Building Community by Taking it Outside

Maricela Rosales
|June 17, 2021

Join us tomorrow on Friday, June 18 for a special discussion with five Black leaders to celebrate Juneteenth (annually on June 19). Rakayla Simpson (BLU Educational Foundation), Jordan Brown (Black Voice News), Marla A. Matime (Black Voice News), Stefanie Dunning (Author of "Black to Nature: Pastoral Return and African American Culture"), and Timothy TEACH Jones (Hidden Hikes) will share a conversation on the theme: “Taking it Outside: Reclaiming Our Space - Restoring Our Place.”

Event Details:

For those who are less familiar with the significance of Juneteenth, the event commemorates June 19, 1865, when the last enslaved people in the United States were freed in Galveston, Texas. On Tuesday of this week the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution to establish June 19 as the Juneteenth National Independence Day and the House voted overwhelmingly in support on Wednesday. President Biden is expected to sign the bill into law.

As I learn more about the Black experience in America, I see the recognition of Juneteenth as a way to acknowledge our country’s history and support Black liberation. To this day, Black people continue to fight for equality, safety, voting rights, and the ability to safely experience the outdoors. If we are going to achieve the true vision of America, white supremacy can no longer be the status quo.

At the Conservation Lands Foundation, our responsibility is to do better by deepening our commitment to equity internally and externally, and to work to ensure public lands are accessible and welcoming to everyone. We're on a journey and we will continue to show up and do the work.

I recently sat down with one of the event panelists, Rakayla Simpson–the BLU Educational Foundation’s Public Policy & Advocacy Fellow–to discuss her favorite places to spend time outdoors and what she’s looking forward to about tomorrow’s event. The BLU Educational Foundation works in California’s Inland Empire to advocate for protecting our public lands, particularly with Black communities. BLU also educates community members about the benefits of spending time outdoors and brings people into nature so that locals can build connections with their public lands.

Rakayla Simpson, Public Policy & Advocacy Fellow, BLU Educational Foundation

Maricela: Which public lands around the Inland Empire are most special to you and why?

Rakayla: If I had to narrow it down to one, the most special public land to me in the Inland Empire is the San Bernardino National Forest Lytle Creek. Since I was a kid, my parents have taken my siblings and me to the waterfall to enjoy the outdoors and spend quality time with one another. I have vivid memories of playing games, eating great food, and overall having a great time with family there. Now in my adulthood I have been able to share this similar experience with youth and community members of the Inland Empire through the BLU Educational Foundation's Let's Take It Outside Initiative and help them further appreciate its scenery through hiking and building comradery among the community.

Maricela: What about the "Taking it Outside" event are you most looking forward to?

Rakayla: What I look forward to the most about the Juneteenth event is being able to lift up the greatness that is associated with being outside. And to discuss how we as Inland Empire residents can take steps to interact with the public lands around us and continue to bring awareness and advocacy to protect our outdoor spaces.

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About Maricela Rosales
Maricela is from Southern California and CLF's California Associate Program Director