• Bleavitt

Black Women Matter:When it comes to Movement's and the Outdoor Industry.

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

Territories of the Serrano, Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, and Mojave tribe.

Black women in movements

I wanted to chat about Black women. I want to touch on the topic of movements, and how we have created and or supported major movements. Quick history lesson, Black women were behind and started movements from before and during Civil Rights era to now. Here are just a few names: Septima Poinsette Clark, Ruby Bridges, Angela Davis, Josephine Baker (Don’t know who they are? Google is your friend :) I know that the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter has been used a lot in the last few weeks. Do you know the full story of the creation of this #? Do you know who started?

First, let's start off with understanding the Black Lives Matter movement as whole: it’s a powerful, non-violent peaceful movement that systematically examines injustices that exist at the intersections of race, class and gender, which includes mass incarceration, poverty, non-affordable housing, income disparity, homophobia, unfair immigration laws, gender inequality, ableism, and poor access to healthcare.

The hashtag #Blacklivesmatter was created due to the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012. It later became used all again during 2015 in the uprising in Ferguson after the shooting of Michael Brown and again in NYC for the killing of Eric Garner. ( And we have continued to use it). The creators of this hashtag and movement are Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi…..BLACK WOMEN. They have also created local networks, who are doing incredible work. BLM work is not just online; they also do a lot of direct action. They regularly hold protests and rallies, speaking against police killings of black people and broader issues like racial profiling and police brutality. They are also doing tons of work currently to help make sure communities are getting the right support during this epidemic. ( Looking for ways to help out? Check in and see what can be done to support BLM in your community).

Why is it important to recognize the creators of this movement? Oftentimes when killings happen to Black women, Black people who are Trans, and or Black people with a disability, the angry voices for change get softer. Sure another hashtag is created, but does it get circulated as often? This is an ongoing conversation. As Black women continue to support and make movements for our community , how can we make sure we are getting the support and uplift in return?

In February, I went to a stellar conversation hosted by Black Women Radicals. So many takeaways from the speaker series. One of the biggest takeaways: “Black Women have never been able to speak for themselves. We speak for and of the community."

Black Women In the Outdoor Industry.

Photo: By Me

Land of the Shawnee tribe.

How does the topic of Black Women Matter have connection to the outdoors industry?.......OHHHH, in so many ways. Think about how many Black Women CEO's, do you know in the industry? Can you name a Black woman own outfitter? Can you name a Black Instructor, Mountaineer, Athlete, brand? I can! ( If you can’t then take some time to's your friend) But also recognize how much of an issues that is. We still represent a small fraction in the industry. Understanding that social justice and the outdoors blend together. We cannot discuss one without the other. In general, As a we often Black Women have to table our frustrations to make sure we are not stepping on anyone toes. Or when we express our thoughts or concerns, we get labeled "angry" "aggressive." or often deemed to difficult to work with.

I worked as program director for a climbing festival. A regional director for an all BIPOC womxn climbing company. I am also an Outdoor Instructor. The amount of times I have walked into spaces, meetings, events, were my voice was silence. Or, I had to give myself a pep talk's before I spend the next hours code-switching. Or, to dealt with people mistaking me for someone else they wanted to connect with because they seem to only know 2-3 other Black women in the industry...Great example Outdoor Retailer. To the amount of times I have had famous climbers come to me and tell me that "Thank goodness, you were able to get out of the struggle life.".....What struggle life?? Black people are not a monolith. We all have different upbringings and stories.

I have sat through triggering DEI training's, where the setting was not safe for Black and Brown, Indigenous, Poc's to share their experience's. Than later having a company share a campaign for "Outside for ALL." When they don't even respect the concerns of their Black employees. Since then, I started to speak the truth about my experiences, I felt as though, I was getting the label as the "problem child." Doesn't matter if the brand's support other ambassador's and non-profits in the community. They still have a ton of work that needs to be done internally. Just because you add more Black people in your photo-shoot's, doesn't mean that you are creating space for growth in the company. Especially if headquarters is majority white. When I speak up it's not just for myself, but for the other Black employees, who have also felt these feelings and have dealt with the same issues. I wrote a letter to a brand a few years ago. That I will share.

Photo: By Ty B

Land of the Piscataway tribe.

As an outdoor instructor who mostly work with middle/ upper class white 30's year olds and beyond. I have experience participants who down play my knowledge and belittle me in front of others. Instead of a "hi" or a "good morning", I often get "Are you the Instructor?" or " What do you know about this sport?". I have also dealt with people trying to over teach me in MY class. For last 2 years instead of excitement. I have been dreading waking up on the weekends to teach. My anxiety would always be on edge because I never knew what type of class I would get. Sometimes they were wonderful especially, when working on a solid team. other times, I had to work extra hard to "win" people over in trusting me. The amount of times I have said. I am gonna quit this industry...That I don't feel like I have space or voice here. Has been an everyday feeling for the last 3 years. My passion and dream has been slowly drained due to dealing with covert White Supremacy actions. To the microaggressions, being tone policed. To having to drive through areas where the Trump and Confederate Flag hanging high. To having to hear participants talk poorly about my own race in front of me with the ending " You don't count." With me unable to defend myself because we are in the middle of trail in the back-country. If I did try and defend myself, I would have been the one who would have gotten in trouble.

As a program director, I have sat in meetings with major companies to find support for events and festivals. I have gotten denied or given an excuse of why they cannot support. But, when my partners ask the same question they get a completely different response. To often I have sat in meeting in silence because, the issue's I wanted to bring up, would make me look to "aggressive", so I often pass along the message to someone else to say.

Why is it important to express these experiences. As much as I say, I want to quit. I know that I cannot. I know that I need to keep amplifying mine and other Black voices in this industry. Sharing just a little bit of my experiencing will hopefully give people and brands the jump start they need to reflect and step back and think about what change they are willing to make in the outdoor industry.

My question is to you is….

  1. What are your next steps to start uplifting Black Women’s/Femmes voices in the industry?

  2. Are you going to re-examining who is on your board's?

  3. Are going to take the time to learn the next generation of change makers?

  4. Are you willing to understand the issues that happen in the Black community, know how it still does apply to the outdoor industry?

  5. How are you going to represent the Black community and understanding that we are not a monolith?

  6. Are you actually willing to setup and do internal work before hiring Black?...Sure its one thing to state you have BIPOC in the company. But we all need to know how many are actually BLACK.

  7. Why is so hard to say Black.....People of Color doesn't mean Black?

  8. How are you actually going to support future Black women/femme Athletes and Adventures?

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