12 & Up
I got the amazing opportunity to do a Q&A with Rue Mapp, creator of the recently released Nature Swagger & founder of Outdoor Afro!
Nature Swagger is a beautiful book that celebrates Black Joy with stunning photography & personal essays from some of the outdoorsiest folks around.
Get a copy for yourself from Bookshop here. This is an affiliate link!
The Tiny Activist: Tell everyone who hasn’t heard of “Nature Swagger” & Outdoor Afro what you’re all about.
Rue Mapp: I saw firsthand the lack of leadership, preparation, or welcoming in nature-based group experiences. I found that the digital answer hadn’t satisfied me either. So, I created my blog and website in 2009, which started as a social enterprise, to tell a new narrative of what I believe Black people were capable of in the outdoors. I eventually created groups to safely engage the community in the outdoors that were truly useful, so I incorporated Outdoor Afro as 501(c)(3) in 2015. Today, Outdoor Afro is a national “not-for-profit” organization, and our message is our mission: We celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership in nature.
With “Nature Swagger,” it was important to tell the story of the people and their special places that not only informed my own connection to nature, but of the many people I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past decade. There are just so many unique ways people are getting outside and connecting to nature aside from camping and hiking. Also the book elevates the fact that being Black isn’t a singular experience – it’s reflective of region, age, personal history, and more. I believe “Nature Swagger” includes stories of individuals who anyone can relate to or who might remind us of family and friends. I’m so excited this new narrative finally launches Nov. 1. And I want readers to be inspired and see nature from many perspectives and think broadly of what connections to the outdoors can look like for anyone.
The Tiny Activist: Were there any locations or activities that you were hoping to feature in “Nature Swagger,” but didn’t get a chance to?
Rue Mapp: There are so many possibilities through activities and places that I knew and did not aspire to get even close to covering them all. What made “Nature Swagger” such a pleasurable journey to write and curate was the personal relationships I had with almost everyone in the book that was the underpinning of candid, honest, and poignant sharing.
The Tiny Activist: Is there an outdoor experience that you’re not interested in? (For me, this is sky-diving…way too scary!)
Rue Mapp: I am less interested in high adrenaline or physical risk taking that can result in a higher likelihood of irreversible harm to the body – or even death. So skydiving, and cliff jumping are definitely not on my list!
The Tiny Activist: I love the ‘Everyday Family Nature’ section. How do you inspire other Black folks & people of the global majority to start exploring close to home?
Rue Mapp: It starts by letting people know that those quiet moments sitting in your grandmother’s garden can be just as stellar and soul-filling as a trip to an iconic public land, especially without the peak season crowds. I don’t think the outdoor field has done enough to let people know that nature is not something to experience somewhere “out there” – instead nature is at hand for everyone. Nature is found in the quiet moments of watching local birds from your kitchen window over morning coffee. It is the water that makes up most of your body. It is the breath we inhale that was once rain.
The Tiny Activist: What’s your favorite nature/outdoors fact?
Rue Mapp: I always like to let people know how important and special some of their local and favorite nature places are for a sustainable environment and its ecology. For instance, people are always impressed to learn that Oakland’s Lake Merritt in the San Francisco Bay – a beautiful jewel for urban recreation – is also the oldest wildlife sanctuary in the country.
The Tiny Activist: Must-have ingredient for trail mix?
Rue Mapp: For trail mix, I always enjoy something sweet with something savory. But I wasn’t raised on the practice of packing up peanuts and chocolate before heading on a trek, so instead I like to bring something more homey and hearty. I am famous for bringing fried chicken wings wrapped in foil to share on our treks. My outdoor adventure buddies love it.
The Tiny Activist: What’s your next big adventure?
Rue Mapp: I’m planning a voyage in 2023 with my friends at Hurtigruten to adventure by boat along Cape Verde, West Africa.
Rue Mapp is the Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, overseeing a carefully selected and trained staff and national volunteer team. Since Outdoor Afro’s inception in 2009 as a blog, Rue has captured the attention and support of millions through a multimedia approach that is grounded in personal connections and community organizing.
Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that has become the nation’s leading, cutting-edge network in celebrating and inspiring Black connections and leadership in nature. They have offices in Oakland, CA, and Washington, D.C. and leadership networks around the country. With over 100 trained volunteer leaders in 30 states from around the country, OA connects thousands of people to outdoor experiences, and is actively changing the face of conservation. From its grassroots beginning, Outdoor Afro now enjoys national sponsorship and is recognized by major organizations for its role in addressing the ongoing need for greater diversity in the outdoors. The image for this post was found here.