For Oakland native Rue Mapp, being in nature is something that she has enjoyed since she was a child. Her parents owned a farm in Northern California and they traveled there often. During those times Rue was able to tend to cows and pigs, go hunting, and even fish. She was also a Girl Scout and overall recalls having an amazing outdoor sustainability life early on.
“I began nature journaling when I was young,” Rue told Travel Noire. “Not only did I write about things that I saw, but I also reflected on the people that I encountered while out as well.”
Fast forward to her adult years, Rue was now a mom of three and newly divorced. She decided to take her journaling to the World Wide Web. She created a blog to share her nature experiences with the world, all while writing from the comfort of her kitchen table. Things took off, and in 2012 Outdoor Afro was born.
Nearly 8 years later, this organization spans across 30 states with a 40,000 member network and around 90 people leading them almost every weekend. Rue has been in countless magazines, been invited to the White House, and even had Oprah join along.
“I understood the power of visual representation. Black people love nature, we always have. We just needed more visual representation. It wasn’t about why we don’t enjoy nature, but more so how we enjoy it. Just because you may not see us dangling off of a mountain in photos, doesn’t make our experiences any less valid.”
Outdoor Afro grew out of a desire of Black people wanting to get out to enjoy nature even more.
Although history shows some not so pleasant moments for Black people while being alone in the woods, it is Rue’s hope that members in the organization will find freedom and healing in nature as well. The goal is to leave all of the “isms” that hold us back indoors and go outside together as a group and become whole.
“I want to help us realize the wealth in our connection to nature. It is everywhere. It’s in your apartment window, it’s in your backyard. We are nature too. There isn’t any separation. “
Anyone can sign up with a network closest to their home base or wherever you may be at the time. Group leaders are thoroughly trained and will be with you every step of the way. They’ll explain everything from what to wear to parking or entrance fees that may be required at certain parks. Whenever you attend an Outdoor Afro event, you will be well taken care of.
“We want you to have a great time while feeling confident,” Rue said. “We’ll know our race is won when people of all hues are out in nature and it’s an ordinary thing.”
To learn more about Outdoor Afro or to find a network close to you, you can visit the website www.outdoorafro.com. You can also follow along on Instagram at @outdoorafro.