Outdoor Afro’s communications director wins first-place writing awards at OWAA

Written By Staff Reports

Published on Sep 11, 2023

Candace Dantes, Outdoor Afro’s first in-house communications director, won in two writing award categories during Outdoor Writers Association of America’s (OWAA) annual conference held in Gulf Shores, Alabama, Sept. 9, through Sept. 11, 2023. The veteran award-winning journalist and marketer garnered first-place outdoor industry awards in the “Blog, Gear/Technical Contest” for her original digital feature “Made Together: Outdoor Afro + REI Co-op.” Then, first place in OWAA’s brand-new “Open Contest” for Outdoor Afro’s 2022 annual report titled “Year of Operations.” “What a homecoming experience these awards are for me,” said Dantes, 39, originally from Milledgeville, Georgia. “I’m deep-rooted in the Georgia Black Belt Region. Where good-old front porch storytelling and fellowshipping are just a natural part of Southern culture.”

Dantes made history for the national not-for-profit organization – earning the brand’s first communications awards as an OWAA member. She joined OWAA during June 2022. Outdoor Afro at the end of 2021 to elevate its strategic communications direction. As its only full-time newsroom staff, Dantes leads the organization’s Marketing & Communications Department. Within a year, she rebranded Outdoor Afro’s site and social presence. Continues to re-educate digital audiences and the general public about the brand’s nature and community work. Her department contributes to organizational programming by using 21st-century traditional and new media approaches. Increasing brand awareness and online engagement. Encouraging neighborhoods to explore their neck of the woods through Outdoor Afro networks that host nature activities nationwide.

Dantes also travels across the United States to capture Outdoor Afro stories, shifting the visual representation of what Black joy looks like in the outdoors. Year-round Dantes launches national Outdoor Afro marketing campaigns like its Black History Month series, Juneteenth commemoration, Making Waves swim program, and Glamp Out fundraiser. In between this year’s social activations and storytelling projects, Dantes served as a first-time judge of trade show Outdoor Retailer’s 13th annual Inspiration Awards in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Right before that, Dantes became a 2023 “Black Women in Food” honoree. Cuisine and beverage agency Dine Diaspora recognized 31 innovative women throughout the African Diaspora. Dantes in the “Amplifiers Category” for her human interest coverage of Georgia Black Belt producers of U.S. Department of Agriculture grant project Black Farmers’ Network. A year prior, nonprofit Women of the West named Dantes 2022 “Journalist of the Year” at the National Cowgirl Museum & Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. Dantes and her brother, certified arborist Edward Morrow, were both featured farmers in Ebony Magazine for its “Queen Sugar” finale coverage that same year. The siblings landed on the cover of Amazon book “Nature Swagger” by Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp. November 2022, that cover plastered a six-story Amazon Books billboard on 7th Avenue and 33rd Street in New York.

A product of centennial farmland in Baldwin County, Georgia, the fourth-generation farmer and cowgirl has spent childhood to adulthood horseback riding, rodeoing, and gardening. Dantes’ editorial portfolio aligns with her lifestyle, primarily devoted to Southern-based, rural farming communities. By way of Outdoor Afro, she has been able to leverage her agricultural upcoming and life experiences to develop interdisciplinary content that links outdoor, travel, and tourism industries. Researching, testing, and writing about modern agribusiness and agritourism possibilities for producers in a now digital economy. 

Prior to Outdoor Afro, Dantes worked in both higher education and local newspapers. She held posts as editor and publications specialist at both Columbus State University and Georgia College & State University. Digital contributor of Georgia’s legal organ, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In both industries, the Georgia State University print journalism grad won first-place awards with Georgia Press Association in hard news and feature writing. Subsequent awards with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in “Best Articles of the Year,” “Publication Writing,” “Video Script Writing,” and “Publication Rendering for Mobile Technology.” 

Overseas, she joined London’s Black Beauty & Hair Magazine as a beauty writer. A style consultant on a Black cowhand campaign for advertising agency M&C Saatchi. She’s collaborated with brands Justin Boots, Wrangler, and Durango Boots. Most recently, Dantes has worked as content creator for REI Co-op and Cotopaxi. Publications Cowboys & Indians, Cowgirl Magazine, Outdoor Retailer’s The Daily, and Travel Weekly have featured her. She’s helped rural Georgia farmers garner earned media with major outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, Thrillist, and CNN.

Along with OWAA, she’s a member of travel outfits Wanderful and Future of Black Tourism. Serves as a communications adviser for America the Beautiful for All Coalition and is a committee member of Blue Sky Funders Forum. For nearly 100 years, OWAA has helped educate, inspire, and share best practices with outdoor creatives. Dantes now helps magnify its mission. “It’s been one heck of a rodeo ride with Outdoor Afro successes,” said Dantes. “As long as I’m physically able to document our relationships to nature and make real community impacts using the power of the digital pen, I’ll continue to put my best boot forward.”

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 with network participation reaching 60,000 people. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people with the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro at outdoorafro.org and @outdoorafro today.

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