BRIDGING THE GAP: THE BLACK OUTDOORS STRIVES TO BRING AWARENESS AND EXPOSURE OF PEOPLE OF COLOR IN NATURE
Two visionaries have come together to create a social media brand that highlights adventurers and explorers of color all across the world. The Black Outdoors, created by Tramond Baisden and Ezedube Eze in August 2016, helps increase awareness and exposure of people participating in outdoor recreational activities. This brand seeks to mend the gap between like-minded individuals in the outdoors and to show what possibilities are out there.
Tramond Baisden, a Geologist from Atlanta, wasn’t always involved in nature. He didn’t realize his true passion for it until he took geology classes at Fort Valley State University. While there, he was involved in a field camp through Penn State called SROP. He spent many weeks at Penn State University and South Africa. This was his first real experience being out in the field, camping and combining his new found passion with science and technology. Because of this program, he went on to attend Penn State for his Masters of Science.
Through coursework, he spent a lot of time outside on field trips across Pennsylvania and field camping across the nation in places like Montana, Utah, Idaho and Colorado. These trips and outdoor spaces made Baisden recognize the lack of people of color in these spaces such as national and state parks. From his perspective: “If you ask most black folks about doing something outdoors, the first thing they would say is ‘nah, black people don’t do this; this isn’t for us.'” Baisden goes on and says that he finds this to be a "common theme,” and not just with black people, but with people of color in general. He wanted to do something impactful and influential with social media, but didn’t know exactly what until he saw an inspiring post on Instagram.
In August of 2016, he finally discovered what he could do to combine the two after seeing a photo on Instagram of fellow Penn Stater and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brother, Ezedube Eze, hiking in Arizona. He immediately hit him up, complimented him on the picture and says, “You’re in a really good place to do this stuff — how about we start a blog about black people outdoors?” It was at that moment Baisden knew he could finally combine his passion for exploring nature and overuse of social media into something great... Thus, The Black Outdoors was born.
The Black Outdoors uses platforms, such as Instagram and Twitter, to post images/videos of people in the outdoors with the hashtag, #blackoutdoors. This content can be from national and international places of people doing a variety of activities such as hiking, swimming and more. This helps expose what possibilities are out there and how people can get involved, along with showing that there’s more than just “hiking to be healthy.” On Twitter, they also try to get involved in different discussions regarding diversity and the outdoors. They are still working on their website, but when it launches they will have information on the best places to hike, reviews, what gear to wear, content from the community and possibly sponsored product features. Besides posting content from their followers, they also have hosted their own excursion last January in Arizona, (video below), and hope to do more in the future.
Last year, The Black Outdoors was featured on Rush Card’s #MakeMoves campaign for black owned businesses. This was their first major exposure opportunity on a nationwide platform. Baisden says, “It makes me feel like what I'm doing is really important.” He also mentions that his favorite thing about The Black Outdoors is, “Seeing so many people of color who were either always interested or taking a leap of faith and trying new things. When I go out, I don’t see us, so it’s nice to see a huge collection of people that look like me, participating in the outdoors.”
Of course, there are some who don’t see the importance of specifically targeting people of color for the outdoors... And Baisden explains, “Anytime someone says anything about race, you’re going to have some privileged person think that someone’s trying to derail the conversation or politicize something, when really all we’re saying is that representation matters.” He continues and says, “It’s easy when you come from a place of privilege, because everybody that you see in newspapers, magazines, and commercials, looks like you. You don’t think twice about being represented. This is all about the battle of exposure and inclusion.”
The Black Outdoors has more than a couple of upcoming initiatives to further educate the community on the benefits of the outdoors. As Baisden says, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and in the future, The Black Outdoors will strive to give opportunities to those who may not have easy access to enjoy nature. They hope to offer small scholarships to people of color interested in natural sciences and “outdoor” majors like geology. Additionally, they want to partner with local organizations to educate on safety, leadership, how to be involved and how to preserve the environment. Baisden and Eze realize that not all spaces may have huge mountains to hike or lakes to kayak in. Because of that, they want to do an “Urban Exploration” and educate on how to best incorporate nature in your everyday life. In places like New York City, they suggest to “grab a bike and ride around the city.” You can find things locally and put more of an “outdoors” stamp on it.
Since both men have full-time jobs, it’s not always as easy for them to do all that they want with the brand. To continue to spread this knowledge, they will strive to have an ambassador program for people across the nation and world to serve as “Outdoor Guides” to provide small outings in their area to further their mission of exposing people to the outdoors.
When their website officially launches, they will have all of that information as well as some on different organizations in diversity and outdoors. Additionally, they will be selling clothing for outdoors use, such as dri-fit shirts, hats and more. The Black Outdoors plans to continuously work to break the stereotype and to help all who they can.
“Every experience that you have will be different. If there’s something in particular that you’re looking for, I guarantee that you can find it in nature or incorporate nature into whatever it is you’re trying to do. Take advantage of what you have in your backyard. Take advantage of people who you know that are interested in those types of things. Take the initiative to get outdoors.”
Follow them on Instagram and Twitter @TheBlackOutdoors for ideas and more information on them!