Disclosure: Some posts on this blog may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I received an advance copy of this new outdoor book to review and share my honest feedback. The following is my honest review of “Nature Swagger.”
Growing up, I spent countless hours exploring my family’s Western New York woods and fields. I fell in love with trees, the creek, and animals from toads to deer who called it home. Today, I hold the outdoors close to my heart and attribute much of my love and respect of the outdoors to my childhood experiences.
Rue Mapp grew up visiting her family ranch in Lake County, California. She explored the 14 acres by foot and bike. She also and fished and hunted. Like me, Mapp fell in love with the outdoors.
As an adult, Mapp’s hiking trail led her on a career path to inspire, educate, and connect Blacks with the outdoors through recreation and conservation. In 2009, she founded Outdoor Afro as a blog. Today, she’s the CEO and built it into a not-for-profit organization celebrating and inspiring Black connections and leadership in nature.
She started Outdoor Afro because she didn’t see Black outdoor enthusiasts like her on the trail or represented in the outdoor industry. The not-for-profit offers programs in 60 cities with participation reaching 60,000 people.
Nature Swagger Essays and Photos are a Feast for the Eyes and Soul
Rue Mapp’s new outdoor book is Nature Swagger: Stories and Visions of Black Joy in the Outdoors. Released on Nov. 1, by Chronicle Books, this inspirational book is a feast for the eyes and soul. Importantly, it amplifies voices of those who often aren’t represented in the outdoor world.
Dozens of Black contributors, from ages 9 to 99 years old, share their heartwarming and uplifting stories of connecting with the outdoors with activities like hiking, fishing, and birding. Beautiful photos complement the stories and will certainly motivate and empower readers to embark on their own adventures.
Throughout the collection, Mapp contributes essays on the history of Blacks in the outdoors as well as activism and conservation. Rounding out the book are resources for those looking to commune with Mother Nature.
What Can Outdoor Media Organizations Do to Amplify Blacks in the Outdoors?
I’ve been involved in outdoor media for more than two decades and appreciate reading the various voices and perspectives in Nature Swagger. As the former president of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, something I struggled with was how to amplify and support Black voices in the outdoors. When I brought this question to the board, “we welcome everyone,” was the response.
The coronavirus pandemic swooped in and my priority of diversifying the organization fizzled. My term as president ended last year but it’s still top of mind on how I and other outdoor organizations can support Black voices.
I posed this question to Rue Mapp who responded:
“Continue to support the work of Outdoor Afro and others like it. Find ways that are personal to you to bring forth a vision of a world connected to nature that we all want to see. Share our network with your friends and family to encourage them to get outside. Anyone can follow us at outdoorafro.org and social @outdoorafro or make a donation here.”
Nature Swagger Shifts the Narrative
For more than a decade Rue Mapp built Outdoor Afro from a blog to a thriving and influential community. Nature Swagger is an important and needed book for the 21st century because it shifts the traditional narrative on who enjoys the outdoors by offering a slice of who is actually enjoying the outdoors. Nature Swagger will be enjoyed and appreciated by all who love nature. This collection is a wonderful gift to share with someone and spark inspiration for their own outdoor adventures.
Mapp has hiked with Oprah Winfrey and Venus Williams and it will be an honor to hit the trail with her someday.