Nature Connection as Resistance
The idea of wilderness is socially constructed, and like many social constructs it targets marginalized communities. The BIPOC Forest immersion is intended for Black, Indigenous, & People of color- as we are the people who hold a complex relationship to wild spaces.
As Black people, our ancestors’ journey to freedom from the South was a dangerous one, and only made possible by traveling in undeveloped wild areas. In order to remain undetected by slave patrols and their dogs, freedom seekers used the landscape. Our fierce ancestor Harriet Tubman- who freed over 300 enslaved people from the south along the underground railroad- did so by utilizing the undeveloped wilderness and tapping into the wisdom of bird language. Maroon camps formed on the outskirts of slave colonies and in remote hard-to-reach wilderness areas as a place for temporary or semi-permanent refuge for freedom seekers. Escaping to these camps was known as marronage. As we still see today, there is a clear connection for Black people between wilderness and freedom and a complex duality between this freedom and fear for our lives.
As Black people in the South gained their freedom they found themselves in danger of violence and harm among rural southern communities. This in part led to the Black migration of 1916, where six million African Americans moved from the rural south to urban centers in the North. Within these cities through redlining and intentional city planning, Black people and people of color were placed in areas that lacked adequate and healthy green space and were often located nearby toxic waste sites.
For Indigenous people, the concept of pristine wilderness and the subsequent wilderness preservation act was a way to validate displacement of Indigenous communities from their native lands. The practice of colonization in North America was largely based on the ideology that the wilderness; the undeveloped landscape; was a place for man to recreate himself and the new world. In order to achieve the pristine & self- transformative wilderness deemed a gift from god, man needed to create a blank canvas void of any previous human inhabitants. Yet he built roads, gift shops, and lodges in their place.