2011: The Year of Relevancy

Dear Outdoor Afro Friends,
2011 has been a terrific year! Through the power of social media, we have seen our community steadily grow, and help people make culturally-relevant connections to nature and outdoor recreation.

Throughout my travels this year, the hot topic has been relevancy: “How can we connect more diverse audiences to the outdoors?” people ask. While there is not one neat and tidy answer that can work for everyone (nor should we expect there to be), what we have discovered is that people embrace what is important to them. So it has been a focus of Outdoor Afro to cultivate a sense of caring and community where people can find ways to engage with nature that is meaningful to their own lives.
In our second year, Outdoor Afro has a lot to be proud of, and we are so grateful for the organizations and individuals who continue to make a difference to connect African Americans, and everyone to the outdoors.
The following is a selection of some of the fun, people, and inspiration we have enjoyed this year.


We were proud to partner with California Camp Association to produce our first two trips designed to share the experience of RVing with more Americans. Through a focused media campaign, we were able to tell our story in the mainstream RV industry, and other media, to inspire others by showcasing an alternate and bug-free “base-camp” approach to camping!
In the spring, we were invited to cover beautiful Barbados, and Outdoor Afro correspondent  Danielle Lee, with passport in hand, took on the island and shared with us a wonderful tribute.

In the summer I had the good fortune to head to Alaska for the first time to get to know and share with the Outdoor Afro community the amazing landscape and wildlife in America’s last frontier.
This year was also the launch of our first Meet-Up group in Northern California to inform the creation of forthcoming MeetUp groups in other parts of the country. We hosted three test trips this year, each one progressively more successful and fun than the last! We rode bikes through urban centers, discovered new birds right in our backyard, and hiked to the rocky coast line after tasting local cheeses.
If you are interested in starting an Outdoor Afro Meet-Up group in your area, please email us and let us know!

Partnerships and Collaborations

From the very beginning, it has been critical for Outdoor Afro to build relationships and partner with local and national organizations that genuinely care about diverse participation in the outdoors. I am especially grateful in 2011 for the work we have been able to do with the East Bay Regional Park’s naturalist Bethany Facedini, the Children in Nature Collaborative,  Urban Tilth, Richmond Spokes, Children and Nature Network, the National Park Service, National Wildlife Federation, and the American Camp Association, to name a few.

Outdoor Afro was also selected to be a part of a Cornell-led EPA grant to help develop greater awareness and curriculum designed to inform environmental education from the perspective of urban-American audiences.
Altogether, these organizations have not only helped amplify the message of Outdoor Afro, but also  have clarified the strategic and practical role we can play to help shift the American culture toward greater participation in the outdoors for all.

Keynote Speaking

In January, I had the pleasure of speaking at the American Camp Association National Conference in San Diego to discuss how camps can recognize and cultivate diversity. For black history month, I was humbled to share a podium in Oakland with National Park ranger, and longtime Bay Area activist Betty Soskin.  In the summer, I shared the importance of relevancy with the National Association for Interpretation in California and in the Delmarva region on the East Coast, I shared with black college students how they might turn their passion into an environmental-related career. Finally in the fall, I headed to Seattle, Washington to have an exciting conversation with the good folks at Groundwire to discuss how we can imagine the role of technology in nature.


This was a terrific media year for Outdoor Afro! We were featured in national and local media outlets such as KQED, NPR; magazines and shows such as Heart and Soul Magazine, Childhood Matters with Nurse Rona Renner, Audubon Magazine, Grist, the LA Times,  and more! We were also glad to be a regular guest blogger for Jack and Jill Politics, whose African American politically saavy readers welcomed us and were inspired to think of vacation in a different way. And in an especially proud moment, we were honored to be distiguished as Best Green/Nature Blog by the Black Weblog Awards:

A Birthday Tribute

In October of this year, I turned 40 – and boy was it fabulous! Thanks to my dear sister, Delane Sims, and friends, a surprise Outdoor Afro fundraiser was thrown at the African American Museum and Library to help send more families to my beloved Feather River Camp, where I camped as a child and still take my family today. That night, I felt surrounded by so much love, and we raised over $1500 to help more urban families experience camp. Check out our photos!

Thank you again Birthday donors! CLICK TO VIEW!


As you can see, Outdoor Afro is experiencing a time of growth and it will remain a part of the important conversations and actions to connect more diverse audiences to nature and the outdoors.
And as a fortunate mother of three active children, Seth, Arwen, and Billy — and manager of the grantmaking program at the Foundation for Youth Investment, this work is my life, yet there is no way I could do it alone. I have been blessed to have so many more supporters and allies besides those mentioned here, and whose names would require a separate blog to adequately express my appreciation.
In 2012, expect Outdoor Afro to continue to grow as an organization, while also expanding the conversations, possibilities, and actions to better reflect what America looks like in nature.
Won’t you join me?

Thank you ALL for the many words and deeds that make this work possible!
Yours in Nature,
Rue Mapp