Explore-A-Thon 2020 Week of Action: June 22 – 26

As part of our continued commitment to the movement against anti-Black violence and systemic racism in the U.S., we’re calling on our community to join us for a week of action highlighting the stories of Black people in the outdoors, offering information on Black-led outdoor organizations to support and educational resources to engage with and share among your networks. Each day we’ll focus on a different theme, showcasing various individuals, collectives, and current campaigns connected to it:

  • Monday, June 22 – Next Steps in the Movement for Black Lives
  • Tuesday, June 23 – The Outdoor Classroom: Black Birders and Beyond
  • Wednesday, June 24 – Fertile Soil: Farming, Gardening, Cooking, and Food Justice in the Black Community
  • Thursday, June 25 – Stay Up: Prioritizing Black Health 
  • Friday, June 26 – Out of the Box: Black Joy in Outdoor Recreation

Monday, June 22 – Next Steps in the Movement for Black Lives

To launch our week of action, we want to uplift the work of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL). Earlier this month, in the wake of the tragic killings of George Floyd,  Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade–and the widespread protests that ensued–we endorsed M4BL’s demands in defense of Black life. We continue to support their work, and encourage our followers to visit their website, learn more about their policy platforms, sign their petition demanding Congressional action on a plan of economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic that benefits everyday people rather than big corporations, and make a donation to the cause. For those who work in communications, and are committed to amplifying M4BL’s values, vision, and policy demands, we also encourage you to read and utilize their key messaging guidance regarding the growing call to defund the police.

Tuesday, June 23 – The Outdoor Classroom: Black Birders and Beyond

Today we turn our attention to the broad field of outdoor education, and the important role it plays in supporting Black communities connecting to nature.

Many of our grantee organizations operate in the realm of education, but we especially want to highlight Camp Phoenix, whose summer program combines the joy of camp and nature with a robust academic and social-emotional curriculum to close the opportunity gap among middle school students from communities experiencing the impact of racial and economic inequity. Camp Phoenix believes all youth deserve access to nature, and while they focus on achievement, leadership, and community, the outdoors is the catalyst for magic to happen between these goals. Check them out for an inspiring example of how the outdoors can be used as a conduit for young people’s empowered self-development.

Did you catch Black Birders Week earlier this month? Organized in direct response to the racist attack against Christian Cooper in Central Park’s Ramble, it was a social media campaign meant to draw attention to the Black community’s participation in the outdoors and celebrate Black nature enthusiasts everywhere. Commit to learning and celebrating Black Birders by watching the inaugural session of Birding While Black, a candid conversation with Black birdwatchers to hear their stories of discovering birds and their unique experiences of birding while Black in the U.S. While you’re at it, check out the social media account Black AF in STEM, a timely new initiative celebrating Black experiences in science, technology, economics, engineering, and mathematics.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t plug one of our own programs, the Outdoor Educators Institute (OEI). As many of you know, OEI ensures that young adults who’ve historically faced social, economic, and cultural barriers to accessing the outdoors are reconnected to the natural world through training, skills-building, and experiences critical to their continued growth as leaders in the environmental field. This year, we’re leading three concurrent cohorts, in San Francisco/Oakland, the South Bay, and Fresno. Priority applications for the three-month program are due this Friday (though we’ll continue to accept applications through July 17th). Take a moment to share the application information with young adults in your life who you believe would be interested.

Lastly, join the movement to remove police and resource officers from school districts in which Black youth are a majority or significant percentage of the student body. There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that police make schools less safe, representing more of a threat than a form of protection, especially for students of color and students with disabilities. Amidst the national outcry over police violence in recent weeks, several school districts (Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland) have severed ties with their local police departments. In our hometown of Oakland, a proposal to get rid of the district’s police department and redirect the $2.8 million currently spent on armed officers toward student programs has gained the support of the superintendent and a majority of the school board. Sign this petition in support of the proposal, and join tomorrow’s school board meeting online, in order to add a public comment. We’re of course focused on Oakland because that’s where we’re based, but we encourage you to plug into similar campaigns regarding your own local school districts.

Wednesday, June 24 – Fertile Soil: Farming, Gardening, Cooking, and Food Justice in the Black Community

Today we honor the contributions of Black farmers, gardeners, cooks, and food justice advocates. 

Take some time to celebrate two of our grantee organizations, Acta Non Verba (based in Oakland) and FoodWhat?! (based in Santa Cruz). Both organizations lead nature-based farm programs that introduce young people to principles of sustainable agriculture, nutrition, and healthy eating. We’re very proud to support them, and very happy to re-share this video profile of Acta Non Verba, and their wonderful ED, Kelly Carlisle, in celebration of the organization recently winning a Renewal Award, jointly presented by The Atlantic and Allstate, in recognition of their work playing a vital role in building healthy, sustainable, and equitable communities.

