Businesses look to make the outdoors more inclusive for all

Meet the founder of ‘Black People Who Hike’ and co-founder of Wheelzup Adventures

It’s Black History Month, and with it, it is important to recognize two businesses that are working hard to make the outdoors more inclusive.

FOX Weather multimedia journalist Mitti Hicks spoke with the founder of "Black People Who Hike." The organization is working to "reengage people of color with the outdoors," Hicks said.

Debbie Njai was motivated to start an organization when friends dismissed the idea of people of color spending more time outside. 

"There was just a lot of pushback from people in my community that looked like me. Friends I would try to invite out, and it was just brushed off like, ’Hey, this is like a white activity to do,’" Njai said. 

Fast forward two years, and her organization now sees a vast following. 

"So, what started as just me two years ago going on my first hike has now blossomed into this beautiful movement, this global movement of Black people in the outdoors," Njai said.

Njai discussed the health benefits of hiking and described the outdoor activity as a sense of therapy. 

"When I would go hiking, I would walk away with something new that I learned about myself, like to be able to just again hear silence and be able to hear yourself think it’s very, very healing and very good for your mental health," Njai said.

FOX Weather’s Mitti Hicks also heard from the co-founder of Wheelzup Adventures, Mandela Echefu. 

Echefu is making history as the first Black-owned gear shop in the state of Maryland and only the third nationwide.

Research done by the state of North Carolina indicates that Black Americans are less likely to go outdoors because they are three times more likely to live in locations with no immediate access to nature. 

Another reason people of color may be absent from the outdoors is comfortability.

"Black Americans weren’t allowed to visit national parks until the 1950s," Hicks said. 

Echefu touched on past segregation and expressed optimism for the future.

"Being outside has not historically been a safe place for Black people, you know, so these are some of the things that we have to do, or we are doing, or we make a priority to make Black people know that there’s potential."

The Wheelzup Adventures co-founder encouraged people to persuade others to enjoy nature.

"Make a personal commitment to take other people who do not look like us. Let us take them outdoors, and I think we make much more progress," Echefu said.