiting our website. We will work with you to ensure every community has access to healing in nature.
We remain grateful to our leaders and network who contribute to our work. While we will never be able to prepare for or inoculate ourselves from injustice, we will continue to heal and move forward in community.

We Need Everyone to Help Protect Alaska’s Arctic Refuge


Our founder Rue Mapp shares why protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is important. Please join us to help protect this beautiful place, and its people, once and for all!

From Boston to Yosemite: A New Leader’s Reflection

Meet Chaya Harris. An Educator, Writer, Camper, World Traveler and First Year Outdoor Afro Leader! Chaya shares her reflection on our recent national training held in Yosemite National Park and a preview of what Outdoor Afro Boston should expect for this year!

What inspired you to apply for the Outdoor Afro leadership team?
Outdoor Afro somehow found me! I love being outside, but was frustrated that I was often alone on these adventures, and rarely saw anyone that looked like me. Sometimes I’ll hike with my dad, and we have a running tally about how many black people we see on the trail; he’s perfected the head-nod and “How ya’ doing?” that comes with the minority territory.
As an educator in my community, I also noticed a disconnect between many children and the outdoors. I know nature can play a crucial part in child development, whether it’s exploring, growing food or learning how to ride a bike, and I want every child to have access to these experiences. Lastly, since Outdoor Afro celebrates and inspires black people and their connection to nature, it is important to share our history and contributions. Learning more about our cultures and our collective impact on nature while having fun outside is a huge bonus!
Why is Boston ready for an Outdoor Afro network?
There’s a huge range of outdoor activities in and around Boston for all interests, ages and fitness levels. Plus a wealth of black and Native history here that isn’t shared widely or frequently enough. Bringing the Outdoor Afro network to Boston gives us the space to explore and connect with our rich culture and history.

How would you characterize your experience joining 60 leaders from the Outdoor Afro training in Yosemite?
In one word: nourishing.
When I headed home from the Outdoor Afro training, I felt like it was high school graduation. I was motivated, excited and felt like I had an understanding family to support me with not only developing a group here in Boston, but also with developing myself. It was bittersweet to leave my new friends so soon, yet inspiring to be a part of a nationwide network.
All of the workshops were just as entertaining as informative. I learned helpful tips for planning events, important elements of community activism, and interesting facts about black wellness, all in an engaging and open manner. Presenters were knowledgeable, and their passion permeated the sessions. In addition to learning, I loved connecting with the other 60 outdoor enthusiasts from veteran leaders, fellow educators to die hard sports fans was just a wonderful experience. Even our partners from REI, Keen, Columbia, Klean Kanteen, and Sierra Club were very welcoming and spoke with me as a friend, not as a customer.
And to top it off, founder Rue Mapp closed out training with a pinning ceremony and a giant Soul Train line!
What was your favorite workshop at the training and why?
I really enjoyed the Risk Management workshop with REI and St. Louis leader Duane Williams. The workshop included and a interactive icebreaker activity, learning risk management the Outdoor Afro way and applying our new tools and knowledge to various scenarios. This lively workshop taught me about facilitating a group, boundaries and cooperating with various personalities. It also revealed that everyone has their unique experiences, and that leaders need to offer empathy encouragement and support during Outdoor Afro events.
Tell us 3 main lessons you learned at the training that you are excited to apply in your Boston outdoor Afro events

    • Fostering a community the Outdoor Afro way. I look forward leading our signature opening and closing circles and also connecting and engaging with members.
    • Learning and sharing history. I’m excited to learn about and share the history of outdoor spaces as they relate to Boston’s diverse culture.
    • Be prepared! I look forward to applying trip planning skills to preparing upcoming events.

Can you give us a preview of what’s in store for Outdoor Afro Boston this year?
This year, Outdoor Afros in Boston should look forward to a variety of activities: exploring the Black Heritage Trail around Beacon Hill, hiking in the Blue Hills, visiting the Inkwell on Martha’s Vineyard, and tracing Sojourner Truth’s footsteps in Western Mass. We’ll also hit the water with standup paddle-boarding and explore a Harbor Island in honor of black seamen. During the winter, of course we have to hit the New England slopes with skiing and snowboarding. I look forward to sharing with my community the many ways to enjoy the outdoors without breaking the bank!


Outdoor Afro Boston 1st Event Lilac Photo-Walk at the Arboretum!

Connect with Outdoor Afro Boston for your next adventure!!!!

An Earth Day Reflection on the Legacy of Black Stewardship in St. Louis

Outdoor Afro St. Louis Leader Duane L. Williams invites you to make Learning and Sharing Black Conservationist History an Earth Day tradition.

By Outdoor Afro Leader Duane Williams

What are some of your memories of celebrating Earth Day as a child?

