Buffalo Soldiers, the nickname given to all-African-American military regiments in the post-Civil War period, served as some of the first care takers of the national parks. Photo courtesy National Park Service.
Black History Month is in full swing, and here are some ways you can honor and celebrate Black culture, history, art, and the folks who are a part of it both here in Vermont and beyond.
Celebrate Black History Month in Vermont
Explore some of the stops on the Vermont African American Heritage Trail, a collection of 10 historic sites illustrating Vermont’s Black heritage and its contributions to modern society. Some of the sites, such as the Rokeby Museum and Turner Hill Wildlife Management Area are also home to trail systems and can be combined with a snowshoe, cross-country ski, or walk around the grounds for the full experience. Check it out: An Outdoor Visit to Vermont’s Black History. You can also check out GMC’s presentation with the heritage trail’s founder, Curtiss Reed, Jr. of Brattleboro.
Catch author, hiker and friend of GMC Derick Lugo in Vermont Peace and Justice Center’s February Author Series. “The Unlikely Thru Hiker is the story of a young Black man setting off from the big city with an overweight pack and a can-do attitude.” Thursday, February 24th from 6-7 p.m. on Zoom, register here: https://bit.ly/3GrWDKh If you missed GMC’s speaker presentation with Derick last summer, you won’t want to miss this hilarious and entertaining evening.
The “I am Vermont Too” Photo Exhibit is currently on display at the state house in Montpelier. BIPOC Vermonters share their experiences with microaggressions and racism in this photo project that has been going on since 2014. It’s on display in Montpelier until February 25.
Honor Vermont’s Black Heritage by Shopping Black-owned Businesses
Though just 5 percent of Vermont’s population identifies as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color, Black-owned businesses make a splash across the state. The Black Elevation Map is a new interactive tool from travel resource Black & Abroad that allows you to explore black-owned businesses or points of interest by city across the United States.
- Burlington businesses on the Black Elevation Map (explore other Vermont cities and towns by searching here.)
- “We Outside,” a curated collection of organizations and businesses nationwide creating safe spaces for Black people to discover nature.
- Vermont Vacation’s directory of BIPOC-owned businesses and ways to explore the state with an eye towards Black history and experience.
Black History Month Outdoors
GMC recognizes that there have long been systemic barriers to full inclusion or access in the outdoors. We celebrate the pioneers of the past and today’s burgeoning outdoor communities that are helping to break down these barriers and make the outdoors – from the Long Trail and beyond – a place that is open, accessible, and welcoming to all. In the past several years many outdoor enthusiasts have stepped up to create welcoming and educational communities celebrating the joy of nature for all. Here are just a handful of the many, many communities and affinity groups that are helping to diversify the outdoor recreation world, with a specific focus on helping Black people discover and celebrate nature. Follow along on social media:
- Outdoor Afro – “We celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership in nature.”
- Melanin Basecamp – “#BlackLivesMatter. We are People of Color in the outdoors.” Articles and resources at melaninbasecamp.com
- She Colors Nature – Chelsea Murphy – “Social + Environmental advocate. Black motherhood outdoors. Inclusivity.”
- Black Girls Trekkin – “Diversity & Inclusion 🏃🏾♀️🌈 Education & Conservation 🌍🌿 Come Trek With Us!”
- Unlikely Hikers – “Nature is infinitely diverse and so are we—We ARE nature. Body liberation & anti-racism outdoors.”
- Girltrek – “The largest public health + self-care movement for Black women! Officially 1 million+ strong!”
- Black Folks Camp Too – “Our mission is to educate more Black Folks to enjoy the great outdoors without fear and inhibition.”
- Teresa Baker – “Working to increase greater representation in our parks and within the outdoor industry.” Founder of the Outdoor CEO Pledge and co-founder of Outdoorist Oath.
- #DiversifyOutdoors – “A coalition of digital influencers, affinity groups, and allies promoting diversity in outdoor recreation and conservation.”
And some folks and organizations celebrating Black joy and BIPOC representation in the outdoors right here in Vermont:
- Mirna Valerio never met an outdoor activity she wouldn’t try once! Based in Montpelier, Mirna skis, ultraruns, hikes, mountain bikes, and generally enjoys all Vermont has to offer, while spreading her infectious joy to thousands. Check out her message to the GMC community
- Unlikely Riders welcomes all abilities and folks to try snow sports. They are building a community gear closet and offering mountain passes to increase access to expensive winter sports.
- UVM People of Color Outdoors hosts events and community for students of color to explore the natural world around UVM’s Burlington campus.
Black backpackers who inspire:
- Derick “Mr. Fabulous” Lugo, author of the Unlikely Thru Hiker and host of the Unlikely Stories Podcast. Visited GMC last year and started hiking the Long Trail, but is postponing to a future date!
- Shilletha “Dragonsky” Curtis, just finished the AT and on her way to Triple Crown (the name given to hikers who complete the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail). Writes about her experiences as a queer Black woman on ATC’s blog and Garage Grown Gear, among others.
- Will “Akuna” Robinson, a Triple-Crowner with all-around good vibes.
- Daniel “The Blackalachian” White, a long-distance hiker currently developing a homestead in Maine.
- Rahawa Haile, a writer who hiked the AT in 2016 and wrote a story for Outside, “Going it Alone,” that took off on social media and spawned lots of follow up articles. The author is now working on her memoir. (The original story is behind a paywall, but you can read an interview with Rahawa here.)
- Elsye “Chardonnay” Walker, perhaps the first Black female Triple Crowner.
- Robert Taylor, who thru-hiked the AT and PCT in the 90s.
- Read “Backpacking in America as a Person of Color: Hikers Share Their Experiences,” from The Trek
Want to learn more about Black History in the National Park Service? This 28-day program of lesson plans are designed for students, but will be insightful for anyone who wants to learn about the Buffalo Soldiers or national historical sites created in honor of Black figures.
The Appalachian Mountain Club compiled an extensive list of studies, books, and other educational resources on the historical and current state of racism and exclusion in the outdoors.
Feeling informed, inspired, and ready to act? Get involved or pledge your support to any of the organizations above, or explore The Outdoorist Oath. This is a new collective initiative designed as a way for any outdoor enthusiast to think about the intersections of planet, inclusion, and adventure through their outdoor experiences. They are offering a series of live workshops to help individuals or communities figure out how they can commit to improving climate action and access to the outdoors.
Thanks for reading and we hope these resources and groups inspire you to celebrate Black History Month in Vermont, and celebrate inclusion, access, and joy in the outdoors for all those who hold marginalized identities and/or who have faced barriers to recreating joyfully and safely outdoors.
GMC is committed to ensuring the GMC and Long Trail System are places that are inviting, safe, and open, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.