Communities of Color Seek Healing in Nature

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Over the last year and a half more Black, Indigenous, and people of color are finding community and healing in Twin Cities parks.

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Feven Gerezgiher reports:

Over the last year and a half more Black, Indigenous, and people of color are finding community and healing in Twin Cities parks.

Maria Fernandez moved from Venezuela with her family five months ago. She now goes on weekly hikes with Huellas Latinas Hiking Club.

“I feel great! I feel this group is an amazing group,” she said, adding that she appreciates the space to meet new people.

Luisana Mendez says she started the hiking club during the pandemic to share the peace and inspiration she finds being outdoors.

“I want more of my Latino community to come and enjoy each park in Minnesota and not just hiking,” she said. “You can enjoy biking, or running, or paddle boating or kayaking or whatever you like. But go enjoy the park because every space is for us - it’s for everybody who lives in this beautiful state.”

Mendez says she thinks it’s a barrier for many Latinos that most of the information about outdoor activities is in English.

In June 2020, an outdoors educator formed a Facebook group to get BIPOC outdoors; it now has over 1,200 members.

Chaya Harris is program director for Outdoor Afro, which has chapters across the country, including in Minnesota. She says in the aftermath of several high profile police killings, the organization has seen more people seeking nature to process traumatic experiences.

“We turn to nature as a source of healing, as a source where we can just get outside, unwind, decompress,” she said. “We like to say that we can lay our burdens down by the water side.”

Harris says Outdoor Afro leaders are trained in creating accessible programming to help people feel safe and supported as they explore Minnesota’s green spaces.

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