Exploring Black Joy in the Outdoors: A Reflection for Black History Month

As we delve into Black History Month, it’s important to acknowledge that our journey toward inclusivity, diversity, and equity is ongoing and evolving. At Lakefield College School, we are committed to fostering an environment where every individual feels a sense of belonging, reflective of their unique identities and experiences. Through this process we acknowledge the work it requires of each of us as individuals to a continuous process of learning, growth, and reflection.

Throughout the month, our students will explore the history and legacies of black Canadians in their classrooms, in their Houses, and in Chapel. 

This week, we heard from one of our Associate Faculty members, Alecia Golding, who shared her journey and reflections on Black History Month, particularly within her role in the outdoor education industry. Through her address, Alecia invited us to explore the intersection of race, identity, and the transformative power of nature.
    

Read Alecia’s talk:

My relationship with Black History Month has always been a complicated one. I often end up dreading this month for the extra attention it causes on something that I haven’t had much pride in but my journey through healing that has come directly from the outdoors.  Now I believe I come across as someone who knows their stuff about OE and I love when I get called a ‘granola god’ but my commitment to the outdoors is something new to me.

The year 2020, is the year George Floyd died, social media feeds filled with the video of him dying, people posting their support in weird performative ways… being online was hard and being at home was hard too. It seemed my only escape from everything was just to be outside. Before July 2020, I had never camped before, I remember I booked my campsite at Bon Echo Park and then I went to Wild Rock Outfitters to ask about 100 questions about camping because I didn’t know if car camping meant it was mandatory for me to sleep in my car or not. When I walked in, a black man was working there…some of you here may know him, his name is Milton. Milton was the first person of colour I saw doing this ‘outdoorsy’ thing. Milton, I think, did his best to help me but could tell I was super lost. He gave me his email and said if I have any more questions I shouldn’t hesitate to reach out. 

My first camping trip was a disaster. All I had was a -40 sleeping bag in 30-degree weather, three packs of ramen noodles and I downloaded Little Woman on my phone. I got to the campsite and was too anxious to leave my car so I got in my sleeping bag and am still convinced that I fell asleep due to heat exhaustion. When I woke up the next morning, I made my oatmeal and drove home immediately. While I was driving out, I had this heavy feeling in my chest, a feeling that was not caused by the hot sweat sleep I just had but instead a deep feeling of anxiety that I was the only black person that I saw at the park that day.

This feeling did not leave me…when I enrolled in my outdoor education school program, I was the only person of colour, when I went hiking I was the only black person, all my instructors were white. I was an outlier in this space.

I believe the outdoors is for everybody. It is the one thing we can all be accountable for and when we show that accountability, it benefits everyone. I also believe that joy is one of the few things we are entitled to in life. For me, all of the joy I have shared has been through the outdoors. Words and photos cannot describe the bliss I have experienced through the outdoors. It has connected me to the community, nature makes me practice humility, it allows me to be silly and it allows me to heal. This joy is something I hope everyone can experience. 

So when I think about Black History Month this year, I want it to tie into Lakefield College School, a place that prioritizes joy and the outdoors. The goal this year is to reframe the way we look at history. History is a living and breathing thing, when we talk about Black people the narrative does not need to center around pain, struggle, protest and fight. This Black History Month, we will explore the stories of Black Joy in the outdoors.

Thank you, Alecia.

We are grateful to Alecia for sharing this perspective and encouraging our entire school community to consider Black History Month from various perspectives.

This month, we will carry forward the spirit of inclusivity, understanding, and celebration that permeates our community. Let us continue to listen to diverse voices, uplift untold stories, and strive for more equitable experiences in our community and beyond.