If summed as a social media bio: She’s a network builder and globetrotting gardener. Outdoor Afro’s Program Assistant Gina Wright, 23, works within the Programs Department of the national not-for-profit organization. Administratively supporting year-round programs. Cushioning this arm of Outdoor Afro so that local network events and nationwide campaigns are properly resourced. All in the name of advancing Outdoor Afro’s mission: celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership in nature. Wright stays on top of local, regional, and coast-to-coast moving pieces of the Oakland-headquartered nature operation.
She assists in the production of organizational campaigns and annual leadership training that educates more than 100 Outdoor Afro volunteer leaders. These leaders then guide outdoor activities in 60 cities and 32 states, including Washington, D.C. Sustainably. And safely. If leaders request snacks or supplies across the organization’s four regions, Wright does coordinated calculations with Harris to make it happen. And yet, she etches travel time to contribute to global outdoor initiatives in her private life. Her 2023 summer learning destination: Nicaragua.
“It was a trip of personal research and education,” said Wright, “to begin building solidarity with folks I connected with in these communities.” She traveled to the capital city of Managua. Central-region department of Chontales. Port city of Bluefields. And the Garifuna village of Orinoco – north of Bluefields. Because she honestly cares about populations of people and their access to basic needs like food. Wright literally lives out the causes that she supports. She backyard gardens 4 acres in San Francisco. Her typical summer crops: beans, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers ( jalapeño, shishito, poblano). “For this summer’s backyard garden season, there are cucumbers, dragon tongue beans, chayote, dill, and fruit trees,” said Wright. “Mostly managed by my housemates at the moment.”
Traveling both personally and on behalf of Outdoor Afro, the seasoned grower spent 10 days in the Central American country during June 2023. How she got there: Through nonprofit Friends of the ATC (Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo – or Rural Workers’ Organization), Wright learned of the network’s delegations designed to increase popular education about Nicaragua’s socio-political work. Curious about how organization’s build community interest around a cause or campaign, Wright wanted to help do her part to contribute to ATC’s nearly 44 years of defending rural workers and the rights of Nicaragua’s countryside citizens. She wanted to understand if there were any opportunities for intercultural, international, and localized unity in this space. “On this trip, I got a better sense of what food sovereignty can look like,” said Wright. “Of what diasporic, mixed, Black, and indigenous people are doing to protect and prosper in their cultures.”
She befriended area producers. Put composting into practice. Discovered a new appreciation for the Earth’s soil – its nutrient-dense and aerobic conditions – so seeds can thrive. Even milked a cow. This disciplined destination for Wright stems from her academic background and connection to California farming experiences. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in geography with a concentration in economy, culture, and society. It’s where she first heard about ATC while studying at the university. By way of Berkeley Student Farms and an agroecology course, Wright met like-minded folks fervent about farming. “Some of those involved with Berkeley Student Farms spoke highly of ATC’s work to improve the livelihood of rural workers, specifically farm workers,” Wright said.
From that moment, Wright wanted to attend a delegation. She finally got that chance this year. Wright also received the opportunity to apply information she learned after college from Agroecology Commons – a collective that engineers farmer-to-farmer education, builds co-op networks, and supports food sovereignty and land stewardship. Agroecology Commons held a Bay Area farmer-to-farmer training in 2021 that Wright joined. In both online and in-person instruction, she gained perspective around how small farm production, cooperative marketing, and social movements could unite for the greater good of global rural communities. Flying nearly 3,600 miles in June 2023, Wright put agricultural lessons to the test this summer. Taking meticulous notes as her Nicaragua trip progressed. Bringing back home themes around:
THE POWER OF SMALL-SCALE COOPERATIVE NETWORKS. When possible, communities should invest in localized cooperative economies (i.e. fund local food systems on multiple levels – from education to practice and production to distribution).
THE IMPORTANCE OF FOLLOWING THE WORLD’S NATURAL SYSTEMS WHEN CULTIVATING FOOD. For example, some Garifuna farmers plant Cassava with the moon cycle. They also plant with the new moon when water is drawn down into the soil, which is advantageous for root crops.
THE WISDOM IN AIMING TOWARD SOVEREIGN SUBSISTENCE IN FOOD SYSTEMS BY DEDICATING TIME TO LEARN LAND BEST PRACTICES. It is crucial to knowledge-share across people and places about communities with the most immediate needs.
“It’s the first-ever delegation where representatives would hear directly from Afro-descendant and indigenous populations of the Southern Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, an autonomous region in the country,” said Wright. Her curiosity deepened as it connected to her academic roots, West Coast lifestyle, and affinity for farming culture. This journey allowed Wright to see global food systems operate, especially autonomous territories with ties to the African diaspora. The summer quest became the international traveler’s third stay in Nicaragua. On top of this scholastic visit, other personal adventures for Wright in these youthful years have included three trips to Costa Rica and two to Guatemala. Thumbtack on Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, Japan; Berlin, Germany; and Barcelona, Spain.
She returned to Outdoor Afro refreshed with new farming and community-building knowledge to share with team members. Trip takeaways: Everything in this lifestyle is interconnected. Global travel helps expand one’s consciousness of community challenges as they relate to worldwide conversations. When relationship-building, do so respectfully and responsibly. Wright said: “Building understanding and solidarity across different struggles – internationally, interculturally, and interdisciplinary – can lead to a liberation the globalized world has yet to see.”
GINA’S PACKING GUIDANCE FOR GLOBAL TRAVEL
PACK LIGHT. Use natural, breathable, quick-drying, and thin fibers. Wright recommends a combination of cotton, bamboo, linen.
REMAIN EXTRA MINDFUL OF YOUR ENVIRONMENT. Wright warns that there’s a lot of life and environmental intensity in tropical environments like Nicaragua. Bring the appropriate self-care items to protect yourself (ex: natural bug repellents like garlic, shea butter, lemon/eucalyptus-based products). Don’t count out reinforcements like mosquito netting, a shade hat, light-weight and long-sleeves shirts, securing travel insurance, having access to filtered water and sometimes stomach soothing teas like ginger and chamomile.
BRING PROPER TECH STORAGE. If traveling involves smartphone and laptop use, Wright recommends staying mindful of storing options. These tools need climate-controlled (dry) environments to sustain. Tropical climates are oftentimes not the best settings to operate technology.
ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide network with 100-plus volunteer leaders in 60 cities. “Where Black people and nature meet,” Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow us @outdoorafro on social.