What’s new at Outdoor Afro in 2024? Creating community impact starts with these 8 digital ports of call

Can you believe it? Outdoor Afro has nurtured transformative experiences and connections in nature for 15 years now. One thing is for sure: Our national not-for-profit organization reached 2024's "Year of Innovation" because of you. Longstanding and new social followers, loyal supporters, volunteer leaders, community participants, and outdoor partners have contributed to Outdoor Afro's wildest nature dreams to literally come true. Take for instance our participation network. Outdoor Afro's popular, year-round events across U.S. communities inspire approximately 60,000 people to join us annually for customized outdoor activities – family reunion-style.

Then, there’s our swim program, Making Waves. We rounded out 2023 funding more than 1,000 kids and caregivers to learn water safety and basic swimming techniques. Life-saving skills. All thanks to program believers like you. We’ve even certified up to 20 volunteer leaders to guide kayak and canoe trips safely and sustainably within the past two years. Newer community participants are ready for playdates to discover and travel neighborhood waterways for educational enjoyment. That said, a new year means new opportunities to create community impact together. If you don’t know where exactly to start, that’s A-OK. Below are 8 digital ports to join our journey. No matter where you plug in, you’re automatically contributing to our mission work to celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership in nature. Let’s get started:


Outdoor Afro spans 32 states, including Washington, D.C. Networks are in roughly 60 U.S. cities. Our networks are your instant access to forming new friendships while exploring nature in your neighborhood or surrounding community. Through Outdoor Afro networks, you can participate in everything from group hiking, biking, boating, fishing, foraging, skiing, and paddling. Locate your Outdoor Afro region (Midwest, Northeast, South, or West) using the link below. From there, you can sign up for in-person Meetup events happening monthly. Our selected and trained team of volunteer leaders curate and guide these network adventures. Through Meetup, volunteer leaders keep you posted about event details and upcoming activities. Also, join your network’s designated Facebook page to build community, and continue to learn where exploration awaits with family and friends. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.


We love when online guests pay us a visit. Stopping by outdoorafro.org helps you know exactly who we are, what we do in nature, and where we’re heading each year. As mentioned earlier, 2024 rings in our “Year of Innovation.” By clicking through our online home place, you will learn Outdoor Afro’s love story with nature, more about our Founder and CEO Rue Mapp, and the ones who work behind the scenes to ensure we’re fulfilling our mission. Our site also shares current partnerships, community programs, social media campaigns, and real-life stories that support our Black joy experiences taking place across neighborhoods nationwide. Have specific questions about our “why” in nature? Our site is your primary source to connect with the right digital resources. CLICK HERE TO KNOW OUR MISSION.


Nearly 170,000 Outdoor Afro followers like, comment, share, and take action from our social media updates and footage. Our almost daily dose of digital news, announcements, and achievements stem from your support. Our top social platforms include Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and X (formerly known as Twitter). Continuing to celebrate Outdoor Afro’s nature narratives, our genuine content is an opportunity to participate in digital to in-person activities with us and stay on top of organizational developments. Our award-winning Marketing & Communications Department shares powerful visuals and videos that offer fun gateways into outdoor recreation, conservation, and education with ease. CLICK HERE TO CONTACT US.


By signing up for Outdoor Afro’s monthly eNewsletters, you’re getting first dibs about our nature wins. Your free copy is delivered straight to your email inbox, recapping that month’s success stories because of your generous support. Our eNewsletter will also notify you when future professional opportunities within our organization are available. And give you the heads up about upcoming partnerships and programs. Our news and notifications are designed so you can easily digest and keep a timely pulse on our organizational progress. Stay in the know about our community and nature work helping to strengthen relationships with local land, water, and wildlife. In addition to opening new outdoor career and professional development doors for you. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE.


Donating to Outdoor Afro helps us continue to reach our mission, which is to celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership in nature. No amount is too big or small. Every contribution counts. You’re supporting our year-round programming more than you will ever know. When you donate (better yet, become a recurring donor), Outdoor Afro is able to provide our growing team of volunteer leaders – and the thousands of nature lovers and new adventurers who leaders guide in nature – with wilderness, recreation, and life-saving skills; safe, appropriate gear and equipment; free or discounted access to private outdoor spaces; and access to historical and civic information you can use to take care of the public and community spaces you love. When you donate, our Making Waves program can provide more kids and caregivers new opportunities to learn how to swim, save a loved one’s life, and leverage local resources – public swimming pools, beaches, rivers, and lakes. When you donate, we’re able to help neighborhoods expand outdoor recreational activities that become instrumental in pursuing healthier, joyful lifestyles. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.


