Was there a specific catalyst that inspired the creation of Black Girls Trekkin’ or more of a general sense that it would fill a need that was going unmet?
Black Girls Trekkin’ started when I (co-founder Tiffany) was completing the 52 hike challenge on my own. I hiked alone a lot during that year and didn’t see many people of color on the trails the further out I went from Los Angeles. I initially started it as an Instagram page and then built a community from that after multiple people were DMing us saying they wanted us to host a group hike.
How did you first get interested in hiking and the outdoors?
I started hiking to deal with depression and get outside more. Being outdoors really helps put things into perspective and take a moment to be present in nature. It’s hard to focus on life’s problems when you have beautiful trees and landscapes surrounding you. It was through hiking that I found that nature has a healing aspect to it and to this day when I’m feeling down I go outside to reflect.
When and how did you realize that there is an access disparity for the Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities?
I believe I was always aware of it to some extent. Growing up it was said that many outdoor activities were things BIPOC people didn’t do so I grew up internalizing that message. It wasn’t until I was an undergraduate that I started to learn about the structural reasons for access disparity. That’s when I started to learn more about the history of exclusion and discrimination in outdoor spaces.
Is accessibility improving?
I think accessibility is improving incrementally. The conversation around accessibility is continuing to grow so it’s becoming a more mainstream topic. People becoming aware of the issue and groups like ours that are tackling the problem are contributing to positive change.
What is an example of a challenge that BIPOC face in having access to hiking and the outdoors that might not have occurred to someone outside of that community?
Depending on where they live or their previous experiences, someone from the BIPOC community who chooses to try a new outdoor activity has the added stress of wondering if they are going into a safe or welcoming space. For example, when I go into a white dominated outdoor space I know that it’s not enough to be myself and I feel the pressure of being an alternate version of myself. So, even when I know I’m physically safe I’m still trying to avoid harmful stereotypes or judgmental comments or stares, which is how I define an unwelcoming space.
How do you respond to people who say “I just want to enjoy the outdoors and keep politics out of it?”
Let them know that the outdoors IS political and try and help them acknowledge their privilege of even just being able to make that statement.
How can Karen benefit from having more BIPOC being active outdoors?
It’s a learning experience for sure. There is a lot to be learned from people of different cultures and communities. When you spend time with people who have the same privileges and accessibility as you, you fail to see what’s going on with the rest of the community.
What are some examples of the impact and influence that BGT has had?
Black Girls Trekkin has built up an amazing community and we love seeing the friendships that have blossomed from this group. We have also met and interacted with some amazing people and organizations such as Latino Outdoors, Unlikely Hikers, Outdoor Journal Tour, and We Color Outside. We love the fact that Black girls and women come on our hikes and events and are genuinely excited about the safe space that we have created.
What’s next for BGT?
Right now Black Girls Trekkin is in the process of becoming nonprofit and extending our outreach. We just took on two hike leaders and will eventually start to branch out to other states.