My earliest Earth Day memory is participating in a drum circle in Forest Park in St. Louis. I remember feeling connected to other drummers but also feeling deeply connected to the planet. The experience reminded me that I’m not the only person who cherishes wild spaces and that we have a collective duty to steward and enjoy our lands. Since that day I use Earth Day as a day of celebration and reflection- celebrating the Earth while reflecting on my impact and what I can do better as a climate responsible citizen.

Since becoming an Outdoor Afro Leader, what have you discovered about the history of Black stewardship in St. Louis’s public green spaces?

I learned about the important role of 1743rd Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in stewarding Washington State Park.
The Civilian Conservation Corps Company 1743 was an African American company of the CCC, a program of the U.S. Army and the National Park Service which  developed state and national parks nationwide. On June 4, 1934, the men and officers of the 1743rd set up camp and began a 5 year project to develop in Washington State Park. To this day, their craftsmanship can still be seen throughout the park.
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How does knowing that Black people created the park impact your use of the park?

When I first learned of this history, I was immediately filled with pride and sadness. The pride came from having seen firsthand the masterful stonework and natural beauty in the park. But I also felt sadness because even though I was born and raised in St. Louis, I didn’t learn this history until I became an adult.

This experience has inspired me to tell these men’s stories. Last year, during my first year as an Outdoor Afro leader, I hosted four events in Washington State Park, sharing the history with each visit and encouraging hikers to take those stories home and teach someone else.  In my second year as an Outdoor Afro Leader, I intend to continue to lift up this history through more events in this park.

Why is learning the black history of local parks important to you as an Outdoor Afro Leader?

I learn the Black History of my local green spaces in order to enhance the experiences of the folks who join Outdoor Afro St. Louis events.  When we hike in a park, I want people to know that regardless of what may or may not be written on the trail placards, these lands are part of our heritage. Outdoor Afro’s mission to celebrate and inspire Black connections to nature. Learning and incorporating local Black history in our events is an important way that Outdoor Afro leaders further our organization’s mission.



What tips do you have for people who want to discover their local black history in their favorite park?

I think the most important tools are curiosity and your willingness to go deeper than the surface. There are times when a simple google search will open a whole new world, but it shouldn’t be the only resource. I encourage people to visit their local green spaces and study the trail placards- are their Black faces in photographs? If so, does the trail literature share their story?
It is also a good idea to speak to the park staff. They may have information that is not otherwise available. I also think it is important for African Americans to make sure their park management knows that African American visitors want their history reflected in park publications, programs and decisions about resources.
Finally, don’t forget your local public library!

What activities do you have planned for Washington State Park this year?

This year, Outdoor Afro St. Louis will hike, camp and canoe in Washington State Park. The first event will be a 6.5 mile history hike in June. We will do an up close examination of the  stone buildings and walls built by the 1743rd CCC.  Later in the summer, we’ll also do a I’m also planning a canoe trip down Big River. In the fall, we’ll do a group camping trip, and reflect on the 1743rd CCC in a shared meal around the fire.

What are your plans for plans for Earth Day 2016?

For Earth Day 2016, Outdoor Afro St. Louis will be practicing Leave No Trace principles during a camping in Meramec State Park.

Do you know the history of African American Stewardship in your region? Explore and share your research at #OutdoorAfro.


#FindYourPark, Find Your Path: A Journey of Self Discovery

Baltimore based Brittany Leavitt reflects on her first year as an #OutdoorAfro Leader and her deepening relationship with the National Parks
What were some your favorite activities that you lead in your first year as an Outdoor Afro leader?

My first year as an Outdoor Afro Leader was incredible. I was able to learn so much about myself and others. I have been lucky enough to be able to lead a few hikes, with the wonderful help of Outdoor Afro Washington DC Leaders. I have enjoyed all of  the  hikes that we have led, but my 2 favorite events we planned were; hiking trip up Old Rag Mountain and  an REI sponsored event, learning to climb at Carder Rocks at the C/O canal on the Maryland side.
Old Rag is an 8 mile loop in the Shenandoah National Park. This was my first heavy hike with OA. We had 15 people join us and at least 5 were brand new to hiking. This was my first time leading,  I remember how nervous I was about how would people respond to me.  Overall the hike turned out to be an amazing experience for everyone. It was awesome to have so many wonderful  people who; not only encourage each other, but had such fantastic spirits and positive vibes.
My second favorite trip was with our sponsor REI. We hosted a beginners rock climbing class at Carder Rocks. This was a great way to change up an outdoor experience. Instead of  hanging out in a canoe or walking up a mountain. Rock climbing is also great way to  practice trust and communication.

What is your favorite national park and why? 

