Like many other “whites only” spaces carved into our history, camping was among the long list of activities that Blacks were not welcomed to take part in. Folks over at Black Folks Camp Too call it a generational fear that they’ve now set out to break.
“In the South those same woods that folks were camping in, Black folks were getting lynched in,” Earl Hunter, founder of Black Folks Camp Too, said to Atlanta Black Star.
The National Park Service website indicates whites make up 90 percent of visitors to public lands, while Blacks only account for 1 percent.
“I started the company because I saw a disparity of Black folks in the industry and in the lifestyle,” explained Hunter, who says his North Carolina-based company has now taken some 2,000 black folks into the woods for their first camping trip since he founded it last October. “You’re missing something amazing.”
Today the outdoor recreation economy generates more than $880 billion dollars in consumer spending, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Hunter, whose background in the industry came as a vice president of sales for camping trailer maker SylvanSport, could see the opportunities available in marketing outdoors recreation to the untapped African-American market.
Black Folks Camp Too staffer Steve Reinhold told Atlanta Black Star the company’s approach can be summed up in just a few words. “Three words to explain Black Folks Camp to me is; empowering — we’re out here educating people, removing the learning curve — fresh [and] innovative.”
One man who responded to BFCT’s message camped in an RV in the Carolina mountains with Earl Hunter and his team.
“My name is Joel Noel, and this is my first time camping. What I learned is, you do your own camp experience,” Noel explained to Atlanta Black Star. “There are different ways to approach it.”
States like Oregon are creating initiatives that now allow people of color onto campsites for free. Washington and California are also among the states willing to include diversity into the great outdoors conversation.
But African-Americans who are just getting into camping can start small. Just buying a tent, putting it together with family, and spending the night in the backyard is enough to get a flavor of the outdoor experience. As Noel learned, there is no wrong way to camp, but BFCT urges Blacks to explore their cities and what the great outdoors has to offer.