In case you don’t get the Race/Related newsletter from the NY Times, I wanted to share a few of the lovely photos and reflections on the joy of the outdoors, submitted by NYT readers of color. They made me smile and encouraged me out the door (I’m writing this an hour before going swimming with Norah).
Leesa: I am in loving motion with CoCoBaby. Yes, I named my bike. Street hustling and sidewalk flowing every morning and every evening, with her. She brings me joy — my CocoBaby! She helps me forget my woes and absorb myself with nature: the sultry heat of the summer sun, the crisp fall air with crunchy leaves under her tires, the rainy downpour of the Pacific Northwest rains. Riding on CocoBaby is a mindful meditation of how to be present and breathe in my joy, my gratitude for life and every adventure in between.
Roslyn: My mother tells the story of how at age 3, she put me down to feel the sand on my feet for the first time at the beach and I shockingly took off, fast, racing straight toward the waves, chubby arms extended, as if I knew how to swim. I did not. But I have always loved the water.
Here, I am walking one of many paths along the Palisades, the water and New York City skyline to my right, with my favorite four-legged girl, Moxie, in tow. Paired with endless sky, I can remember how small my worries are, and I am thankful for this bit of time where it is my Moxie, the water and me.
Faith: One day last year I went kayaking in the bayous of City Park in New Orleans. As I shoved off from the bank, the rental attendant looked concerned.
“Have you used a kayak before?” she asked.
“Yes, I know what I’m doing,” I replied.
It struck me a few minutes later — I did know what I was doing! Because I did not grow up with any regular tradition of outdoor life, I’m a little proud of myself for learning to handle a kayak.
Biking, hiking, paddling: all of these bring joy and offer ways to navigate the natural world. Seeing other people loving nature reminds me of my own relationship with it. And, like all relationships, it flourishes only when we tend to it. So I’m going to wrap up now, make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and get my swim bag together. See y’all later!
Readers, what kinds of experiences remind you of your love of nature? Do you have to go far, to a mountaintop? Can you get that warm feeling in your backyard? Let us know.
See also The Olympics Don’t Want Black Women To Win. Taryn Finley writes, “Sha’Carri Richardson, Christine Mboma, Beatrice Masilingi and others have been disqualified in the 2021 Olympics because of policies that are racist and unjust. There is no grace for for Black women at the 2021 Olympics.”
And then there’s this tweet which also lists the issues.
I know that some people want to say that these issues have nothing in common, that it’s not about race, it’s about rules that don’t mention race, but one thing all the cases have in common is that they target Black women Olympic athletes.
Ditto the swim cap story. There’s a lot of commentary that says competitive athletes would never wear such a swim cap since it would slow them down. Maybe that’s true. But if it puts someone at a competitive disadvantage, it’s hard to see why they’d be banned at the Olympics. It’s hard not to reach the conclusion that race is a factor and that the normative ideal of the Olympic athlete is white, in addition to being conventionally gendered.
As a white woman who wants to be a better ally, advocate and collaborator for racial justice, the number once piece of advice I’m hearing is: get yourself educated! Read and learn about the history, politics, economics, etc. of systematic racism. Read about the experiences of people of color as recounted by them. Learning is necessary for white people to acknowledge, be aware of and look for situations where racism harms people of color; these situations are everywhere, and happening all the time. Then, learn how to respond. Learn to be uncomfortable, and accept that others will be made uncomfortable by your responses.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
On this blog, we’ve written a lot about discrimination against cis and trans women, against older women, fatter women, women with disabilities, and women of color.
Today’s post offers you a few sites and stories of African American women, in motion in a racist world.
I am asking you, dear readers, a favor: if you could add any suggestions in the comments about women of color doing physical activities whose stories we ought to know about, we’ll publish them in a follow-up post. Thanks as always.
I feel like it’s important for black girls to hike. When I was young I would have loved to have had someone encouraging me to get outside. To not be afraid. I’ve decided to apply for a master’s degree in parks and recreation management, and a friend and I set up a hiking group for women of color in LA called Black Girls Trekkin’. I want to be a model to other young girls.
Here’s a photo from their Facebook page from one of the events they sponsor:
Second: Outdoor Afro. Founded by Ru Mapp, Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization based on Oakland, CA. They have local leaders and sponsor events in 30 states, organizing hikes, kayaking, mountain biking and other outdoor activities. In their stories section, you can hear from Taishya Adams about the ways being in the outdoors and organizing and leading outdoor groups has helped her develop skills for community organizing and political action. She says:
As an Outdoor Afro leader in Colorado, I build on their 10-year legacy of reconnecting black people to the outdoors and our role as leaders in it. I believe that human relationships are at the center of our work towards justice, the foundation each of us can build upon.
Third: The Howard University women’s swim team. Howard is the only historically black university in the US that has both men’s and women’s swim teams. The BBC spent time with the Howard women swim team to create a documentary podcast called Black Girls Don’t Swim. The swimmers talk about their early experiences with swimming and the barriers they’ve encountered. One of the obstacles is the harmful effects of chlorinated water on their hair. The team discusses hair care, competing in a white-dominated sport, tips on being a successful student athlete, and how much they love swimming in this video interview, conducting by blackkidsswim.com.
Finally (for now), there’s Jacqueline Scott’s excellent blog, Black Outdoors. She writes about all sorts of activities from birding to snowshoeing, has published widely and also been interviewed for her research and her passion for the outdoors. Bonus for Torontonians: Scott also leads 2-hour Black History Walks (currently paused), which you can read more about here.
So readers, any suggestions for stories and sites to visit to learn more about women of color in motion on land, sea or air? I didn’t cover much here, so I’d welcome input. We’d love to see them, and will put them together for another post. Thanks!
We’ve written about the triumphs and challenges of two prominent Black women athletes, Serena Williams and Caster Semenya, and how they challenge stereotypes, sexism and racism by their achievements.
As a white women who strives to be an ally it feels weird to write a post about Black History Month but I decided it would be worse to trudge on with my monthly post not doing anything at all.
It’s Black History Month, a time for celebration of the contributions Black folks have made, the present Black people create and the Black futures we’ve yet to see. I’ve gathered a few links I hope you will find interesting.
“For February, I challenge you to read something by a Black person that isn’t *only* about pre-Civil War American slavery, the Civil War, or the Civil Rights Era. Bonus points if you can go the whole month without touching those subjects and still reading a bunch of stuff by Black folk.”
There is A LOT of Black History to cover outside of those periods. Black Women in sport have accomplished and contributed so many things.
Be sure to also include amazing Afrofuturist readings this February, imaging the future and reimagining our history. There are a great number of Black Authors and Artists sharing a vision of what could be.
If you are a Black Woman, thank you for reading my post. If you are a women looking to be a better ally take direct action by:
Buying from Black business owners
Seeking out & buying Black authored cookbooks to support your nutrition