What happens when you bring together outdoor retail giants, a major conservation non-profit in the US, researchers from top universities, a prominent DC advocate, a National Park ranger, a group of 13 African Americans with fire in their hearts for nature, crowd funding, volunteers — and me, a social entrepreneur from Oakland, California…
The Outdoor Afro Leadership Team training weekend!
Even though it has been well over a week, I am still feeling the high of gratitude and moments where I ask myself did that really happen? Did such a diverse group of people and orgs come together to help redefine what relevant national outdoor training and engagement is all about? Yup, it happened, and we changed the game!
Here’s the skinny:
The Outdoor Afro Leadership team training took place in beautiful Precious Forest, located above Clear Lake in Northern California. The training was designed to build greater capacity for leaders, and instill values that make Outdoor Afro events and leadership distinctive and relevant.
What made the weekend so on-point, was all the amazing, diverse leaders who were selected from a generous pool of applicants hailing from all over the U.S. For me, the training felt like a gathering of kindred friends old and new, who all passionately embraced a calling to help more people connect to nature. In spite of cross-country flights and long car rides, each member of the OALT arrived in great spirits that remained high and positive throughout the weekend.
As a group, the leaders took an active part in courses such as risk management by REI, trip planning by the Sierra Club, birding sponsored by Swarovski Optik’s Sharon Stiteler and Kaufman Field Guides; the interpretive wisdom of a National Park ranger, and we heard the compelling case for the ecologically sound practice of avoiding single use products by Klean Kanteen. Overall, I still can’t get over how the partners so generously showed up, showed out, and were even spotted pitching in busting suds. (You know who you are!)
At night, we gathered around the fire and engaged in discussions about the academic framework and historical narratives about diverse engagement by Dr. Carolyn Finney of Berkeley, and Dr. Nina Roberts of San Francisco State. We heard from the fabulous Danielle Moody Mills from Washington DC, who helped leaders find their voice in advocacy to effectively share our mission.
Another huge hit was our own version of Christmas in April with the KEEN mobile that came through with generous shoe booty for everyone! Woot!
In spite of such dense content and excitement that filled each day and evening, after the evening fire died down, even more spirited discussions kicked off in the lodge that surfaced the diverse critical thinking and social engagement that make the OALT such a special group of human beings.
Finally on Sunday, we pulled out of Precious Forest by caravan through a stunning wine country afternoon. We carried with us the pride of purpose, community, and the chance to share nature to change lives – and the world.
My deepest thanks remain for all the hard work and coordination. For our partners, donors, and volunteers, and all the amazing ways they each contributed to our shared success!
Still pinching myself…
Photo Credits: Teresa Baker, Nkrumah Frasier, Myrian Solis Coronel