Shenandoah National Park is one of my favorite parks to visit. The first time I ever hiked was in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its only 75 miles away for Washington DC and for someone like me who lives in the city, this is a great way to escape. I love the natural beauty of Shenandoah including the beautiful cascading waterfalls, vistas, and peaceful wooded hollows.  Whether you are planning a family picnic or heading out for a nice back-country hike, this park is for everyone.
As an Outdoor Afro Leader, I’ve deepened my relationship with Shenandoah. For example, while trip planning, I found out some interesting Black history. The Jim Crow laws forced the park to create black-only visitor centers, campgrounds, and even picnic areas. Because of black leadership during the Civil rights Movement, the segregation in the park slowly faded away.  The Byrd visitor center has a wonderful exhibition on the story of the segregation in the park.

SHEN-Lewis Mountain Negro Area sign, RLJ

Which national park is on your “bucket list” and why?

I have so many National Parks I would love to visit. From the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado to Denali in Alaska. In April at the annual Outdoor Afro Leadership Team Training. I will be crossing off one of my top National Parks, Yosemite. As an avid hiker, light climber, and nature photographer Yosemite is the place to be.

Who are some your outdoor leader role models and why?

Ansel Adams is one of my many inspiration when it come to nature photography.  Another inspiration of mine is Chelsea Griffie. She is not only an outdoor enthusiasts but also amazing climber. She is the first African American women to climb El Capitain. She also works heavily to promote getting kids outdoors. Especially kids who may not have the accessibility to go camping or try an outdoor activity. This has become my major life goal to help reconnect people to nature.

What are some of activities that you look forward to leading in 2016?

I  loved being a part of Outdoor Afro and the impact we are making. We are showing the country that nature is one of the ways we can express ourselves and heal.We are helping people step out of the comfort zone and explore their surroundings.  Whether its leading hikes on mountains, or helping out your local city garden. We will always find away to reconnect.

Healing at Magnolia: An Evening with Outdoor Afro and the Slave Dwelling Project

On March 13-14, Outdoor Afro Charleston journeyed back in time to connect to the experience of enslaved Africans in America and to learn how they survived and endured by living off the land and close to the earth.

By Outdoor Afro Charleston Leader Porchia Moore
As the stars shined above us,  our group gathered closer around the fire circle, building a warm community among each other. In the background we heard the gentle sounds of peacocks, crickets, and the restoring music of Sea Island Gullah spirituals. In these life affirming moments, we laughed, shared, and remembered our ancestors. And we experienced the beauty and power of connecting to nature and our history.
For the last two years, I had been wanting to participate in the Slave Dwelling Project, an organization who’s mission is to identify and assist property owners, government agencies and organizations to preserve extant slave dwellings. As a former resident of Charleston County, I had avoided the plantations because I felt that experiencing the space as a tourist and viewing the land as a place of entertainment would not be nurturing to my soul. While the beauty of these green spaces always called me, I could never fully connect because the tourism paradigm was incongruent.
When Outdoor Afro Leader Adrienne Troy-Frazier, in collaboration with the Slave Dwelling Project, organized an evening program at the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, I knew this was a unique opportunity for my family. It offered a counternarrative with an inclusive perspective which was wholly inclusive to the struggle of my ancestors life on these lands. While the beauty of these plantations is undeniable, I wanted to connect with the land in a way that allowed me to respect their lives and celebrate how their survival inherently connects with my modern day vibrancy and successes–because of them I can!
Our experience at the Magnolia included many important traditions including sharing a warm dinner feast with family and new friends.
In addition, Joseph McGill, organizer of the Slave Dwelling Project lead us in creating and discussing oral histories. Through re-enactment and narrative, McGill discussed the history of the land and the Africans who worked there.  As the fire dimmed, we said our good nights and headed to the dwellings, understanding that the reflections shared that night would blanket  us in our sleep.
The next morning, we woke up exhilarated by the natural beauty, including  the lush green grasses and the bright pops of  blooming flowers.  Our group did a nature walk around the grounds, taking in the swamp water cypress, moss and alligator. We also saw all of the large nests in the trees of migrating egrets and herons. It was not lost on me that the the reason that I and my sons could enjoy this brilliant greenery and vibrant wildlife was because of the stewardship of our ancestors.
As Adrienne closed the program, we read the names and micro biographies of abolitionists and freedom fighters, many of whom, had a connection to the Magnolia Plantation. Having spent the night in very bare, small spaces, knowing that enslaved Africans had  slept each night on bare wooden floors as they worked the land made me appreciate how far we have come and how brave and majestic it is to come from such a people.
I left this Outdoor Afro event proud to be black. Feeling both free, magical, inspired, and honored to be a people who survived and who, even in bondage, connected with the land with the purpose of survival using their indigenous knowledge and skill to sustain their lives under these conditions and carry us all onward. The healing aspects of this outing were immeasurable.

Photos by  Adrienne Troy-Frazier