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Edited by Endria Richardson.
Let’s take a deep breath. The past couple weeks have been incredibly tough and painful. Many people—white people and non-Black people of color—have been shaken, realizing how much disparity exists and how much you need to learn. Many of us—Black climbers—are finally seeing a reality we have long understood being processed and shared in real-time by the wider climbing community. With so much exposure to the larger issue of inequity and access in climbing, a “Black Lives Matter” post will no longer suffice. It’s a trend in the right direction, as well as a reminder that it took so many tragedies and now cultural pressure for the climbing community to wake up. You don’t get an applause for being woefully late. But you can help to make needed and significant changes.
You may be an overwhelmed black climber that has been bombarded with questions, apologies, and new asks. You may be a non-black person that’s unsure of how to proceed due to limited knowledge. If that’s you, please know that’s a sign of having immense privilege. Learning about racism is far different from experiencing it. You haven’t had to learn, but you’re reading this, which suggests that your heart is open to listening and more importantly, becoming an agent for change.
In this new time, a concern is that people believe a one-time donation will suffice. If this is where allyship begins and ends, diversity will only exist on our social media feeds. Brands will put the work of “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” on their very few employees of color and a team of women to educate them with a diversity initiative. They won’t compensate them for their emotional and mental labor. They won’t meaningfully invest in Black and brown talent beyond a new black HR person or “Chief Diversity Officer.” And that person will continue to be the only black person in executive meetings for years. We’ve already seen this playbook.
If you have not seen us, it’s not because we’re not outside. It’s because your world may be a mirror, reflecting largely only the people that you feel comfortable with and know. That’s normal. However, you have to do the work to learn about inequity and inaccessibility, understand what makes an inclusive climbing culture, and why many black people have not been comfortable in spaces where they were and still are historically not welcomed professionally, culturally, and structurally denied.
It’s no longer the time to silence Black voices. It’s time to elevate, support, and listen. You will be uncomfortable. Saying you would rather not listen because you are uncomfortable is a key reason this has taken so long. That’s not allyship. That’s how the status quo remains. You will have to do the work. You cannot transfer the responsibility to Black people who are not in key positions of power to make the changes in the climbing world. Sincerely working to understand inequity and challenging the structural racism that bars access to climbing to Black people will take actions, plural. A single donation is only the start.
Here is the resource guide and beta:
- A Resource for White Climbers by Brown Girls Climb which includes seven must-dos for white climbers.
- Ally Resource Guide is a guide to educational resources and links to support lives.
- Anti-Racism Resources a guide to podcasts, literature, and organizations.
- Literature Guide for Understanding Anti-Blackness
Black-Inclusive Climbing Books & Films
- An American Ascent—a documentary film about the first African-American expedition to tackle North America’s highest peak, Denali.
- The People of Climbing—a documentary on race and equity in the outdoor industry from the perspective of people of color attending the 2018 Color The Crag Festival.
- The Adventure Gap—a book that chronicles the first all-African American summit attempt on Denali, the highest point in North America. An adventure story, history, and argument for the importance of inspiring future generations to value nature.
- Brothers of Climbing—a short film about the creation of the Brothers of Climbing and the need for a BIPOC community.
- City to Sandstone—a campaign film helping to illuminate the privilege of climbing outside.
BLACK Voices in Climbing & Outdoors
Trailblazers who have spoken and continue to speak up:
- Abby Dione—the first Black woman to own a rock climbing gym in the United States.
- Teresa Baker—DEI advocate and founder of African American Nature and Parks Experience.
- Rue Mapp—founder of Outdoor Afro.
- Chelsea Griffie—founder of LA Wilderness training and the first black woman to summit El Capitan (2001).
- Emily Taylor—professional climbing coach and of the first black women to summit El Capitan (2003).
- Kareemah Batts—a leader in adaptive climbing and founder of the Adaptive Climbing Group.
- Sophia Danenberg—the first black woman to summit Mount Everest.
- James Edward Mills—journalist, professor, and author of The Adventure Gap.
Strong Voices & New Leaders in Climbing
(Find more about their organizations in the next section.)
- Kai Lightner—professional climber and advocate
- Grace Anderson—co-founder of PGM One
- Mikhail Martin—Brothers of Climbing founder and Color The Crag Co-founder
- Brittany Leavitt—Outdoor Afro Leader, Chief of Operations for Color the Crag, Brown Girls Climb Regional Director
- Summer Winston—educator, climber, and founder of The Brown Ascenders
- Mélise Marie—athlete and outspoken advocate
- Sasha McGhee—equity advocate and climber
- Genevive Walker—athlete and advocate
- Brandon Belcher—athlete and advocate
- Sabrina Chapman—athlete and advocate
- Laura Edmonson—Corporate Responsibility Manager for Brown Girls Climb
- Cia Blackstock—equity leader, climber, and setter
Climbing & Outdoor Creatives
- Lanisha Renee Blount—commercial climbing photographer, athlete, and strategist
- Cliford Mervil—commercial outdoor photographer
- Gina Danza—commercial outdoor photographer
- Raheim Robinson—creative producer and climber
- Josh Greenwood—filmmaker and climbing coach
- Tiffany Blount—filmmaker and gym reviewer
ORGANIZATIONS to partner with, fund, and elevate
Leading in Outdoor Equity & Inclusion for Black and Brown Voices:
- PGM One convenes leaders of color and the global majority in the environmental and outdoor movement to share, learn, collaborate, heal, celebrate, build community, find support, and sharpen their analysis of racial equity in their fields. Consider donating and funding. They also have a Black Joy Fund that needs continued support.
- Brown Girls Climb is a national climbing organization with local chapters across the US that champions the advancement for women of color (WOC) in rock climbing and education, and provides community events and WOC-designed apparel.
- Brown Girls Climbing, led by Emily Taylor, is the first all-girls BIPOC climbing team and adventure leadership program. They are in need of a van!
- Color the Crag is an annual climbing festival for climbers of color.
- Outdoor CEO Pledge highlights organizations that have pledged to support and fight for equity. Support these brands with your buying power. Ask what they’re doing as allies and ask the brands not listed why.
- Memphis Rox is a non-profit climbing gym where no one is turned away based on their ability to pay. The gym elevates and creates space for BIPOC climbers.
BIPOC Climbing Groups that need continued support:
- The Brown Ascenders in the Bay Area
- Brothers of Climbing in NYC and Philly
- Melanin Climbers of Colorado
- Sending in Color in Chicago
- Collective Liberation Climbing in New Orleans
- Climbers of Color in Western Washington
- Freedom Climbers in South Africa
- Climbing Life Kenya
- Black Girls Boulder
Publications and Blogs:
- Melanin Base Camp is an outdoor diversity blog and. Instagram account that regularly features black and brown climbers.
- Lonely Together Zine is collective of climbers using narrative & art to explore their relationship to climbing as [qt]BIPOC.
Important note: If this resource guide helped you, please consider donating to one of the many organizations listed.