Black History: Special Delivery!!

outdoor afro

Rue Mapp launched Outdoor Afro in 2009 via a blog and Facebook. Mapp is a former analyst with Morgan Stanley. Outdoor Afro is a labor of love and combines her passion for nature, community, and technology. The organization is focused on reigniting the connection of African Americans to nature and the outdoors.

Using social media, Mapp began writing about her fondness for nature as well as consistently being the only black person on camping and hiking excursions. Her experiences resonated with many of her social media and blog followers. Through social media she organized outdoor recreational events with the help of trained volunteer leaders. Outdoor activities included hiking, bird watching, skiing, biking, etc., for African Americans across the country. Outdoor Afro has 30 trained leaders and 7,000 active members.

African American volunteer leaders are the backbone of Outdoor Afro. Mapp feels strongly that having African American leaders is critical to the organization’s success. The tagline for Outdoor Afro is, “where black people and nature meet”. Volunteers receive intensive training. Training covers topics such as proper outdoor attire, recognizing native flora and fauna, and how to use social media to recruit participants. Training is designed for individuals who want to implement outdoor recreational activities within their own communities. Volunteer leaders come from all walks of life. Most have in common the desire to expose more African Americans to outdoor nature-focused activities.

Participating in outdoor recreation can raise safety concerns due to historical segregation and harassment African Americans faced when attempting to access public spaces. This has resulted in some African Americans viewing outdoor recreation as something that only “white people” do. Outdoor Afro is working to dismantle this myth. The organization is also working to help African Americans redefine “outdoors” as being more than just going to a large national park. Nature can be experienced in smaller spaces…anything outdoors can be considered as nature.

Volunteer leaders help participants understand historical examples of African Americans and their connection to nature. For example, Mapp identifies civil rights protesters marching through Selma as “hikers”. Harriet Tubman’s is recognized as a naturalist due to her extensive knowledge of flora and fauna that aided her in navigating the terrain of the underground railroad. George Washington Carver is recognized as an agricultural scientist whose innovation advanced sustainability in a myriad of ways.

Mapp’s mission through Outdoor Afro is to reconnect African Americans back to nature in its varied forms. She is committed to affirming that nature is for everyone and focused on increasing opportunities for African Americans to connect and access natural spaces through Outdoor Afro activities.

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