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Leave No Trace and Black Folks Camp Too will work together to launch a new project aimed at making the outdoors more welcoming for BIPOC hikers, the two groups announced today.
“The Unity Blaze is the symbol of unity in the outdoors,” says Earl Hunter, Jr., founder of Black Folks Camp Too. “Anyone or any place that displays it is visibly and intentionally making a statement that they treat everyone, everywhere equally.”
Hunter has a vision for the Unity Blaze, an emblem featuring a campfire, to be a welcoming image to BIPOC hikers and outdoor enthusiasts and has already developed inroads with various campgrounds, tourism boards, and outdoor and recreational vehicle industry brands to display it.
“Leave No Trace and Black Folks Camp Too are asking our community to join us in committing to a level of allyship in the outdoors,” says Dana Watts, Leave No Trace Executive Director. “By wearing the Unity Blaze patch, we can bring people together and ultimately create opportunities for more people to get outside safely.”
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The patch is available at both LNT.org and blackfolkscamptoo.com for a $10 minimum donation. Funds raised from the Unity Blaze patches will support Leave No Trace and Black Folks Camp Too’s shared work on three huge initiatives to provide education and training and support other organizations doing work promoting equitable outdoor access.
The first is the CampUS Scholarship Program which will provide outdoor education and outdoor industry training to 20 scholarship recipients per year. It’s open to alumni from Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other collegiate alumni. Recipients receive a gear package, travel stipend, and full tuition to Western North Carolina University’s Professional Outdoor Industry Certificate program, Leave No Trace’s Master Educator Course, and Black Folks Camp Too’s Professional Outdoor Certificate. Funds raised will also feed the Digital Education Initiative and The Unity Blaze Fund. The former is a free digital library of culturally relevant learning materials covering campgrounds, RV’s, trails, and the outdoor lifestyle. The latter will be endowments to groups and organizations that are working to build a more inclusive outdoors.
“Treating everyone, everywhere equally infuses all of our Leave No Trace principles, and we hope the Unity Blaze Patch Project will be the start of a fundamental change to grow diversity in the outdoors, sure, but also to provide skills and a job path,” says Watts. “Earl’s vision and enthusiasm is amazing to be part of.”
Hunter walks the walk. I know because I’ve had the pleasure to hike with him near his neck of the woods in Great Smoky Mountain National Park (he lives in western North Carolina) and on Mt. Sanitas, a Boulder, Colorado-area peak near where I live. I had more meaningful conversations around the topics of diversity and unity than I ever had, as Hunter joyfully engaged every hiker he passed. On top of Mt. Sanitas, we talked with a Black family from Louisiana on a long hiking vacation. “Where’d you get that shirt?” was their first question to Earl. They were soon adorned with Unity Blazes.
I am, too.
To learn more about the Unity Blaze Patch Project and the initiatives it will support—and check out the NOSO Unity Blaze patch—visit www.LNT.org/UnityBlaze