A Gala Sendoff, and an Important Reminder that Nature Heals

by Ayodele Abdul-Hadi, OAK Advisor

Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp (left) poses with Ayodele Abdul-Hadi at the 2022 Glamp Out gala.
Credit: Ayodele Abdul-Hadi

Right on the waterfront, with a serene view of the sunset and San Francisco city skyline, I was part of a group of about 200 people attending the first in-person Outdoor Afro annual Glamp Out since the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020.

The evening was a beautiful celebration of Black joy, collective healing and the great outdoors.

I was fortunate enough to attend the event along with a few other staff members from Sierra Club chapters across the U.S., including Vedia Barnett, senior campaign representative with Military Outdoors, and Alexis Schwartz, the Colorado chapter’s conservation organizer. It was so wonderful to meet in person after months of being on weekly Outdoors for All team calls. 

Pastor Betty Clark opened the event with a beautiful blessing and reminder that “nature heals and nourishes the community,” setting the tone for the rest of the evening.

We enjoyed a powerful performance from Youth Speaks poet and author Ashia Ajani and a lively dance from Oakland dance troupe TURFinc. Then we heard from the founder herself, Rue Mapp. She began her speech by acknowledging that Outdoor Afro was created to provide a space for Black joy to flourish in nature and that this evening was a celebration of that. Especially during the past few years, Outdoor Afro served as a healing and refuge for many people in the Black community.

Her speech was powerful, and a few of her words stood out to me. She said towards the end of her speech that, despite all the uncertainty that COVID-19 brought, “nature never closes,” which was an important reminder of the healing that the great outdoors provided folks when many of our other places of healing were closed. She ended her speech by saying, “Space is power and we all deserve to take up space in nature.” 

It was also a fitting end to my time interning for the Sierra Club. Her words particularly resonated with me because the mission of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (OAK) is geared towards access to nature and green spaces outdoors.

In my time as the OAK intern, I gained a deeper understanding of the federal policy process on a variety of important campaigns including Transit to Trails, Outdoors for All, and Every Kid Outdoors. I was also able to develop meaningful relationships across OAK membership with various organizations including The Wilderness Society and Sierra Club’s Military Outdoors. I also learned more extensively about the nationwide ecosystem of nonprofits working to improve outdoor access to nature. 

I am so grateful to have been a part of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, and as I work toward a future career in environmental law, the Sierra Club will always hold a special place in my heart.