The Price of Privilege

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Just barely recovered from the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City I’m heading back in to field with the National Outdoor Leadership School. As part of training for Expedition Denali in 2013 our team of African-American climbers is getting another opportunity to build skills and camaraderie while traversing the glaciers of Mt. Baker in the state of Washington. The Pacific Northwest is a beautiful part of the country. And as we prepare to embark upon another great adventure I can’t help but recognize how lucky we are. Like many of us who enjoy the outdoors we are people of privilege.
But unlike those blessed with vast financial wealth or those born to inherit a great fortune our privilege is a right of citizenship. In our great nation where tracts of land have been set aside for recreation and the enjoyment of all we can venture into the wilds of nature to test the limits of our abilities and plumb the depths of our spirit. It’s our purpose through Expedition Denali to demonstrate that no matter your race, ethnicity or economic background anyone can experience the wonders of the outdoors and work toward its long-term preservation.
Certainly the monetary cost of equipment and travel can be prohibitive. Though many of my own expenses have been subsidized by my sponsors this and other ventures throughout the year have come at great sacrifice to my home and family. I am grateful for a truly understanding wife and partner in Shamane. I can only do what I do with her love and support. The price of my privilege is to honor the commitment we’ve made and share this experience with those who might one day aspire to be where we are now. Our hope is that more people of color assume leadership roles in outdoor recreation and environmental conservation. With any luck a new generation of young people may look outside for a career.
As we make our way through our expedition to Denali it’s clear that each of us is part of a broad community of those who wish us success and those we aim to inspire. We climb together not as a group of individuals but as a team of millions cross the country and around the globe.
Our plan is to reach the summit of Mount Baker over the next 5 days. But as just we hope to achieve Denali next year neither is in fact our goal. Our success will be measured not by the number of us who reach the top but those of you who are inspired to share our dreams and follow in our footsteps. We get back on August 15th.

The Joy Trip Project is made possible with the support sponsors Patagonia, Rayovac and the New Belgium Brewing Company

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Author:James

I'm a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

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