Pomona College’s Outdoor Education Center hosted a film screening and discussion on Friday, Sept. 23 to create a dialogue around racial representation in the outdoors.
Titled “Race and the Outdoors,” the event took place in Edmunds Ballroom and featured the film “An American Ascent.”
The documentary details the journey of the first team of African American climbers to attempt to reach the summit of Denali in 2013. By following their journey on the mountain, the film explores the complexities of African American representation in the outdoors.
The film was followed by a discussion with Grace Anderson, who was a coordinator at the National Outdoor Leadership School for Expedition Denali, a project that is encouraging young people of color to become more engaged in outdoor activities.
“I think a big barrier for people of color is feeling welcome and celebrated in that space outside. I think the outdoor community has been thinking about the message of this film a lot and the result is there being more conversations about it,” Anderson said at the event.
“But I think we have so far to go that it feels like a drop in the bucket,” she said. “But, I got to see the look on kids’ faces when they saw someone who looked like them and related to them in the film. So I think we have another generation coming if we keep exposing people to this story.”
Anderson now serves as the Inspiring Connections Representative with the Sierra Club, where she works to make the outdoors a more diverse place by coordinating volunteer-led programs that connect marginalized communities to the outdoors.
“It was really important for us to do this right now because it’s the days following a time when a lot of African Americans have been killed at the hands of police officers, so we really just wanted to make a space for people to acknowledge the role of the outdoors in being able to create a safe space for people of color,” said Ellis Simani CM ’16, the student coordinator for the OEC.
“For me, it’s not often that we see people of color, especially African Americans, who are out doing things in nature, who are able to express themselves in a way that is seen as acceptable and has value,” Simani added.