Anthony DeJesus is a product of his environment. Raised in the Bronx borough of New York City his life circumstances were defined by poverty, crime, drug abuse and violence. Confined first to the failed social infrastructure of low-income housing and foster care Anthony found himself on an inevitable course that like many young African-American men led to incarceration. But since getting out of prison this ambitious youth aspires to rise above his upbringing and hopes to achieve something more.
“I’ve been looked up all of my life, mentally and spiritually,” he said. “But who I am now is a person who broke free of that norm”.
A new project created by adventurer and entrepreneur Jesse Spiegel aims to put Anthony and others who have served time behind bars literally on a different path. Rewilding is documentary film series that will follow Anthony on a journey of discovery as he is introduced to and encouraged to participate in a variety of different outdoor activities in some of the most iconic adventure destinations across the country.
“We wanted to create a program that shared the things that we are passionate about,which include outdoor adventure, yoga, permaculture and community, and connecting with nature and with each other,” Spiegel said in an interview. “But we also wanted to have a side of it that reached out and shared that with people who couldn’t necessarily access it.”
The United States of America has more incarcerated people than the rest of the developed world combined. Despite our Constitutional freedoms of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness an alarming number of our citizens are in prison as a direct result of limited opportunities for social advancement within their home communities. And upon their release formerly incarcerated individuals with a criminal record have even fewer prospects for success. Spiegel believes that if he and his team can expose young people like Anthony to lifestyle alternatives in nature they can ease their return to society and hopefully help change the course of their lives toward a more positive outcome in the future.
“I care about the incarceration problem in this country and I wanted that to be one of the groups that we reached out to,” Spiegel said. “So we reached out to programs in New York that work with young men and women as they transition back into their communities and gauge their interest in having us be one of the tools that supports in that transition process.”
Funded with the support of donors through a Kickstarter campaign Spiegel wants to provide Anthony with positive experiences in nature to help redefine his world view. By sharing his story through the Rewilding film project Spiegel hopes to encourage people who watch to recognize the life-affirming benefits of spending time outdoors.
“Societally we are pretty disconnected with nature. We’re very much stuck in boxes of how we’re supposed to be, and how we’re supposed to act and what we’re supposed to like,” he said. “The thing about going out on these wild adventures and getting back to nature is nature not like that. Nature is free-flowing. By putting people out there I think we learn things about ourselves. It’s a way to discover who we are and what’s important.”
The Rewilding project will span several weeks on the road. Anthony will visit spots in Utah, Colorado, California, Oregon and Wyoming. The journey will take him through National Parks that include Arches, Yosemite and Grand Teton. Spiegel said he hopes Anthony’s experience as documented by this film will be the first of many that will bring people with limited life choices into the natural world.
You can support the Rewilding film project with a contribution on Kickstarter:
The Joy Trip Project is made possible thanks to the support of fans at Patreon.com
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