Late last week I received some wonderful news. In recognition for my work reporting on the earliest days of Yosemite National Park I have been named a Yosemite Centennial Ambassador. As the NPS celebrates its 100th anniversary this year I have been included in an amazing group of park supporters whose life-long bodies of work have raised the profile of Yosemite and the other 409 park units around the country. I am incredibly humbled to be among those tasked with sharing their passion for one of the most spectacular and iconic places on Earth. And with this prestigious title comes the profound responsibility to encourage others to protect these wild and scenic places for future generations.
My fellow Ambassadors include many friends and colleagues I have had the pleasure of knowing for years. Climbing legends like Conrad Anker, Lynn Hill, Ron Kauk, Renan Ozturk, Alex Honnold and Timmy O’Neil have all been guests on the Joy Trip Project podcast along with poet Terry Tempest Williams, writer Dayton Duncan and actor Lee Stetson. National Park diversity champions Frank and Audrey Peterman, Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp and Nature Bridge board member Stephen Lockhart have been quoted in various reporting projects. And Ann Krcik, senior communications director at The North Face was my first professional mentor at the beginning of my career almost 30 years ago. It’s pretty weird to find myself in the distinguished company of so many people I have admired throughout my adult life. And while I have enjoyed the privilege of sharing their stories over the years it is the highest compliment to be counted among Yosemite’s leading advocates.
But to give credit where credit is due I must thank my friend Shelton Johnson for nominating me for this great honor. His dedicated stewardship toward preserving the memory of the Buffalo Soldiers and their role in creating the national parks at Yosemite and Sequoia more than 100 years ago is for me a constant source of pride and inspiration. As the only permanently stationed African-American park ranger in Yosemite Valley Shelton has made a cornerstone of his career the telling of the Buffalo Soldiers story so that we will never forget the contributions of the many so often overlooked by history. Just as I was made to feel welcome and a part of the National Park community I believe that it is critical for each of us to extend to everyone we meet that same gracious invitation to enter and belong to America’s best idea.
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