‘Harriet Tubman was a wilderness leader,” says Rue Mapp. “She traversed the wilds without a GPS.”
Tubman, an abolitionist and spy for the Union Army, is a role model for Mapp, the founder of Outdoor Afro and one of the headliners at this year’s Geography of Hope (GOH) Conference, running
March 17–18 in Point Reyes Station. The theme is “Finding Resilience in Nature in Perilous Times.”
If that sounds familiar, it should. North Bay survivors of last fall’s fires have been talking about nature and resilience for months. Still, the conference promises to deliver new insights and strategies.
In 2016, just as the Black Lives Matter movement spread across the country, Mapp put her fledgling organization on the map when she launched a series of outdoor events called “Healing Hikes” that resonated widely.
“The hikes came along in tandem with Black Lives Matter,” says Mapp. “Synchronicity was at work.We need to lay our burdens down by the riverside. Streets are a hard landscape to find release from trauma.”
The hikes have swelled the ranks of Outdoor Afro, which started as Mapp’s own personal blog. Now the organization has members in 30 states with a hundred leaders who guide inner city residents through forests and meadows where they breathe clean air, identify medicinal plants and appreciate natural beauty.
In spite of the group’s name, Mapp says, all races are welcome.
Mapp aims to strengthen communities and make up for lost time. A rare opportunity slipped through the cracks of history in 1964, says Mapp, when the wilderness cause and the Civil Rights cause might have been linked and weren’t.
That year witnessed the passage of the Wilderness Act and the
Civil Rights Act, both of which President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law. In the half-decade that followed, African Americans moved toward “Black is beautiful” and black liberation, while whites moved toward Earth Day.
“Unfortunately, we now have two siloed movements,” says Mapp. “One is for people, and the other is for land.”
At the GOH conference, Mapp and fellow presenters will suggest ways to fuse them.
The event is made to order for local environmentalists, community activists and citizens who crave a brave new vision of the world. Mapp will be joined at GOH by Peter Forbes, the founder of the Center for Whole Communities, and by Caleen Sisk, the Tribal Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe based in Northern California.
The event includes vocal improvisation led by David Worm, a founding member of Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra. The conference wraps up with an outdoor restoration project with Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees.
For more information go to gohconference.org