Outdoor Afro’s communications director wins first-place awards at Outdoor Writers Association of America

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. The wins took place 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” and “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 community 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 a 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.

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 contributions to Georgia Black Belt farming narratives 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. That same year, Dantes and her brother, certified arborist Edward Morrow, were both featured farmers in Ebony Magazine for its “Queen Sugar” finale coverage. 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 multigenerational 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 and 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, 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 Dantes. She’s helped rural Georgia farmers garner earned media with major media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Nation, Thrillist, and CNN.

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 to 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 able to document our relationships to land, water, and wildlife for newer generations to find inspiration, 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 @outdoorafro and outdoorafro.org.

Outdoor Retailer elects Outdoor Afro to Homecoming Court

Outdoor Retailer – North America's largest trade show in the outdoor industry – honored Outdoor Afro during its rather “snowy” Snow Show 2023 held Jan. 10 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Now back in its longtime home, the three-day show recognized the national not-for-profit organization as a royalty member at the Homecoming Court Party outside of Salt Palace Convention Center. “It’s such an honor to receive this recognition and invitation to participate in this special event,” said Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in her 11th participatory year of the trade show, “but I actually owe this show more for helping me learn and grow my business. Outdoor Retailer has also ushered in my newest wave of lifelong friends who share my passion for connecting more people to the outdoors.” However, gusts of wind, rain, and eventually snow ended the party early. The court gathered for a quick photo op before Mother Nature bumped up the coldness.

Local Olympian Gus Kenworthy planned to acknowledge the court’s organizations and individuals making a difference in the outdoor community and industry. Outdoor Afro received the brief recognition alongside five other organizations: Conservation Alliance, Protect Our Winters, Conservation Alliance, Camber Outdoors, and The Outdoorist Oathe. Outdoor Retailer also honored local athlete and advocate Caroline Gleich; local CEO Kaitlin Eskelson; and local organization Save Our Great Salt Lake. “The Homecoming Court symbolizes our welcoming home to Salt Lake City,” said Outdoor Retailer Event Organizer Krista Parry. “We selected local organizations, industry organizations like Outdoor Afro, and national associations for our return to Utah. Rue is a true beacon of joy within this industry.” Mapp followed up the organizational accolade Jan. 11 with Outdoor Retailer’s Community Corners Campfire Chat – a “New at OR” section to the show that connects participants to industry influencers. 

Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp at Outdoor Retailer's 'New at OR' Campfire Chat. Photo by Fearnow Media

Nearly 40 fireside attendees fastened to a stump stool or stood nearby to learn about Mapp’s first book “Nature Swagger.” In collaboration with American publisher Chronicle Books, the project shares authentic stories and original visuals of Black joy in the outdoors. Campfire Chat participants listened as Mapp read about her childhood connection to nature and how those early experiences shaped the Outdoor Afro brand. Attendees traveled Mapp’s journey from developing a national movement through Outdoor Afro to creating universal gear and equipment for any hiking interpretation in nature.

Along with the first-time chat session, the show continued its tradition of introducing a new era of community, leadership, products, services, and fun. Re-establishing in Salt Lake City after a few years in Denver, Colorado, the show’s return to Utah meant a brand-new Outdoor Retailer format: shifted show dates, amplified demos, a leadership conference, and consumer festival welcoming public participation. And the fifth annual Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards – an always-favorite part of the event. Prior to this particular award, Outdoor Afro won the show’s then 2013 Outdoor Industry Association Outdoor Inspiration Awards. 

“As a 2013 Inspiration Award recipient, it continues to inspire my work,” Mapp said, “and has helped Outdoor Afro live up to this vision as part of the industry and our nation.” At the trade show, industry experts confirmed business has changed in what’s a $862 billion-dollar outdoor industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Therefore, Outdoor Retailer aims to help platform brands and support the retail ecosystem overall at the right moments throughout each year. “Outdoor Retailer has always been a resource for the outdoor industry,” said Outdoor Retailer Vice President and Show Director Marisa Nicholson in Snow Show 2023 edition of show publication The Daily, “a space for innovation, inspiration, ideas, and advocacy.”  

Outdoor Retailer Event Organizer Krista Parry capturing the campfire fun. Photo by Fearnow Media

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.

ABOUT OUTDOOR RETAILER: Outdoor Retailer, the leading U.S. business events for the outdoor and winter sports industry, brings together retailers, manufacturers, designers, distributors, industry advocates, journalists, and more to conduct the business of outdoor recreation through commerce, unique product experiences, dedicated media events, content, and web-based business solutions. Outdoor Retailer provides critical platforms for face-to-face commerce, product launches, networking, and focused industry education to enhance business and support the outdoor recreation economy. Visit outdoorretailer.com for more information.