African-American Hiking Group Turns to Nature For Beauty and Community

Rue Mapp kept finding herself the only African-American on organized hikes. Tired of being “the only one,” she started Outdoor Afro and found out she wasn’t. “I realized that when you identify all the only ones, and people did identify themselves as such, we were actually quite numerous,” she says.

Now there are Outdoor Afro chapters across the country. Volunteers like Zoe Polk lead hikes, camping trips and bird walks to help African-Americans reconnect with the outdoors and with each other. The group uses social media, too — to post resources, tips and photos of black people enjoying the outdoors.

“If this is your first time with Outdoor Afro, a couple of things to know about us,” she says. “We are not a competitive hiking group. Our purpose is to have community in nature and share with each other. So we’re not going to be leaving anyone behind today!”

Getting out on a hike “just allows you to put some breath into your life and just be honored and inspired by the beauty in the world and be able to hold that as well as the ugliness in the world that we also have to endure.”

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