The BIPOC Mountain Collective works to eliminate negative outdoor experiences for people of color. Coaches like Kushitama, called adventure guides, help people learn to mountain bike, snowboard, and participate in other outdoor activities and sports. The club is part of it Vibe Tribe Adventuresa nonprofit organization that provides outdoor recreation opportunities for people of color.
“We’re all about accessibility for people who look like me,” Kushitama said. “[People] who have to get on their bikes or snowboards to get to the mountains. Much of the outdoor access is still very limited. It’s not just because someone doesn’t want to, it’s because they can’t afford to spend the money to get to the mountains.”
For people who would like the means or gear to participate in the club’s activities, BIPOC Mountain Collective works with retailers like Trek to provide gear.
But Kushitama added that the lack of diversity in nature goes beyond income. “There’s a history,” she said. “The story doesn’t feel like being welcomed into a room.”
As KangJae “Jerry” Lee, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University, told CNN last year, the racial divide in outdoor recreation can be traced in large part to a history of systemic racism. “Exterior spaces weren’t just coded as white, they were white,” Lee said. “They were defined and managed as white spaces.”
According to Lee’s argument, the national parks were not officially separated until 1945. Additionally, nearly all national parks are located on land that was once home to indigenous and indigenous peoples. When the parks were established, these people were evicted from the land and in many cases killed.
By working with the BIPOC Mountain Collective, Kushitama and her other guides work to create a safe space for program participants. And this security is rooted in diversity.
“Typically, an environment like nature is full of diversity,” Kushitama. “You have beautiful flowers, you have all these different animals and they all live together in harmony. 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 them at [email protected].