MISSING: BLACK BUSINESSES IN THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY.
Moving to Oregon transformed my idea of what “we” do. I simply assumed that activities like hiking, skiing, rock climbing, and camping were not “for us.” Little did I know, I would grow to embrace the outdoors as the natural playground that it is. On my very first day in Oregon, I hiked 2.4 miles to see the top of a waterfall, and–well–I’ve been outside ever since.
Ironically, I grew up “ON” the Mississippi River, but never once have I been “IN” the Mississippi River. My understandings of outdoor recreation were limited to hunting, fishing, horses, and ATVs. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, on any given day, a group of “us” could be found wholly taking up space outside: trekking on trails, camping on the coast, or frolicking at the bottom of a waterfall.
Getting outside is fun, healthy, and mostly free*. So why is the outdoors industry so white? Apparently there are only four Black-owned outdoor recreation businesses in the entire country: two outdoor gear companies (WhitePaws RunMitts and Seirus Innovation) and two Black-owned outdoor retail shops (Intrinsic Provisions and Slim Pickins Outfitters). Though I’ve run across several Black-owned apparel and shoe companies, that FOUR Black-owned businesses operate in the $887 billion (with a ‘B’) outdoor gear industry is mind-blowing, and frankly, abysmal.
Black people ARE outside, and luckily, lots of folks are changing the narrative by amplifying stories about Black relationships to land and outdoor spaces. In other words, WE OUT HERE.
*Outside is mostly free but outdoor gear is quite pricey.