Social media website connects African Americans with the outdoors

Posted July 26, 2011, at 11:17 a.m.

PALM DESERT, Calif. — Rue Mapp, founder of OutdoorAfro.com, has been invited to White House to help shape the Obama administration’s Great Outdoors and Let’s Move campaigns.

She is working with the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, which hopes her upcoming camping trips will inspire African American families to enjoy the Great Outdoors in greater numbers

through her website Mapp is exploring how to encourage more African Americans to hike, ski and go camping and helplfully illustrate how involvement in outdoor activities can enhance the lives of African Americans.

According to a press release, OutdoorAfro.com is filled with stories, photos, event listings and other resources that educate, motivate and inspire African Americans in the Bay Area and across the country to enjoy the Great Outdoors with their families, friends and with others they meet in this online community.

Online readers will find photos, videos and blog postings of African Africans who enjoy bicycling, hiking, camping, birdwatching and outdoor photography as well as skiing, rock climbing, whitewater rafting and scuba diving.

Other features include discussion groups, blog postings and event calendar and to help connect African Americans across the country who are eager to interact in nature with other African Americans.

In addition to hiking and biking enthusiasts, website readers will be able to exchange healthy recipes with one another and share photos, videos and descriptions of their trips to scenic destinations as diverse as Belize and Denali National Park in Alaska.

“We’re like a platform where people can be visible to each other,” Mapp said.

Since it was founded two years ago, more than 7,000 African Americans have become active members of OutdoorAfro.com, and the numbers are growing. All of them are passionate about the outdoors and are eager to find other African Americans to enjoy activities with, Mapp said in the press release.

Mapp grew up in Oakland, but spent weekends with her foster parents on a ranch in Northern California where she cultivated a passion for natural spaces, farming and learned how to hunt and fish. In her youth, Mapp was involved in Girl Scouts and Outward Bound, which broadened her outdoor experiences in camping, mountaineering, rock climbing and road bicycling. But while she always enjoyed these endeavors, she seldom saw other African Americans participating in these kinds of activities, a cultural phenomenon that has troubled her to this day. “I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me,” she said.

That was what prompted her to develop her website, she said. By serving as a social networking site for African Americans with an interest in the outdoors, OutdoorAfro.com can move and inspire people to get involved.

“It’s imperative, not merely for the sake of enjoying the beauty of nature, but for our own health,” Mapp said. “Right now, we’re facing 30 percent obesity among African American youth. In Oakland, it’s closer to 50 percent. So we’re looking now at a generation with lower life expectancy than their parents because they’re starting off on the wrong foot.”

“In my lifetime,” she said, “I’d like to see African Americans enjoying the outdoors freely without inhibition and without spectacle and to be able to do so in a way where it’s no big deal to see African Americans involved in recreational activities outdoors.”

Mapp’s efforts are already starting to generate attention – both in government and in the business community. Last year, President Obama invited Mapp to participate in the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors. She was subsequently invited to participate in a White House brainstorming session for Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, offering her ideas and insights on ways to engage Americans to become more involved in outdoor recreation activities.

For more information on OutdoorAfro.com and on Mapp’s upcoming camping trips, please contact Rue Mapp at (510) 913-6100 or email her at rue@outdoorafro.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/07/26/outdoors/social-media-website-connects-african-americans-with-the-outdoors/ printed on December 28, 2014