“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”
—Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing
As a new Canadian, I want to acknowledge that I reside on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. I am honored to be living and creating on these beautiful lands.
I started this piece quoting Ghanaian-American writer Yaa Gyasi from her debut novel Homegoing. When I first read this quote four years ago, I didn’t realize that her words would accompany me on a path of self-discovery and activism for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) in the outdoors.
My name is Judith Kasiama, and I am the founder of Colour the Trails, based in Vancouver. My work entails creating safe space for Black Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) to recreate in the outdoors by organizing events and advocating for more diversity and inclusion through better representation in media and storytelling.
When we hear the terms “diversity” and “inclusion,” our first instinct is to look at race. We forget about the intersections of identity that shapes how we view the world and, in return, how the world views us. While race plays a huge role when it comes to barriers, accessibility, lack of representation, and policies that impact how certain demographics take part in certain spaces, we must not overlook the intersectionality of one’s identity. Intersectionality was coined by Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, law professor at Columbia Law School, as a means of describing how race, gender, class, along with individual lived attributes “intersect.”
This year has been deemed as unprecedented. Not only are we in the midst of a global pandemic; we are also witnessing one of the greatest racial awakenings that is bringing forth the issues of race and racism. I feel a little hopeful to see the outdoor community beginning to have conversations around race, access, and acknowledgement of the land we all recreate on. The intersectionality of these various lived experiences at the forefront of the civil right unrest, not just in the United States, but also here in Canada, has helped to raise awareness of the amazing Canadians who are breaking barriers and challenging our perspectives regarding who experiences outdoors.
For the next year, I am honored to be partnering with Canadian Geographic on a series called Colour the Trails that aims to share stories and experiences of Canadians whose love for the outdoors has led them to questioning the traditional narrative of who can ski, who can hike, and who can bike. Through their stories of courage, strength and determination, we hope to bring to light issues of race, but also ageism, LGBTQ2+ rights, Indigenous voices, and other perspectives to garner much needed attention and recognition, so that we can begin to ask the most important question: “Whose story am I missing?” As we go through this journey together, my hope is that, as Canadians, we can get a clearer, more impactful picture of who history chooses to remember and how to create space and celebrate the diversity of human experience in the outdoors.
Together, I hope we can begin listening, sharing and diversifying the content and stories we read.