It’s warmth that welcomes nature conversations with family and friends. Our co-branded shirt collection with Oakland-based partner Oaklandish comes with comfort for any and all outdoor adventures. The collection includes our signature short-sleeve shirts (in black and white), long-sleeve shirts (in black only), and hoodies (in black only). The fun part: The style options range from business slay to backpacker play. The bonus: Every purchase you make goes toward our charitable, not-for-profit work. CLICK HERE TO SHOP.


We’re always open to forming meaningful relationships with people, communities, initiatives, and brands that share the same values we have about reconnecting Black people and Black communities to nature. Our amazing new and deep-rooted partnerships have helped our organization elevate and innovate for the past 15 years in the outdoors. Brands like REI Co-op, KEEN, CLIF® Bar, ENO, and Smartwool have become influential collaborators to educate new audiences about the collective difference we make across the United States. Introduce our audiences and readers to new outdoor products and services that benefit our neighborhoods. To learn more about our current partnership tiers, email [email protected] today. CLICK HERE TO VIEW COLLABORATORS.


The truth is: We’re confronted by gloom-and-doom headlines daily. The good news is that Outdoor Afro produces happy clappy content monthly that will leave you feeling so fuzzy wuzzy about tapping into the outdoors and pursuing healthier lifestyles. We produce original narratives so you’re honestly informed about people, places, and things tied to our mission work. Outdoor Afro’s blog features cover personal essays; product and partner reviews; insider nature knowledge; and human interest stories that salute the pioneering paths Black people and Black communities have carved out within the outdoor industry. From big cities to small towns. Our community programs and content have traveled the globe. Piqued the interest of media mogul Oprah Winfrey to tennis icon Venus Williams – who both have participated in our network activities. Our stories reinforce the Black experience in nature from an asset-framing lens. National to international media outlets like CBS, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel Weekly, AFAR, and Essence Magazine are a few prominent publications that have highlighted our organization throughout the past decade. CLICK HERE TO ACCESS STORIES.

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 organization. Outdoor Afro's U.S. networks include nearly 100-plus volunteer leaders who guide nature activities in up to 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people annually. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people to the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro @outdoorafro and outdoorafro.org.

5 pieces of poolside advice for new Outdoor Afro swimmers

Calling for caregivers and kids: Register to Outdoor Afro’s Making Waves program and graduate with stronger relationships to neighborhood waterways. Since 2019, Making Waves has provided water safety, drowning prevention, and proper stroke technique for beginner poolsters. In short, swimming fundamentals. Outdoor Afro founded the nationwide program because natatorium research revealed rather shocking U.S. community news. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, Black youth ages 10 to 14 drown in swimming pools at a rate more than 7.6 times that of white children. A public health disparity due largely to decades of exclusion and segregation from beaches and public pools. “After learning of this alarming number and that it continued to grow, Outdoor Afro decided to make an impact within our sphere of influence,” said Founder and CEO Rue Mapp.

The national not-for-profit organization launched Making Waves four years ago in its hometown of Oakland to teach kids and caregivers how to swim at local pools. The program has undergone start-and-stop challenges with COVID. Huddles with identifying qualified swim providers with sufficient and welcoming instructors. Yet, the program has propelled forward. Making Waves has managed to provide lessons at no cost to nearly 400 new swimmers thus far. This year's goal: teach up to 1,000 new swimmers by the end of 2023. In collaboration with select swim providers across the United States, both kids and their caregivers take anywhere from six to eight, 30-minute lessons, valued at roughly $150 for the entire learning experience.


The program covers all lessons designed to teach safety precautions, water confidence, and the correct stroke styles. With each session, Swimmership recipients gain health and wellness benefits. Exercise that increases stamina, flexibility, and strength. Improvements in posture, coordination, and balance. Stress alleviation through peaceful and relaxing movements. Before signing up for this opportunity, carefully read these guidelines for a successful program adventure with Outdoor Afro: 

Watch Making Waves community impact story with former Outdoor Afro volunteer leader Kimberley Glover.


