BIPOC Mountain Collective works to eliminate negative outdoor experiences for people of color. Coaches like Kushitama, called Adventure Guides, help teach people how to mountain bike, snowboard, and participate in other outdoor activities and sports. The club is part of Vibe Tribe Adventuresa nonprofit organization that provides outdoor recreation opportunities for people of color.
“We’re all about accessibility for people like me,” Kushitama said. “[People] who need to ride bikes, ride snowboards, to be able to go out in the mountains. Many exterior accesses are still very limited. It’s not just because a person doesn’t wantto, it’s because they can’t afford to spend the money to go to the mountains.”
For people who like the means or equipment to participate in club activities, BIPOC Mountain Collective partners with retailers like Trek to provide gear.
But Kushitama added that the lack of diversity in the outdoors goes beyond income levels. “There is a story,” she said. “The story doesn’t feel like being welcomed into a space.”
As KangJae “Jerry” Lee, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University, told CNN Last year, the racial gap in outdoor recreation can be traced in large part to a history of systemic racism. “Outdoor spaces weren’t just coded as white, they were white,” Lee said. “They were defined and managed as white space.”
For Lee, national parks weren’t officially desegregated until 1945. Additionally, nearly all national parks are on lands that were once home to indigenous and native peoples. As the parks were created, these people were driven off the land and, in many cases, killed.
Working with the BIPOC Mountain Collective, Kushitama and her fellow guides work to create a safe space for program participants. And that security is rooted in diversity.
“Generally, an environment like nature is full of diversity,” Kushitama said. “You have beautiful flowers, you have all these different animals, and they all live in harmony together. So why shouldn’t our outdoor activities and experiences reflect nature itself?”
To learn more about Vibe Tribe Adventures and its programs, Click here.
Lindsey Ford is a multimedia journalist at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.