Floating along a wide river in Brant, Ontario, bright blue rafts can be seen interrupting a mirror-like expanse of water. On one of these rafts is a group of diverse individuals, many of whom are rafting for the first time and also disrupting the flow in their own way.
Color the Trails is a collective of BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ adventure seekers aiming to amplify the stories and voices of Black, Indigenous and people of color, challenging the lack of inclusion and representation in the outdoor world. Rooted in social justice, Color the Trails began as a form of recovery – a way for the underrepresented to take space in the outdoors and welcome those historically excluded from these fields.
Started in British Columbia by Judith Kasiama of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a chapter has also recently opened in southern Ontario, a province where outdoor activities may not come as quickly spirit. Led by Priya Moraes, who grew up in Brampton, this group challenges the way people perceive and interact with the outdoors in more than one way.
“People say hiking is just hiking and canoeing is just canoeing. But when everyone in that space is white, the dominant culture is white,” Ms. Moraes said, noting how this can create barriers for those who come from diverse backgrounds, where their food or prayer times are not. necessarily adapted or welcomed. “For me, I would rather just create spaces for ourselves to begin with. … It’s by the BIPOC community, for the BIPOC community. And we no longer have to mold ourselves into what whiteness expects of us. We can see ourselves in this space.
A 2021 Nature Canada study on race and nature found that lower rates of participation of racialized groups in nature in Canada and the United States could be attributed to a number of complex barriers ranging from socio -economic to the psychological discomfort of being in spaces seen as hostile or unwelcoming. In such cases, children of migrants may not have the resources or opportunities to engage in as many outdoor activities as they grow up, which perpetuates this pattern across generations and into adulthood.
Melissa Nadarajah, one of the trip participants, also encountered these initial hurdles on her own journey into the outdoors. Describing how the extent of her involvement in outdoor activities when she was younger was limited to after-school sports programs, she only began to explore much of the outdoors with her family as she got older. And even then, there were spaces that she felt she couldn’t access without pre-existing knowledge due to this late start, such as water activities where swimming was required.
Reflecting on what the growing community meant to her, Ms Nadarajah described taking part in the summer activity as ‘a feeling of comfort’, as she spent the next day recovering from the physical demands of a rafting trip. eight kilometers. “It’s heartwarming to find a group of people who look like me, come from a similar background and are trying something for the first time.”
“A lot of people just need that first step, for someone to say ‘you’re welcome and there’s more people like you,'” Ms Moraes said.
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