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Diversity in the Outdoors

One place you can pretty reliably not find black folks is in the great outdoors. Some folks are trying to change that…

BTW – BTx3’s Outdoor adventures this year are kayaking fishing, and at least one night camping on an ocean beach.

Diversity in the outdoors, one hashtag at a time

A conversation with Teresa Baker, founder of Hike Like a Girl.

TrailPosse is a series produced in partnership with The Trail Posse focused on the relationship between people of color and Western public lands.

During the past three years, Teresa Baker of Martinez, Calif., has organized some of the most significant events in the movement to diversify and improve inclusion in the outdoors: The African American National Parks Event, the Buffalo Soldiers Trail Retracing, the Muir Campfire Discussion on Relevancy and Inclusion in Outdoor Organizations, and the convening on Relevancy and Inclusion in Outdoor Organizations.

Her latest brainchild, Hike Like a Girl, a campaign to encourage females to take to the trails, solo or in groups, took place on May 14. The event followed a familiar formula: Working with partner organizations, Baker encourages people to engage in outdoor activities on a certain day (or days), then record, post and hashtag on social media to raise further awareness.

Recently featured as one of Patagonia’s Women Active Activists, Baker is a former high-school point guard and former trip leader for Outdoor Afro, a national network that uses meetups and education to encourage African Americans to get outside. She’s evolved into a one-woman force of nature. She says her mother didn’t like her “being defiant and going against the grain as a girl,” but adds, “My dad told me daily, that I could not back down to anyone or I would do it for the rest of my life. So he encouraged me to speak up and not be afraid to live my true life.” HCNcontributing editor Glenn Nelson recently caught up with Baker.

High Country News Most people of color don’t have a background in the outdoors growing up, but that wasn’t the case with you, was it?

Teresa Baker I was the only girl in a family of eight boys and was determined not to be outdone by anything my brothers did. So when they went hiking, I went hiking; when they played basketball, I played basketball. When they and the other guys in the neighborhood would talk trash about how girls weren’t capable of keeping up with guys, I’d prove them wrong. That’s where my love of the outdoors began. We lived directly across from a city park, so every day we were outdoors with other neighborhood kids, playing every sport imaginable, but my favorite by far was hiking.

I was part of an after-school program where we would go hiking in Tilden Park almost every week. We would also visit a ranch that belonged to the owners of the program. There we learned how to care for animals and the land. We would ride horses and hike the surrounding area. I absolutely loved it and to this day reminisce on how at peace I felt out on this ranch.

In 1978 my mother made me join the Girl’s Club, which I fought tooth and nail. I didn’t want to be around a bunch of girls who would probably not embrace my love of the outdoors. I was only partially right. In the summer of 1979, we went to Yosemite National Park for my first official camping trip. That was it for me; I fell in love with Yosemite and have remained so to this very day.

HCN What inspired you to start the African American National Park Event?

Baker I take off for Yosemite at the drop of a dime, no long-term planning needed. On one of my Yosemite visits in 2012, I started to take notice of how many African Americans I encountered. At the end of my second day in the park, I had not seen one other African American. I started to research people of color in our national parks – not just in visitation, but in the makeup of the National Park Service. The lack of diversity was surprising because I had never really paid much attention to it. The next year, I created an event to encourage African American communities across the country to get outdoors in a national park site during the month of June. The larger concern is that if we don’t start creating welcoming environments in the outdoors for people of color, in 20 years when the majority demographic in this country is black and brown faces, no one will be around to care about these open spaces. That’s the urgency of this issue.

The involvement I have now with the outdoors wasn’t planned. I simply wanted to create an event to get people of color outdoors. That turned in to talking engagements and written article after article about the lack of diversity in our national parks. That’s how I ended up doing this work, I feel it is my calling. It’s certainly my passion. And connecting with others who are just as passionate about this work has been an honor. I’m committed to the challenges that are ahead of me and will work diligently to bring about a change that will last beyond my lifetime.

HCN The Buffalo Soldiers are important to the history of both African Americans and the National Park Service because, as all-black troops in the 9th Cavalry Regiment and 24th Infantry, they were among the nation’s first park rangers, patrolling Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in 1899, 1903 and 1904. Their commanding officer, Capt. Charles Young, was the first African American park superintendent, at Sequoia in 1903. What led you to retracing the Buffalo Soldiers’ route from the Presidio, where they once were garrisoned, to Yosemite?

Baker After several visits to the Presidio of San Francisco, I started to learn about the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers. I read about their participation in the military and how they were actually stationed right here in the Bay Area. Then I saw a documentary about Yosemite ranger Shelton Johnson and how he portrayed Buffalo Soldiers in the High Sierras. This was life-changing for me. Here I am, in love with Yosemite and concerned with the lack of African Americans in our national parks, then one day I find out the very first rangers in our national parks were African Americans. I was beside myself with pride and curiosity. In 2013, as an Outdoor Afro leader, I went to the Presidio and asked the park service if they would work with me on putting together a program to honor the Buffalo Soldiers at the Presidio. They agreed and my commitment to telling their story began….Read the Rest Here

 
 

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River Monsters Failure to Catch

As an avid fisherman – I started watching the River Monsters series becoming rapidly bored with the false sense of drama  over the large fish supposedly attacking humans swimming, and the lack of focus on the fish themselves and their ecosystems.

Never to disappoint, it seems the show has discovered Bull Sharks. A species of shark which inhabits most of the world’s oceans, and is capable of living in fresh or salt water. Bull sharks are the most dangerous to humans of the shark species, accounting for the vast majority of bites – simply because the region they inhabit tends to be around the shallows in inlets where food is washed out by the receding tide. Areas where people tend to swim and surf. I have caught 4 footers, and even an 8 footer going after game species such as Grouper and Rockfish as by-catch. But I have yet to hear of a Bull Shark attacking anyone in fresh water. Hooking one is no big deal – you know you have one on the line when it hits like a freight train, and then instantly starts to roll to spit out the hook.

A full grown Bull shark

Was reading  book about the history of the development of the Washington, DC area – and was somewhat surprised to see that in the 1800’s a 12 foot Bull shark was caught off the pier in Georgetown. Of course the Potomac River was about 3 times the size it is now then. But it is not unusual to see salt water species, such as crabs just a few miles below the city even today.

If the show ever gets around to actually providing information about the fish species, showing the fish, and talking about the habitat that enables the fish to reach huge size – then I might tune in again. But I, for one am really tired of the rather lame attempts to make things dramatic. In the series premier, they catch a truly glorious fish – a 350 lb Grouper, and virtually ignore it. Geez…

‘River Monsters’ Premiere: The Search For A Bull Shark; Exciting Or Too Slow? (VIDEO)

Jeremy Wade and “River Monsters” (Sun., 9 p.m. ET on Animal Planet) returned for a fourth season, with Wade on the hunt for a bigger and better monster. He came up slightly short with a juvenile freshwater bull shark, though it was still six feet in length. Ironically, while looking for the bull shark, Wade found a seven foot long, 350 pound grouper.

A grouper might not traditionally be thought of as dangerous or a monster, per se, but when dealing with that size, it certainly seems pretty monstrous. The TCPalmsays the show is a “fun reminder that we have some special creatures sharing our environment with us.”

The New York Daily News, on the other hand, was a little disappointed with this premiere. They feel that the series needs to talk less about the monsters sharing the world with us, and spend more time showing them.

A little Jackie Wilson. Got nothing to do with fishing, Monsters, the River, current TV shows, or Jeremy Wade’s failure to catch fish…

But is infinitely more entertaining.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2012 in Great American Rip-Off

 

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