Black Girls Reclaim Area in Austin’s Outdoor: Black Girls Who Kayak+ is main the best way – Information


Tanya Walker, who founded Black Women Who Kayak+ (Provided by Tanya Walker)

June is Great Outdoors Month, and Austin native Tanya Walker is sure to celebrate. You may find them exploring the subterranean stillness of central Texas’ intricate cave systems. Or maybe she’s whizzing along a path lined with live oaks on a galloping horse. But most of the time you can find walkers out on the water, in a kayak. “I want everyone to feel what I feel when I’m out there at Town Lake,” she says. “You can’t see the true beauty of Austin driving—you have to be on the water to see and appreciate it.” And yet, even when I found calm on the water, something was missing. “It was rare that I saw someone with a different color out there with me,” she said.

So in 2018, Walker formed a group called Black Women Who Kayak+ (BWWK+) to support and encourage outdoor recreation for Black people. It was a bit of a rocky start; Walker struggled to attract people at their first events. “At some point I actually wanted to close the group,” she said. But then she realized she needed to address the “barriers and myths that are ingrained for black and brown people” around outdoor recreation.

“Some of those barriers are the fear of not being able to swim and the fear of big bodies of water,” she said. So Walker connected with the British Swim School to offer swimming lessons to people interested in joining BWWK+.

She also decided to expand the BWWK+ program; This is where the “+” in BWWK+ came into play. “We needed to be in more than one space,” she said, “to create welcoming environments that implement diversity and inclusivity in each space.”

BWWK+ focuses on women of color, especially mothers. “We sow a seed of curiosity in the mother because it takes a mother [feeling] comfortable, confident and welcome, before she’ll say, “Hey, I’ll bring my loved ones next time.”… Many of these ladies are kayaking for the first time. It basically opens up a whole different realm of curiosity where you know you can because you see other women looking like you do.

BWWK+ has grown since 2018: Walker recently purchased a fleet of kayaks for BWWK+ events and new chapters are springing up across the country. “One of the things I want to achieve with BWWK+ is that I want us everywhere,” she said.

Expansion takes time, but BWWK+ isn’t slowing down: Two members are embarking on an eight-day backpacking trip through Alaska this August. The non-profit group NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) sponsored a BWWK+ member and Kimberley Fields received the opportunity. “When I got the call that I had won, I cried ugly. I couldn’t believe it, I was speechless,” Fields said.

But Walker knew that Fields would likely be the only person of color on the expedition. “I didn’t want that for her, I wanted her to experience something like that with someone who looks like her,” she said. So BWWK+ raised funds for a second member to take part in the upcoming adventure. Fields said it makes a difference. “I appreciate that I’m glad there’s someone I can talk to when I’m not feeling well.”

BWWK+ has been supported by many partners and sponsors, and Walker said she sees business owners opening their eyes to environments that feel exclusive. “We’re all working to make a difference, to show that blacks and browns kayak, hike, bike and wakeboard—we do it all.”

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