Aside from swimming gear like swimsuits, trunks, ear plugs, goggles, and swim caps for hair protection, pool equipment is minimal to bring to beginner lessons. Swim instructors typically provide useful buoyancy aids. RUBBER RINGS: A great help mate for getting your feet off the bottom of the pool. Fitting snug under your arms, these water rings are a first step to building confidence in the pool. ARMBANDS: Providing body support, this aid gives the advantage of freeing up your arms and legs. As your trust in the water increases, you can gradually deflate bands. FLOATS: This effective aid comes in assortments. Still, each shape offers support to practice arm and leg movements. Outdoor Afro's select providers are Red Cross certified swim instructors who know exactly what types of water devices are best to advance each individual swimmer’s performance and confidence.


When engaged in any outdoor activity, safety is the highest priority. Know and respectfully adhere to swimming pool safety rules. By doing so, you will avoid a lot of dangerous and life-threatening accidents poolside. Even while visiting other waterways such as rivers, lakes, and beaches. Remain honest with yourself about your swimming experience. Stay within your water depth until becoming an adept swimmer. Also, create enough space between you and those who are in sections of the pool like the diving area. Pools are slippery scenes, so absolutely no running. If seaside, never attempt to swim when danger flags are up. And under no circumstance swim solo. 


Not in the best of health, don’t force a Making Waves swim session. That includes ear or nose infections. It’s also not a good idea to swim immediately after eating a hearty meal, which can lead to stomach cramps. As far as cleanliness goes, take a short shower before and after swimming to prevent recreational water ailments. Come gear and equipment prepared by using only washed towels and swimwear. For toddlers, swim diapers are highly recommended to preempt major potty accidents. After every swim lesson, make sure to dry thoroughly, especially between toes. Infections like verrucas and athlete’s foot easily spread in damp conditions.


The very sight of a pool or open water intimidates some beginner swimmers. Trusting yourself in this new activity is a process. Outdoor Afro’s select swim providers teach confidence-building exercises to strengthen water relationships. Starting with relaxing. Some tasks to expect to increase poolside comfort: WALKING. Avoiding the pool’s deep end as a beginner, shoulder-deep water is a safe space to stand. Then, walking while your arms work underwater starts to develop a first-step sense of security. BLOWING BUBBLES. After getting your shoulders wet, practicing bubble blowing with your chin in the water is another foundational step toward rhythmic breathing techniques. TREADING WATER. With armbands and floats as your initial support, gradually lift and alternate your feet. You will increase your foot speed until holding yourself up without touching the bottom of the pool is achievable.


Once your beginner lessons through Making Waves complete, don’t stop swimming. There’s still more to master. After you’ve become proficient in basic strokes and standard dives, check off these next steps to increase your swimming pool confidence. NO 1. Join your local swim club. They welcome new swimmers and offer additional support. Even new swim buddies. NO. 2. Register for competitions. Once you’re swimming like a fish, enter special events to fine-tune performance. NO. 3. Sign up for advanced diving, underwater swimming, and lifesaving technique coursework. Each reinforces and advances your technique. NO. 4. Explore newer water fun. Watersports like waterski-ing, windsurfing, scuba diving, kayaking, and canoeing help expand physical capabilities and allow you to try outdoor activities you probably would have never accessed before.

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 nature through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Follow Outdoor Afro at outdoorafro.org and @outdoorafro today.

10 beginner swimming pointers from leader Mardi Fuller

As summer draws nearer, anticipation for beach, pool, and lake days grows. Nationwide, Outdoor Afro looks forward to time outside with family and friends – as well as the wonder of weightlessness and the joy of cooling immersion that the water provides. Our network is in constant pursuit of deeper connections to nature, bringing Black people together in community and water-focused activities. Black people have faced exclusion from public pools and beaches over the course of the 20th century. Swimming areas were segregated through the 1960s, and Black people did not benefit from the pools and swim clubs built in white neighborhoods either. This deliberate prohibition has resulted in a great disparity in who has access to swimming and water safety, and by extension, the many sports and activities for which swimming is a foundational skill. I like sailing, fishing, kite surfing, or water polo.

