Celebrating Black Outdoor Leaders
In honor of Juneteenth, we'd like to shout out some of the most impressive and impactful leaders of color working to make the outdoors more inclusive for all
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To honor the 155th celebration of Juneteenth, we wanted to take a moment to honor some of the amazing people working to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within our industry.
As recent events have taught us, we have a long way to go before the industry—and society at large—is truly equitable. But it’s the work of people like these (listed in alphabetical order by first name) that’s taking us in the right direction.
Faith is a documentary filmmaker focused on diversity, both behind the camera and in front of it. After pursuing undergraduate film work at Yale and the University of Southern California, Faith got her Master’s in Documentary Journalism at New York University. She has collaborated on films with REI, Merrell, Columbia, and many others. One of her most recent projects was “This Land,” a film about her journey running 150 miles through three U.S. national monuments.
James Edward Mills
James has worked in the outdoor industry for more than 30 years as a guide, outfitter, independent sales representative, writer, and photographer. He is the founder of the Joy Trip Project, a news-gathering and reporting organization that covers outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving, and practices of sustainable living. He is the author of The Adventure Gap: Changing the Face of the Outdoors and the co-writer/co-producer of the documentary film “An American Ascent.”
Latasha is a Denver-based artist trained in scientific and preparatory medicine illustration who specializes in plein air landscape painting. Through her work, she aims to challenge the underrepresentation of people of color in the outdoors. “I want to showcase myself and the people like me who spend time on trails,” she said of her art. “We are a reflection of nature, and nature is a reflection of us.”
Latria is a writer, editor, and cultural critic with bylines in the The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, Harvard Law Today, Outside Magazine, Outdoor Retailer magazine, and, of course, OBJ. Her writing examines the dynamics of race, gender, class, nerd culture, and football. She uses her talents to write for publications “invested in celebrating the diversity of the human experience.”
Laura Edmondson, Brittany Leavitt, and Sasha McGhee
Laura, Brittany, and Sasha (pictured left to right) are the corporate responsibility manager, regional development coordinator, and corporate accounts manager, respectively, for Brown Girls Climb, a company owned and operated by women of color that promotes diversity in climbing.
Mirna is an ultra-runner, author, and educator who was named a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2018. Her memoir, A Beautiful Work in Progress, was a bestseller, and in 2017 she appeared on the cover of Women’s Running. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Mirna’s story has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Runner’s World, CNN, and an REI-produced documentary, “The Mirnavator.”
Nailah Blades Wylie
Nailah is the founder of Color Outside, a nonprofit that helps women of color harness the power of the outdoors to create the joy-filled lives. A communications strategist and community builder who has worked with businesses small and large—from startups to Fortune 500 companies—Nailah founded Color Outside after moving from San Diego to Salt Lake City and feeling unmoored, without a community to support her. Color Outside engages in coaching, workshops, and retreats to help fellow outdoor lovers feel welcome and joyful doing what they love.
Patricia is the founder of Blackpackers, a nonprofit that lowers the financial barrier to entry in outdoor recreation and connects outdoor participants with volunteer opportunities and jobs. Before founding Blackpackers, Patricia struggled as a single mother with the means to take her young son outdoors to enjoy nature. She saved up money working overtime as an EMT to buy her first set of backpacking gear—an experience that motivated her to help others find the means to get outside.
Rahawa is a writer known for her riveting story about solo hiking the Appalachian Trail during the 2016 election—a feat she first chronicled in the essay “Going It Alone,” in Outside Magazine. She’s currently at work on a book about the same journey, forthcoming from HarperCollins.
Rue is the founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a nonprofit that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. With nearly 80 leaders in 30 states, the group has a stated mission of “helping more people, particularly Black people, equitably reconnect with the natural world through outdoor recreation.” Since Outdoor Afro’s founding in 2009, Rue has been featured in publications including The Wall Street Journal, Backpacker, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, and elsewhere.
Teresa Baker is the founder of the African American National Park Event and the Outdoor Industry CEO Diversity Pledge, which asks C-level executives at outdoor companies to commit to to creating, promoting, and enforcing policies that expand the diversity, equity, and inclusion of their employees, board members, and customers.