At one point in my primary school years, I belonged to the Intrepid Explorer's Club. Over the weekends we would go on hikes, climb mountains and essentially take advantage of the fact that we lived in a country where a variety of beautiful natural spaces were so accessible to us.
Now, I went to a pretty international school, in Kenya, with people originating from over 40 countries across the world. And as far as I can recall, there were only 2 black members of the Intrepid Explorer's Club.
Despite having nature literally on our doorsteps, I observe that a lot of Kenyans (and I think this is true for a lot of the continent, please correct me if I'm wrong), have no interest in exploring, enjoying and otherwise engaging in it. Tourism is a major contributor to Kenya's GDP and there are several national parks and reserves and yet, several people who have never visited even one. And I'm talking about people who do have the means to do so.
This is an observation I've made about the black populations in the other countries that I've lived in: the US and the UK. There's much that people are missing. From appreciating how insignificant we really are, to getting to understand how our decisions affect the world around us. Being amazed by the diversity of beautiful flora, fauna and landscapes and rekindling that childlike sense of wonder and curiosity we once had. Then there are the benefits to wellbeing: disconnecting, exhaling, exercise, sun.
It's great to discover sites like OutDoor Afro, "where black people and nature meet". Founder Rue Mapp grew up between the city and woodlands, developing an appreciation of nature which, she observed, was consistently rare in the African American community. OutDoor Afro is a space where people of colour who share outdoor interests can connect.
The site includes a community where members can have discussions, share photos, videos, and events, as well as create specific interest groups. OutDoor Afro takes advantage of other social media spaces (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr) to inspire, inform and give like-minded people an opportunity to interact.
Back to nature
Living in a city and being busy is an easy excuse to not make an effort to get out there more. I'll be the first to admit my guilt. Yet, I live in walking distance of three parks and the Trans Pennine Trail is literally around the corner. I'm committing to making that effort this year, as one of the 30 ways in which I intend to live more creatively (being outdoors in nature really helps me think clearly and get inspired). Londoners can check out nearby Wilderness Wood for a taste of what nature has to offer (I work with the Wood in my Asilia capacity and have had the opportunity to spend a bit of time there. It's a great place).
Why do such few black people get outdoors?
That's another post altogether. I would love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks Brandon for the introduction to OutDoor Afro (Everybody, check out designer and musician, Brandon Reevey's world)!
Photographs: Top – Gorge at Hell's Gate, Kenya, by Craft*ology on Flickr. Bottom – Christmas tree farm at Wilderness Wood, by yours truly, Lulu Kitololo