Learn more about the role food plays in Black communities by engaging with the work of Leah Penniman, a Black Kreyol educator, farmer/peyizan, author, and food justice activist from Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York, and Michael Twitty, a food writer, independent scholar, culinary historian, and historical interpreter preparing, preserving, and promoting African American foodways, their parent traditions in Africa and the Diaspora, and their legacy in the food culture of the American South. His blog, Afroculinaria, highlights and addresses food’s critical role in the development and definition of African American civilization and the politics of consumption and cultural ownership that surround it. Their books (Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farms’s Practical Guide To Liberation On The Land and The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in The Old South) are both featured on an incredible new Reading List for Learning About Anti-Black Racism and Food that Epicurious recently shared. We encourage you to purchase them from Marcus Books in Oakland, the oldest independent Black bookstore in the country, or one of these Black-owned bookstores that may be closer to your current location.

Thursday, June 25 – Stay Up: Prioritizing Black Health

Today we’re focused on Black people’s health, and its direct correlation to increased access to the outdoors.

Several of our grantee organizations, including Brothers On The Rise, Elevated Legacy, and Insight Garden Program, prioritize outdoor activities as part of a holistic approach to developing and maintaining physical and mental health. Especially now, as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, we deeply believe that getting outside, and engaging in activities that nourish body and mind, is critical to maintaining personal and collective well-being. This is particularly true for Black communities, where infection rates remain disproportionately high. Take a moment to read up on the grantees we’ve highlighted for their distinct perspectives on improving health outcomes for their constituents. While you’re at it, check out Black Hikers Week, an initiative launched by members of the Black hiking community amplifying individuals and communities working to change the dominant narrative by encouraging and empowering Black people to get outdoors. The initiative focuses on various health aspects related to hiking and includes a virtual town hall meeting addressing barriers Black hikers face. Follow #BlackHikersWeek on Instagram, and tune into the @BlackPeopleWhoHike account today for their new IGTV series discussing the positive effects of hiking.

We also want to re-share an article that our CEO, Kim Moore Bailey, recently co-authored for Grantmakers In Health. Entitled “The Urgent Need For Nature During And After COVID-19,” the article makes the fundamental point that “access to safe, nearby nature must be prioritized as critical public health infrastructure and not just an amenity for a few,” especially given the multiple scientific studies indicating nature’s profound benefits for communities who are negatively impacted by structural racism, economic inequity, opportunity gaps, and trauma. Share the article with your networks, and follow Parks Now, a broad coalition of experts, activists, and community leaders from across California who are concerned about the state of our public parks and committed to the kind of progressive policy recommendations Kim and her co-authors offer in the article.

Lastly, take action this week to support the health of Black communities by contributing to one or multiple of these mutual aid funds that are doing critical work to meet the health and housing needs of some of the most vulnerable populations in our region. Or research and give to a mutual aid fund in your area. 

Friday, June 26th – Out of the Box: Black Joy in Outdoor Recreation

To conclude the week, we want to showcase some dynamic examples of Black people joyfully participating in sports whose narratives have historically removed their participation and excellence, and in many cases, have proven sites of anti-Black racism. 

Our grantee organization Brown Girl Surf works to build a more diverse, environmentally reverent, and joyful women’s surf culture by increasing access to surfing, cultivating community, amplifying the voices of women of color surfers, and taking care of the earth. We deeply admire the group’s commitment to creating space and support for women of color in the surfing ecosystem, and in so doing, shifting popular perceptions of the sport.

Similarly, the National Brotherhood of Skiers, founded in the 1970s, has done remarkable work to build community among and advocate for the Black ski community. From humble beginnings, the organization has grown to 55 ski clubs representing 43 cities and a membership of 3,500. The NBS is recognized by the ski industry as one of the largest ski organizations and its yearly Summit as the largest gathering of skiers and riders, more than any other ski convention in the United States. Check out this REI-produced video on their history.

Next, take some time to celebrate the work of Emily Taylor. She’s the founder of Brown Girls Climbing, a Bay Area-based, adventure-centered leadership development program whose purpose is to provide a safe space for girls of color to receive the healthy social-emotional and physical benefits of exercise and outdoor leadership. Given that Black and Brown girls are the most marginalized in the climbing industry–with access, affordability, and inclusion often not feasible for many in the community–we want to encourage you to end this week of action by making a donation to Brown Girls Climbing, and supporting Emily’s tremendous work.

We salute each of these groups, and the many others creating avenues for Black people to experience joy, health, and power in sports that have historically upheld a culture of racial exclusion.