Nope, it doesn’t. At least we don’t see enough black people enjoying and benefiting from being in nature. Today, we pledge to amplify black and other underrepresented voices, to help increase the visibility of black people in nature, and do what we can to make people of color feel welcome and safe in the outdoors.
Up until recently, we had a general awareness of the lack of people of color and people with disabilities featured in the outdoor media.
We had made some efforts to include diversity in our occasional “people interviews” and the handful of Happier Ambassadors. Mostly, we pooled from our IRL or online friends, i.e., our peers who happen to mostly be like us: white people, who can’t quite believe they’re middle-aged already. Reality-check: our personal pool didn’t include any black outdoor enthusiasts – and not all our nature-loving POC friends wanted to be featured.
This is how it’s been until the events of the last few days and weeks started rattling us more and more.
We are outraged and heartbroken over the mistreatment, killing, and racist experiences of black people in the outdoors. It is unacceptable that black people don’t feel safe or welcome to enjoy “the great outdoors” or birding in an urban park (like Christian Cooper) or jogging around the neighborhood (like Ahmaud Arbery).
But WHAT CAN WE DO to change that? Just standing by Black Lives Matter doesn’t seem to be enough.
On Monday, we became aware of the inaugural Black Birders Week launched by BlackAFinSTEM, a group of young Black naturalists and scientists from across the STEM spectrum (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) on Twitter and Instagram and their #BlackInNature awareness campaign day. Their outreach was the final spark for us to decide we need to become proactive, too!
We got serious about listening, watching, self-examining, and exploring ideas.
Earlier today, Luci published a lengthy personal blog post about her background and perspective on all of this – and how she can do better as a person and with this platform. It includes thoughts about Happier Place and its mission and how we can shift some of our priorities and utilize our platform to bring positive change for black people in the outdoors: Introspection, Reflection and Need for Action – by a White German Expat in America
As of today, we are broadening our mission and will begin working on these steps:
- Reach out to and feature more people of color in our People section.
- Initiate a guest blogger system to amplify diverse voices.
- Restart our Happier Ambassador program and seek out people underrepresented in nature.
- Begin a dialogue here and wherever we can about how we can help fight racism and other discrimination and how to foster diversity in nature and make more people feel welcome in their outdoor happier places.
- Reevaluate to which organization we’re donating.
Our first step will be to focus on amplifying voices and increasing the visibility of black people. But in our pledge, we did not want to leave out other people of color (including people native to countries where white people have become a majority), people with disabilities, and other people who feel marginalized in the outdoors. We know which “conversation we’re having right now”. But we’re also ready to have those other conversations.
Our presence and audience are quite small, but we believe that every small positive step moves us forward in “bending the moral universe towards justice” and helping to make this world a happier and better place. Let’s do it together!
Let’s Inspire Each Other
We are so excited about all the people, perspectives, photos and experiences we will get to share soon. Besides reaching out to people ourselves, we hope that YOU will also come to us with suggestions of people and topics we can feature and spotlight.
Please leave comments below with ideas, questions, or feedback. Is there something we could have said or done better? Let us know in the comments below or by contacting us privately.
And let’s get started right now on pooling ideas for a future blog post. We just found out about the book “Black Faces, White Spaces – Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors” by Carolyn Finney. Can you recommend other books?
In closing, we want to share this Instagram post by BlackAFinSTEM that illustrates how we and all the little and big players in the outdoor industry can make a difference. We encourage you to follow them, share their message and, of course, start increasing the visibility of black people in nature and making them feel welcome.
Thank you for all YOU do to make the world a happier and more just place!
Photos in this post were taken by Luci in Brazil in 2013 – where, of course, you see a lot of black and LatinX people in nature. Geography does make a difference as to who you see outdoors – racism shouldn’t!