CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A nature group in North Carolina is leading hikes and other outdoor activities this summer for people of color.
Ali Steele, along with a few friends, started Issa Vibe Adventures a few years ago, when they realized there weren’t many outdoor groups for people of color. Steele says, despite wanting to experience nature, people of color may not have the opportunity to explore North Carolina’s pristine mountains, hiking trails and waterways in a welcoming space.
“I believe there are a lot of great opportunities in North Carolina,” says Steele. “When it comes to POC – People of Color – we lack the knowledge of what’s available to us, because we feel like it’s a stereotype that we’re not supposed to be there, or we’re not supposed to be involved.”
A 2016 poll by New America Media and the Next 100 Coalition surveyed 900 African-American, Latino and Asian Pacific-American voters, and found 57% said they had visited national public lands.
Respondents also said a major barrier is lack of knowledge – not knowing where state or national parks are, how to access them, or cost.
Steele says first-time participants often come away with the profound experience of connecting with nature.
“I always like the ‘wow factor’ from people,” says Steele. “They just are amazed by the views; they’re amazed by the access to come and participate in something like that for free; they are just amazed that they haven’t been participating and taking advantage the whole time.”
North Carolina is home to more than 40 state parks, 10 national parks and several national forests. According to the 2016 poll, four out of every five voters of color support the creation of new parks and monuments.