Ten years ago I ascended from the frigid mountain waters of New Hampshire. I found myself surrounded by exhilarated campers who were thrilled to have completed their first cliff dive. As the adrenaline rush finally began to cease, I looked around and thought “none of these kids look like me.” That moment of reflection remained cemented in my mind as a camp counselor and later an educator. As I embarked on a career as a classroom educator, I quickly noticed how many students of color from low-income communities had little to no powerful experiences in the outdoors like my former campers. After spending seven years working in education, I decided to do something about it. I started by shadowing over ten outdoor organizations which solidified my belief that the outdoors can have transformative impacts on youth. With a wealth of knowledge and experience from dynamic leaders in the outdoor education community, I was driven to launch an organization that not only made the outdoor accessible to more communities of color, but also made programming relevant to their lives.
I was intentional with the name Black Outside; anchoring in the belief that we are not connecting students of color to the outdoors we are REconnecting. For centuries people of color have made powerful contributions to the outdoors while experiencing moments of pain and moments of liberation. Yet in spite of the trials and triumphs there is a stall a large gap in outdoor participation by communities of color, particularly those identifying as Black/African-American. By re-engaging youth in the outdoors and crafting culturally relevant programming we hope to inspire the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts and become the “wildest dream(s)” of our ancestors.