Outdoor Afro is working to change this through its Making Waves program, a program designed to help increase access to swimming for Black families across the United States. The program provides swim scholarships to children and their caregivers. Learning to swim is first about survival: knowing how to gauge safe swimming conditions, gaining water confidence, and moving efficiently in the water in a relaxed manner. Once achieved, swimming opens the door to a new world, truly, as 70 percent of the earth is covered by water. It has been called the best form of exercise because it’s easy on joints and builds muscle tone all over as the body works against the water’s resistance. I am fortunate to have had my mother take my brother and me to swimming lessons when I was around 3 years old.

My mom didn’t know how to swim and took classes at the same time. To this day, swimming is the exercise in which she finds the most ease, and it has helped her manage chronic pain. Swimming has been a refuge for me as well. As a kid, I was always happiest when playing in any body of water, and I participated in swim teams throughout childhood. I became a lifeguard and swim instructor in high school and college. These roles allowed me to be around the water and were some of the best paying jobs around. In adulthood, I now swim for exercise and injury management; I’ve swam in triathlons, and I still enjoy open water swimming. Above all, it’s always brought me massive joy. If you are a beginner swimmer looking to increase your water confidence and have more fun at the beach or pool this summer, here are my recommended tips to get started and build a rewarding lifelong relationship with water:

CHANNEL YOUR ANCESTORS. The most important thing for you to know about swimming is that you belong in the water; it is your heritage. Historically, West Africans were proficient swimmers at a young age. Swimming, boating, and fishing were integral to our cultural practice, including spiritual beliefs, economies, social structures, political institutions and worldviews. In Undercurrents of Power: Aquatic Culture in the African Diaspora, Professor Kevin Dawson’s research reveals how descendants of Africans demonstrated aquatic fluencies at home as well as while enslaved in the Americas. West Africans built and navigated the waters in dugout canoes. They spear fished. They evaded enemies by swimming. Reading this scholarship brought new meaning into my understanding of our powerful water-based legacy.

LEARN THE FUNDAMENTALS OF WATER SAFETY. Understanding the risks of being in and around water is the first step to becoming a strong and safe swimmer. Familiarize yourself with water safety tips from the American Red Cross, where you will find a national database of swim instruction available near you.

FLOAT ON. AND ON. AND ON. Once you’re comfortable in the water, floating is a survival technique as well as a restorative practice. You can float when you’re too tired to swim anymore, and you can float simply to relax and be present in your surroundings. Practice by laying on your back in shallow water with arms and legs extended. Have an experienced swimmer support you by standing next to you, gently placing a hand under your lower back. Press your hips to the sky. Cup your hands slightly, fingers together, and slowly move water towards your body, and then flip your hands and push water away. This is called sculling. Each body floats differently, depending on muscle mass, body fat percentage and your body’s surface area. Most people can’t float without some gentle movement, such as sculling or a gentle flutter kick.  Practice and discover exactly how much movement it takes for you to float with ease. 

JUST BREATHE. After learning to float, your next priority is regulating your breath. Once you do so, the experience of swimming can be quite calming and beneficial to your overall health.  Swimming increases lung capacity and breath endurance. Interestingly, one study compared swimmers’ lung capacity to that of elite football players and found that the swimmers had larger lungs and better cardiorespiratory function.

PRACTICE BLOWING BUBBLES. Swimming proficiently for any length of time requires putting your face in the water. You can try this at home. Fill a basin with water and get comfortable dunking your face right in. Whenever your face is in the water, you are always blowing air out of your nose and mouth – never holding your breath. After you’ve pushed the last drop of air from your lungs, lift your head out of the water and inhale through your mouth slowly. Repeat. As you gain comfort, practice turning your head to either side to inhale, as you will when you learn the crawl stroke or freestyle stroke. 

TAKE A SHOWER. We are not trying to have damaged hair or dry, ashy skin. Not only is it good hygiene to rinse yourself off before going into a body of water, but also allowing your hair and skin to absorb fresh water means that your cells and follicles have less room to absorb damaging chlorine or salt.  

TRY TO CREATE GOOD CONDITIONS FOR LEARNING. Your local YMCA, YWCA, or community pool will offer lessons for children and adults. Outdoor Afro even offers “Swimmerships™” (swim lesson scholarships) through its Making Waves program. If you have options, shop around and find an instructor you’re comfortable with and in a supportive learning environment at that. It can feel hard to try to learn a new skill as an adult, too. Settle into a mindset in which you’re patient with yourself and open to learning and growth. Find a bathing suit you feel good in. Check out Black-owned soulcap.com for swim caps designed to fit our various hairstyles and hair volumes. Get a pair of swim goggles to protect your eyes from chlorine and to make it quicker to transition between being above and under the water.

