At the height of COVID-19, there were no bars, no clubs, and limits on restaurants. Even my beloved happy hours were gone! During these stay at home months, I could barely remember Sunday brunches. So, I started over consuming social media. I am talking unprecedented hours spent on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram. After falling into the perpetual abyss of Instagram reels and stories, I came across one account that caught my interest, “Black People Hike (BPH)” (@black_people_hike). I knew the hike leader of BPH from a previous river float trip but looking at their Instagram page did two things: piqued my interest in outdoor activities and the accounts desperate need for a social media revamp. With nothing else going on during COVID, I reached out thinking why not explore the outdoors. I offered my social media expertise for an introduction to hiking in exchange. Granted, I am from Spokane and used to outdoor activities, but I had never been on a real hiking trip. Walking the trail from Underhill Park to Liberty Park in Spokane’s East Central neighborhood doesn’t qualify as “real hiking”.
The hike leader, Joseph Thaddeus, originally from Chicago now living in Seattle, come alongside Black People Hike in 2017 after a friend asked him on a hiking trip and he liked it. The group was founded in 2016 by Dorian Waller, Clarence Henderson, and Toiya Taylor. For so long there has been a stereotype that black people don’t hike, but living in the Pacific Northwest, Joseph found out quickly that outdoor activities opened a world he otherwise wouldn’t have experienced in Chicago. The Pacific Northwest offers so much to do on both land and water. Skiing, kayaking, hiking, camping, or basking by a lake, the number of outdoor activities are endless throughout Washington State.
BPH found most people of color were hesitant to hike or participate in outdoor activities due to the micro-aggressions experienced by being a person of color in non-traditional spaces like ski slopes, kayaking, RVing, etc. Some will argue that this is absurd and that the outdoors is for everyone; however, due to segregation in the 60s, blacks were prohibited in most National Parks. While segregation has lifted, the side effects loom with the lack of people of color in marketing materials for recreational activities that target middle-upper class white populations—furthering the stereotype that people of color seemingly do not engage in outdoor activities. Not to mention Jim Crow laws, lynching, and harassments over the span of 60 years made it unsafe for blacks to enjoy otherwise safe and fun outdoor activities.
Nevertheless, Joseph is optimistic about a new world and wants to open it up more as it promotes great family bonding, excellent health benefits, and inexpensive ways for everyone to have fun. He immediately took me up on the offer and a new world opened up to me as well!
BPH (not exclusive to just black people—many cultures are in this group) was engaging in all things outdoors! Hiking, floating, rock climbing, nature walks, you name it—there were people like me doing it! While this group is primarily based out of Seattle, there are similar groups all over the country. I discovered groups on Instagram such as:
Asians Who Explore (@asianswhoexplore)
Indigenous Women Hike (@indigenouswomenhike)
Outdoor Muslims (@outdoormuslims)
LGBT Outdoors (@lgbtoutdoors)
Hike + Heal Wellness LLC (@hikeandheal)
Disabled Hikers (@disabledhikers)
With so many diverse groups in various locations, I felt empowered and encouraged to step out of my comfort zone. BPH has allowed me to experience outdoor activities with a mix of first-time and expert hikers. I asked Joseph what he thought of expanding BPH into Spokane and he loved it! Since taking over the BPH Instagram page I have not only boosted the visibility of the group, but I have expanded my love for outdoor activities by hiking all over Washington State and kayaking locally along the Little Spokane River. I’m also planning a trip to Palouse Falls soon.