Analysis of visitor data has shown that black folks are among the lest likely to enjoy our National Parks system, and to engage in outdoor activities. Getting out and doing activities is one of the most important things in terms of long term health. Doesn’t men you have to zipline Grand Canyon or scale El Capitan – but moderate hiking has great cardio benefits. Not to mention the psychic benefits of just seeing something wonderful.
One of my hobbies for years has been Landscape Photography. Backpacking gear into the wilderness to photograph the scenery, wildlife, and beauty in the mountains, desert, or coastlines. Walking through the 2000 year old Old Grove trees in the Pacific Northwest can be a religious experience, as can the silence of the Desert. Many of these places are located within a few hours drive of a city – some are so remote only a few people even get to them a year.
“There’s something so dynamic about a forest environment,” she said
One woman wants to inspire more black people to participate in outdoor activities, so she created a network where “black people and nature meet.”
Rue Mapp is the founder of Outdoor Afro, an organization that encourages black people to embrace the outdoors and all the activities it has to offer.
“I found that in the nature experiences I had, I was far too often the only one who looked like me,” Mapp said in a video by Facebook Stories. “So I decided to do something about it.”
The nationwide network was created in 2009 and started out as a Facebook group Mapp made to help connect black nature-lovers everywhere. The social media platform and its offerings has become a useful tool for many organizations. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced Wednesday that now one billion people are using Facebook Groups every month.
“Outdoor Afro is a perfect example of how people can use Facebook groups to build relationships around the things they care about,” Alex Deve, a product manager on Facebook Groups, said in a statement to HuffPost.
Since its launch, Outdoor Afro has grown significantly and now has over a dozen chapters across the country with more than 13,000 members. According to a 2015 report released by the Outdoor Foundation, 70 percent of people who participated in outdoor activities last year were white. Only 10 percent were black.
“National park visitorship, especially in more remote areas, can be as low as 1 percent African Americans,” Mapp said. “I just felt that there were these opportunities and lessons I was learning that more people could benefit from.”
Outdoor Afro has been able to reconnect black people with nature. It encourages black people to invest more in the planet by inviting them on outings such as nature trails and teaches them important lessons on conservation. Mapp said the work she is committed to has evolved beyond her wildest dreams.
“At the end of the day, this is about love and connecting [with] one another,” she said. “Connection is strength and the chance to be better, bigger, stronger and sustainable.”
The Bioblitz Dance – Outdoor Afro and the California Conservation Corps Dance. That is Rue Mapp on the lead in.