When was the last time you camped? Maybe you slept next to a river and fell asleep listening to the water while looking at the stars. Or maybe you were deep in the woods, watching the moon rise over the tree tops. The outdoors couldn’t be a more healing and relaxing place to escape to and recharge right now.
Mo Jackson, of Olympia, Wa is working hard to give Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) more access to these healing and relaxing experiences. Mo grew up camping and hiking with their dad and noticed early on that their family was the only Black family at the campground or trail. “I was trying to think of what I could do on a very small level in order to change that, and one of the biggest barriers to getting people out is the gear because it’s really expensive. What got me interested in this, a few years ago, was there was a study, a paper that came out, called ‘People of Color and Their Constraints To National Park Visits.’ The biggest barrier was transportation and access to gear.“
So they started the BIPOC Camp Kits, where any Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) can request a free kit, no questions asked. Mo started this effort just last month by using their own money to purchase a few REI camping bundles and with the help of their friend, Hayley, were able to deliver the camping kits to three people. Wanting to reach more people, they started a GoFundMe campaign to buy more camp bundles. Meanwhile, word got out to the BIPOC community via Instagram and word of mouth. Soon there were over 600 requests and the GoFundMe raised $9,000 in two days and $46,000 after just two weeks.
As the kit requests came flooding in, two more friends, Griffin and B, joined the team. All of them currently donate their time and ideas to BIPOC Camping Kits, which is not a formal non-profit, or even a formal organization—just a group of four trying to make a difference in the community. All while working full-time, taking classes, raising a newborn, and getting settled in a new city during a global pandemic.
BIPOC Camping Kits recently put a hold on new requests so they could focus on fulfilling their existing requests. On July 22nd they announced a partnership with Next Adventure, a small new and used gear store in Portland, OR, to supply and ship the kits. The first 200 camping kits cost $30,440 and the team is looking to raise $74,560 more to purchase and send 400 more kits. They are currently about half way to their goal of $105,000 to fulfill the first round of requests.
Those of us who camp, we are privileged to do so. We are privileged to be able to load the car, disconnect, and escape for a few days. Shouldn’t everyone have access to the benefits of the outdoors, sleeping under the stars, and feeling connected to the earth? So how can we support these experiences for Black and Indigenous People of Color?