Celebrating Black Outdoorswomxn: 10 Podcast Episodes Sharing the Stories of Black, Femme Outdoor Enthusiasts
Black lives matter. And so do Black futures, Black joy, and Black outdoor enthusiasts.
By SheFly Ambassador Program Director Natalie Davey
In honor of and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests that have covered our nation for the past month, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite podcast episodes featuring Black, femme creatives, influencers, advocates, entrepreneurs, and athletes in the outdoor space. We see you and we celebrate you. Speaking of which -- Happy #BlackHikersWeek!
But first, we want to recognize and condemn murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Riah Milton, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau, Elijah McClain, and so many more. Just in the time between beginning to write this blog post and editing it in its final stages, there have been more incidents of police brutality, racist hate crimes, and inexcusable killings. By the time of its posting, we’re afraid there will be more.
The silence in the outdoor industry is a microcosm of racism in this country and the silence of so many outdoor brands speaks volumes about the work we still have to do to dismantle systems of oppression in our society. This silence continues to perpetuate the whitewashing of the outdoors and our team at SheFly is committed to making the outdoors a more representative space for the BIPOC community, beyond just our pants. All lives won’t matter, and the outdoors won’t be for all, until Black Lives Matter. The outdoor industry can’t reach its full potential until it represents everyone who goes outside, and not just outside in the sense of scaling mountains. Experiences outside are not limited to reaching peaks and breaking ultra running times. They include picnicking at parks, spending time at the local pool or beach, and so much more.
As a company, we’re sharing resources on our SheFly Instagram stories, donating 35% of SheFly Shop sales to the Action Bail Fund, holding DEI (Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion) conversations with our Ambassadors, and researching initiatives like the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge in addition to taking action as individuals. These are all small acts, and we recognize that we have a long way to go. If you have more ideas about how SheFly can do better, do not hesitate to shoot us an email or message. (Our response time may be slower during this time, but we will read and take into consideration all ideas).
The act of researching and compiling this list further highlighted the ways in which the outdoor space is predominantly white, especially when it comes to media. We sifted through dozens of hits before coming across podcasts that featured Black voices in the outdoors. As we continue to dissect the ways in which we contribute to the system of white supremacy and untangle harmful thought processes, we’ve also been working our way through these more general podcasts, written and told by Black folks: “1619”, Another Round, this episode on Afrofuturism on This American Life, and Still Processing. The Race Traitor subseries on The Heart has also been recommended to us, which details one womxn’s experience in coming to terms with her whiteness, and the way it affects her relationships, neighborhood, and worldview. This list, and the one that follows, is in no way exhaustive, so again, please hit us up if you have other finds! We’d love to hear them.
1. Rue Mapp on Wild Ideas Worth Living
In this episode, you get to hear from Rue Mapp -- an activist, outdoor enthusiast, mom, and founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro. Outdoor Afro is one of the nation’s most influential non-profits made up of a network of over 35,000 people dedicated to diversifying the outdoor and conservation space through a variety of outdoor trips. Hearing from Rue describe the origin of her idea and the evolution of Outdoor Afro will inspire you to think deeper about the impact of fostering diverse and representative outdoor communities.
(Image courtesy of Stephen Texeira in Oakland Magazine)
2. Naomi Grevemberg on Women on the Road
This episode features Naomi Grevemberg. Naomi practices slow, eco-conscious travel in her VW van with her husband Dustin. It was captivating to listen to how her upbringing in Trinidad and her childhood connection to nature shaped her lifelong passion for environmental advocacy. The episode covers other important topics too, like navigating relationships while on the road and her take on empowering women of color in the #VanLife sphere. Plus, check out this list by She Explores that suggests 13 women of color on the road to follow on social media, as well as Naomi’s @diversify.vanlife on Instagram!
(Image courtesy of Naomi and Dustin @irietoaurora)
3. Brittany Leavitt on Outside Voices
Episode 4 of the Outside Voices Podcast details Brittany Leavitt’s story. Her relationship to the outdoors is one that inspires thoughts around nature as a healing tool, as a vehicle for both learning and teaching, and something that is closer than we think. Listen to this episode to hear about how her experiences climbing, hiking, and spending time in the outdoors has helped define Black joy for Brittany. Find her on Instagram @bleavitt8 and check out her most recent Instagram TV on her first experience backpacking on the AT!
