Black People Who Hike, a St. Louis-based organization, is honoring Black History Month this February by giving Black hikers and adventurers a chance to share their stories in a thrice-weekly Instagram Live series.
Debbie Njai, the organization’s founder, and Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Derick Lugo co-organized the #OurStory series to highlight the stories of Black individuals, like aspiring Triple Crowner Shilletha Curtis, who are making a difference in the outdoor community.
“We celebrate Black history and Blackness all year long, so it wasn’t like it was something outside of the box for us, but I wanted to make sure that we were showing up that month and doing something special,” Njai says.
The #OurStory series will take place on Instagram Live every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday this February, though Njai says they’ll likely air every day during the last week of the month. In fact, Njai says this programming may extend beyond Black History Month, either on Instagram Live or on a separate platform, because there are too many stories to fit into 28 days.
The name of the series, #OurStory, is a play on the word history. Njai points out that history has often been whitewashed, excluding both the stories and the points of view of people of color.
This same phenomenon has played out in outdoor recreation, which is often a primarily white space due to lack of representation in marketing, financial barriers, and flat-out racism. Some national parks, like Shenandoah, were segregated until 1950 to comply with Jim Crow laws. As a result, Njai says, the outdoors can feel like the world’s “best kept secret.”
“These were our lands, these always were our lands, and somehow we’ve gotten so far removed from it. These lands were stolen; these lands were taken from us,” Njai says. “But when you think of Black history and the land, it’s like, this is where we all came from. I think it’s super, super important that we get back to the land.”
Through this and all of its programming, Black People Who Hike hopes to inspire Black people to venture into the outdoors and challenge stereotypes.
“I think one of the biggest takeaways is just to be yourself and don’t be afraid to try something new. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your box,” Njai says. “Everyone has a story.”