Juneteenth and Public Lands
When one hikes for many months there is plenty of time to think and reflect. When hiking in to Ephraim Utah I learned about a new national holiday. Juneteenth, this day celebrates the emancipation proclamation, and how two years later black Americans in Texas learned that they were free and no longer slaves. It took over two years for this news to reach Texas, to learn that they had their freedom. The question I have is why did I never learn about this until three years ago, when Texas began celebrating it in 1980 as a state holiday. It is probably because I am white and did not take time to learn or was not provided the opportunity to learn about equality issues black Americans face up to this day. I have never had a close black friend and my activity of choice “outdoor recreation / hiking / mountaineering” to me appears to have participation mainly from “well to do caucasians”. Yes I am not everywhere at once, but through years of hiking I rarely see black people hiking and enjoying the mountains.
While walking one experiences a natural freedom. I am free to move, stop, listen, choose, and think. Today I choose thought, and I choose to share it with you. At dinner last night, I was talking with local man who worked 80 hours a week drilling for water. I told him I am a golden rule person. I like to treat people how I like to be treated. Here I am having the easy life just walking and looking at natural beauty. What I am doing is amazing to me and I am grateful to be able to share this with you. I do believe that equality issues are still present today for black Americans, people, humans like me who appreciate nature. The question I am asking myself is how can I create an equal access environment for black American nature lovers?
If we all did the same thing it would be a crowded world, so not everybody wants to go to the mountains get dusty and dirty and make their muscles sore by climbing the highest peak. I feel there are people out there who do you want to do this who do not have the access I have been offered my entire life. I feel this is an an equality issue. Economic equality pays a huge part in this. Every time they raise national park entrance fees it makes me think how does the single mom afford to take the day off, to fill a car full of gas, to drive to the national park, to pay a very high entrance fee allow young children an experience that was and is common for me throughout my life. Access to our public lands I do not feel is equal or has obstacles that prevents many black Americans from using the public lands they own that they were given freedom to enjoy.
As I write I see no singular answer comes to mind that could solve what I see as an access issue to our cherished public lands. My college motto is “Acta-non-verba”, actions not words. I can choose to take action because I have been thinking about how I do not see black Americans hiking for years now. It is not because nature lovers do not exist within this demographic, but I really think it’s because we still have systemic equality issues with in the United States.
It warms my soul that the Juneteenth holiday was created because it keeps equality issues in our collective minds and in our conversations. Properly chosen words can lead to golden rule like actions and create a better world for black Americans.
When I return to Washington State I will get involved in fostering access to our public lands we all own. Since I feel I have been isolated from the black community in Bremerton if you know people who would like to be taken for a day in the mountains for an awesome hike through our beautiful woods the please feel free to share this information with me and them so we can help our entire community enjoy many beautiful days in the woods to come.
My last section on the Four Corners Loop was roughly 125 miles from Capitol Reef National Park to Ephraim Utah. This was the hardest section I’ve had so far mainly due to the heat. I did reach the high country of 10,000 and 11,000 foot mountains which helped out with the heat but it was still 85° up at 10,000 feet as I walked through an epic heat wave. My body needed a good rest which I am getting and I’m looking forward to getting back on Trail on Monday.
6/20/2021 04:49:25 pm
Thanks for your thoughts, Kevin. I, too, am a privileged white person and share your concern about access to our public lands. I led a Mountaineers hike today to Lower Lena Lake, which is--and was today--very popular, so we say lots of people. I was happy to see that there were a number of people of color.
Leave a Reply.