(Image Courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
4. Chelsea Connor on Short Wave from NPR
In this episode of Short Wave from NPR, you’ll hear from biologist and co-founder of #BlackBirdersWeek Chelsea Connor. Listening to her reflection on the Amy Cooper’s of the world, her perspective as a Black birder, and the events organized through Black Birder’s Week unearth yet another amazing movement and community working to diversify the outdoors and reshape norms around who gets to experience and enjoy nature. After you listen, be sure to follow her on Twitter @ChelseaHerps!
(Image Courtesy of National Public Radio)
5. Mercy M’fon on The Unlikely Hikers Podcast
The Unlikely Hiker’s Podcast has featured various influential outdoor enthusiasts who are changing the narrative of stereotypical “outdoorsy people'' and Mercy M’fon is doing exactly that through her leadership in the outdoors with Wild Diversity. Wild Diversity (on Insta @WildDiversity) is a non-profit organization she founded to foster personal connections to nature for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. In this episode, Mercy and Jenny discuss some of the heftiest barriers to the outdoors and how decolonizing our relationship and approach to the outdoors can help people overcome them.
(Image Courtesy of The Unlikely Hikers Podcast)
6. Danielle Williams on She Explores
In this episode of She Explores, Gale interviews Danielle Williams, the founder of Melanin Base Camp. There are so many important themes throughout their discussion, including the value of storytelling, but one we were especially attuned to right now during COVID-19 is how the outdoors doesn’t just have to be deep backcountry -- it can be really close to home. One of my favorite parts of this conversation was their discussion about how parks, local trails, gardens, and other ordinary yet vital forms of nature aren’t what we typically categorize under outdoor recreation and don’t get nearly as much appreciation as they should, especially since gear and more adventure-oriented outdoor recreation is less accessible.
(Image Courtesy of Don Carrington on she-explores.com)
7. Chelsea Murphy on the Travel Tomorrow Podcast
This episode of Travel Tomorrow Podcast features hiker, writer, speaker, outdoor Instagram influencer, SheFly Ambassador, and mom, Chelsea Murphy. In this conversation, Chelsea describes what it’s like to hike and recreate outdoors as a Black woman. She also discusses the importance of diversifying everything in your life from social media to educational resources to friend groups, the importance of people of color being confident in their own skin and continuing to take up space, and the importance of getting your kids outside. You can find her on Instagram @she_colorsnature.
(Image Courtesy of Chelsea Murphy of @she_colorsnature)
8. Latasha Dunston on Outside By Design
This episode of Wheelie Creative’s Podcast Outside By Design interviews Latasha Dunston, the talented creative behind Jitterbug Art (which you should definitely follow on Insta @jitter_bug, if you’re not already!). You’ll hear about her journey breaking into the outdoor industry as an artist inspired by nature and science and how she worked to fulfill her dream of working as an artist full-time. The pieces about projects she’s been involved in and the accomplishments she has achieved speak to her incredible work ethic and dedication to her passion. You can pre-order a Kula Cloth with her “In Solidarity” graphic (pictured above in this post) -- a really cool collaboration with Teresa Baker, founder of the CEO Diversity Pledge, here.
(Graphic Courtesy of Latasha Dunston of Jitterbug Art)
9. Rahawa Haile on Real Talk Radio
This conversation with Rahawa Haile on Real Talk Radio drops into her experience as a storyteller and writer, as well as her journey thru-hiking the AT as a queer Black woman. This interview is a really important piece for American outdoor enthusiasts to hear because it uncovers the truths of racism in trail towns and allows listeners to empathize deeper with the extent to which Black hikers carry fear in many of the places they explore and recreate in. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @RahawaHaile.
(Image Courtesy of Carina Skrobecki on rei.com)
10. Nailah Blades on the Outdoorsy Diva Podcast
On Episode 33 of the Outdoorsy Diva Podcast, you’ll be introduced to Nailah Blades who runs @WeColorOutside and is a certified life and leadership coach. Color Outside is an outdoor club helping women of color create unapologetic, joy-filled lives through outdoor adventure. In this episode, hear about the origin story of Color Outside and the ways that moving to Utah in particular has kickstarted her idea, and learn about some of the many issues at play when it comes to the lack of representation of BIPOC in the outdoors.
(Image Courtesy of misadventuresmag.com)