Trailblazing can mean a lot of things. Whether it’s shattering records or leaving a legacy for future generations, women are constantly making a lasting impact on the world. This is especially true for Black women, who are regularly left out of the outdoor industry.
We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature. Accessibility matters because this planet truly belongs to all of us.
We wouldn’t be where we are today without the tireless work of Black environmentalists, leaders, and women who have shaped the outdoor industry for the better.
Breaking barriers and inspiring change, we’re excited to share with you some of our favorite Black women in the outdoor space. If you haven’t already, be sure to follow what they’re up to, and get involved in their many incredible environmental causes!
Some of our favorite inspirational Black women spend their days literally blazing trails and working to reclaim the outdoor space for marginalized identities. Learn about these contemporary trailblazers below.
Kween Werk is a Colorado-based Black environmentalist, social justice advocate, and business owner.
She’s passionate about creating inclusion in conservation and outdoor recreation. KWEEN stands for Keep Widening Environmental Engagement Narratives, which she does through her activism, speaking, and community events.
She shows us the power of including bodies of size, BIPOC bodies, bodies with disabilities in nature. Inspiring and creative, Kween Werk brings to light the importance diversity has in environmental conservation efforts.
Blackpackers is a nonprofit organization that brings economic equity to outdoor education. Their mission is simple: provide outdoor education to Black communities.
Cameron founded the group in 2019 when she realized that there was a substantial gap in representation in the outdoors for the Black community. She started with her own adventures first, saving up money to buy her own gear to go on her first backpacking trip.
Cameron then expanded, hoping to make it easier for Black families to experience the outdoors, too. Blackpackers give access to outdoor activities like aquatics programs, skiing trips, and hiking, of course.
They also partner with local outdoor brands and organizations from REI and Moosejaw to the YMCA to expand their services to as many people as possible.
Betty Reid Soskin is a living legend. The oldest active park ranger in the National Park Service, she’s been diversifying the outdoor world for longer than most of have been alive.
She worked as a file clerk in a segregated union at the Boilermakers Auxiliary 36 during World War II. After the war, she and her then-husband opened a small Black-owned record store. It wasn’t until much later in her life that she got involved in diversity and inclusion in the outdoor space.
Being the only Black person in a National Park Service meeting, she realized that her story and the stories of many Black people weren’t being represented.
At 85, Soskin became a park ranger and began consulting for the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park.
“What gets remembered is determined by who is in the room doing the remembering,” Soskin has said of her journey reclaiming her history in the outdoor industry.
Now 100, Soskin hasn’t stopped — not even after suffering a stroke in 2019! You’ll still find her giving ranger talks online, meeting with famous environmentalists, and inspiring all of us that age is nothing but a number.
Change is possible always, but it doesn’t hurt to start at the top.
Teresa realized that in order to see more authentic inclusion in the outdoor industry, she needed to increase representation in the top levels of leadership teams. In 2018 she created The Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, pairing leading outdoor brands with inclusion advocates to increase representation for people of color in the highest levels of positions.
“I hope the outdoor industry leaders finally see and understand the role they play in bridging the gap between underrepresented communities and outdoor spaces,” Baker said at the Women’s Outdoor Summit for Empowerment in 2017.
Since establishing her reputation as a changemaker, she’s launched The Outdoorist Oath, a non-profit that helps communities and individuals understand how they can show up for the environment in meaningful ways.
As of today, fewer than 2% of farms in America are owned by Black people. This wasn’t always the case, but the numbers have been rapidly declining since the 1920s.
Leah Penniman wants to change that. Raised in Massachusetts, Penniman started farming as a teen, eventually building up a career as a food activist and author of “Farming While Black.”
She took a summer job at The Food Project, where she fell in love with farming. In 2010 she co-founded Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York to give Black people access to the means to grow and produce their own food sustainably.
The farm took off, leading to other opportunities for Penniman, like being featured in the film “Follow the Drinking Gourd” and becoming the recipient of the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award.
Black women have continued to blaze trails and make the world a better place to live. Through their courage, leadership, and advocacy to protect the planet, we all benefit from their accomplishments!
Getting involved with and donating to Black-owned environmental charities is critical to help diversify the outdoor industry and elevate everyone’s access to nature — and you can be a part of the solution.
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