Photo Credit: Erin Douglas | the Black Burner Project
More Black People Are Attending Burning Man Thanks To This Woman's Movement
Erin Douglas says her journey of encouraging more Black people to attend Burning Man has been a “wild ride.”
Douglas, a photographer, made it her mission in 2018 to show through photos that the annual event is not just for white hipsters. The idea for the Black Burner Project was sparked after her own experience the year prior when a friend gifted her a ticket for her birthday, as Travel Noire previously reported.
The first year of her project, she remembers taking a photo with about 35 other Black and brown attendees. By 2019, that number increased to 250 – all from word of mouth.
“If anyone knows Burning Man, you know, that’s a huge feat because that means something must be really important,” she tells Travel Noire. “I was not expecting that many people to show up for this group photo. It’s just crazy that people had really spread the word.”
It was supposed to be a photography project of representation, but it morphed into a life-changing project. Not just for Douglas, but for people who look like her. She’s still grappling with the project’s impact.
“It’s mind-blowing. I don’t know if I really allowed myself to sit in it and realize [the impact],” she adds. “I knew how important representation was and how that played a role in what I thought was possible, but I didn’t know the degree to which one image could change someone’s perspective and change what they do. Then that one decision based off of them being themselves could change the trajectory of their life.”
Creating a Safe Space
Since launching her project, Douglas says she’s had the opportunity to speak with Burning Man leadership on fostering a space where people of color feel more welcomed.
“It wasn’t necessarily that they were doing something wrong but realizing that they might have to do things differently,” says Douglas.
One change since Douglas’s project is representation through advertisement. She points out that while the organization is not a traditional company putting up billboards or ads in newspapers, she’s having those conversations with leadership on the importance of representation.
“Before people can even decide to attend, they need to feel welcome with how you present Burning Man,” says Douglas. “The team also created a diversity board to help figure out best strategies to create more welcoming spaces.”
Douglas says while there’s still work to be done, she’s excited to be a witness to the changes so far.
To keep up with Douglas’s work on representation, follow the Black Burner Project on Instagram.