WEAR FINS. When you’re practicing on your own, fins are a great support to use to learn how to kick. When you kick with fins your body naturally executes a flutter kick emanating from your core and hips. It’s easy for beginners to want to bend their knees to kick – a motion which will get you nowhere. 

AVOID FLOATATION DEVICES. You will find varying opinions on this, but my opinion is that flotation devices are important for safety on open water, but while learning to swim, they can provide a false sense of security. Children who wear floatation devices often feel overconfident in deep water before they are truly able to keep themselves safe at that depth.  Wearing a floatation device may tempt a new swimmer to not pursue stronger skills. Better to stay within a swim area where you can stay safe. Progress to deeper water as your skills advance. 

DON'T STOP PRACTICING. Learning how to swim takes consistency – some estimate it takes 75-100 hours of lessons and practice to become proficient. It may take five years of swimming once or twice a week to become a comfortable lap swimmer, but you’ll become strong enough to be safe and enjoy yourself well before that. And of course, have fun! Find your own water joy, whether it is the peace and quiet that comes from ducking underwater, riding waves in the ocean, or floating for relaxation. Or picking up a sport like stand-up paddle boarding or windsurfing. Oh! And don’t forget to bring a friend or family member along with you.

Underwater, action shots by Joe Klementovich: @klementovitch; portrait shot by Philip Keith: @philipckeith_

Boating Season 2022: 5 water safety tips to know

Warm weather means more Sunday fundays on a pontoon boat or pulling out family kayaks and canoes to cruise local rivers. However you prefer to spendtime on the water during summer 2022, safety first. Always! In preparation for the National Safe Boating Council’s National Safe Boating Week (May 21 through May 27), Outdoor Afro wants to remind you of the dos and don’ts to boating season adventures.

“The best boating experience is safe boating,” said Yvonne Pentz, communications director of the National Safe Boating Council, a nonprofit dedicated to helping create a safe boating experience for all boaters and the lead organization of the Safe Boating Campaign. “Have fun on the water, make memories with your family and friends – all while boating responsibly.” That said, here are five best practices to help you stay safe while creating water moments:

LIFEJACKETS. LIFEJACKETS. LIFEJACKETS. Lifejackets. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or veteran swimmer, wearing a lifejacket (or at the very least, having them nearby) should always be at the top of your safety list. The council recommends having life jackets on children under the age of 13 while swimming or during other activities on open water. This also holds true for adults while boating. 

ENGINE CUT-OFF DEVICE. Things happen. Better to be safe than sorry. Emergencies can arise on the water at any time. Whether you drop something into the water, or worse, a person goes overboard. An engine cut-off device — often worn around your wrist or attached to your lifejacket — ensures the boat’s engine will shut off instantly.  

DON'T BOOZE AND BOAT. Yes, a BUI is most definitely a thing. So, no “Boating Under The Influence.” According to the council, BUIs accounts for one-third of all recreational boating fatalities. We all want to have fun on the water, but just like with a car, getting behind the wheel while under the influence is a big no-no. Alcohol impacts vision, balance, coordination, and judgment. Increasing the likelihood of accidents. Know that it’s illegal to operate a watercraft under the influence of both drugs and alcohol in every state. The Coast Guard enforces a federal law that provides BUIs, too. Including all boats: canoes, rowboats and ships. 

BE AWARE OF CARBON MONOXIDE EXPOSURE. Most people don’t associate boats with producing carbon monoxide, but they certainly do. Because it’s an odorless and colorless gas, you likely won’t know if it’s being emitted. The best thing to do to remain safe on the water is to avoid swimming anywhere near the rear of a motorized vessel, or sitting along the swim deck/platform while the boat motor is running.

HAVE A PLAN, WAYS TO COMMUNICATE BEYOND THE BOAT. Again, you never know what could happen during your outdoor water journeys. It’s always great practice to let someone back ashore know your route plan as well as how long you plan to be on the water. You’ll also want to make sure any communication devices like phones, emergency locator beacons, or walkie-talkies are charged, have a signal, and work properly.