Color in Practice aims to provide low-cost and inclusive opportunities to engage with nature
Jamal Boyce has always loved the outdoors. Even so, he says it took him a few years to fully immerse himself in activities like backcountry camping, canoeing, and rock climbing.
Boyce, who just recently graduated from the University of Ottawa with a degree in conflict studies and human rights and a minor in economics, created his own grassroots non-profit, giving low-cost and inclusive opportunities for Black and racialized people to “engage with the outdoors, one another, and the histories/futures of the land they live on.”
A matter of representation
The Fulcrum spoke with Boyce about how Color in Practice came to be. Boyce explained that he was motivated by the lack of diversity he observed in many outdoor activity spaces.
“I started doing more backcountry camping, canoe camping, stuff like rock climbing … but it was all white people around — just that kind of common story of not seeing any representation,” he said.
However, Boyce wasn’t bothered by this until his hobbies became an integral part of his identity — one that he wanted to share with family and friends.
“As I got deeper into these spaces, I started posting about it more and telling my family — there was just so much interest in it. And I started wanting to bring other people into it. I was making friends in this community that I could go camping with, only I wasn’t seeing people that looked like me. So, with that in mind, I was like: I’m gonna make the outdoors more accessible.”
Dismantling racial stereotypes
Over the years, Boyce took many of his Black friends camping and hiking for the first time, and seeing how much they enjoyed it led him to reevaluate some preconceived notions about what Black people do or don’t do.
“I always thought camping and outdoor shit was some white people stuff, to be honest. But when I got into it, I found that really wasn’t the case,” stated Boyce in an interview with the Fulcrum.
As his feelings changed, he did some research to create a more accurate perspective. He cites Matthew Henson, who “may have been the first man, black or white, to reach the North Pole” as an inspiration.
“As I learned more about history … Black people have been doing this stuff forever. You know, one of the first people to go to the North Pole was a Black American. I really started craving this information and looking for it.”
Moving from thought to action
After his graduation, Boyce was accepted into the 2022-2023 Pathy Foundation Fellowship at St. Francis Xavier University. There, his project aims to “build a formal network among Black and Indigenous activists engaging in anti-racist and decolonial organizing across Ontario.”
He received a small grant through the program, some of which he used to fund Color in Practice.
“I was like, you know what? I’m gonna dedicate that money to building this. My partner, Judy, helped a lot with graphics and some of the logistics. Friends and family have also been super supportive in terms of driving people up, providing the carpooling.”
In the future, Boyce hopes to recruit volunteers and take suggestions for events.
“The whole point is to bring more people into the outdoors, Black and racialized folk specifically, and I feel like having a broader input is important. So, that’s kind of the biggest step right now. After that trip we had, there’s been a lot of interested people reaching out to volunteer.”
A successful launch
On Sept. 16, Color in Practice launched its very first event — a guided hike through Gatineau Park in collaboration with the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG).
“My favourite part of it was the laughter, to be honest. Despite all these different people coming out, and being from different places, they were all able to come together in nature and share laughter and joy. Honestly, seeing that just warms my heart because at the end of the day, that’s all I really want from this.”
Follow @Colorinpractice on Instagram if you would like to stay updated with their activities.