ATC Joins Calls for Racial Justice for Black Americans

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has joined the calls for justice for America’s black citizens as turmoil fed by a black man’s death during an encounter with Minneapolis police roils the nation’s cities.

The ATC, while acknowledging that the Appalachian Trail—the institution it works to preserve—is not racially or ethnically diverse, said that it has worked to make the trail more inclusive, and will continue to do so.

“Justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion must be the cornerstone of everything the ATC does,” the organization said in a statement from Sandra Marra, its president and CEO. “We will continue to undertake training, we will educate our Trail-wide community, we will diversify representation among our staff, our Board, and our volunteers and visitors. We will continue to reach out to Trailside communities, addressing issues around race, ethnicity, and inclusion—including making the Trail and Trailside communities safe, open, and welcoming spaces for black hikers. We will invest—with time and money—in change.”

The Appalachian Mountain Club, the largest outdoor organization in the Northeast, and the Pacific Crest Trail Association also weighed in on racism in America.

“I hope you’ll join me and all of AMC in condemning the racism that lives today at the very forefront of our society,” AMC CEO John Judge said in a statement. “Let’s work now more than ever with love for one another, prioritizing every other person’s well-being as we would our own. Our planet and our one human race depend on it.”

“We are committed to discussing this within our community and determined to take meaningful steps toward change,” PCTA  Executive Director and CEO Liz Bergeron said in a brief statement.

The ATC’s Marra noted the recent events that led to protests in cities nationwide following the death of George Floyd, 46, on May 25.

“We have seen the recent and tragic deaths of black men and women—Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd—generate anger, frustration, resentment, and protest. We have seen, not just in the past few weeks but throughout the history of outdoor recreation, black men and women try to enjoy the outdoors only to have the police called on them while birdwatching (Christian Cooper), to have a gun pulled on them while picnicking (Jessica and Franklin Richardson) or to have been shot while going for a run (Ahmaud Arbery). We know these are only a few stories among many where black men and women have been systematically marginalized and targeted.”

“We have heard the voices of many—in the cities and beyond—calling for an end to this widespread injustice and racial violence,” Marra continued. “We have heard the call for a more equitable, inclusive, and peaceful future. Through the anger, sadness, and frustration, we have seen and felt the urgent need for justice, particularly for those who have been pushed to the margins. We, as a Conservancy, join those voices and demand justice but we also recognize the problem exists in our own community.”

“As we have learned throughout the course of this pandemic, the A.T. is not a separate reality from the rest of the world. The need for justice is just as relevant in the Trail community. The A.T. is not racially or ethnically diverse. It is not accessible to people from low-income communities. It is not always a safe place for women. And, it is not relevant to many people we consider to be part of the next generation. We recognize this must change. We recognize we must orient ourselves and the broader Trail community to justice in its many forms — environmental, social, racial, and economic.”

“We feel justice comes in the form of action. We believe action can make meaningful change. We are committing to making the A.T. and the broader Trail community a space that is inclusive, open, and safe for all.”

Featured photo courtesy Effie Drew

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Comments 6

  • Mike : Jun 5th

    Maybe every White person, taking advantage of 400 years of privilege should sign a statement asking for their White privilege to be forgiven. That would a great first step.

    • Philip : Jun 5th

      To be forgiven by who? And for what reason? And what exactly would that accomplish? Hocus pocus and the guilty party feels better for signing a piece of paper and blowing it into the wind? You say every white person enjoys privilege? Every one of them? That would be news to people in my old neighborhood. Your outlook is narrow and ignores a lot of realities in the world. There are a lot of insanely well off Arabs, Asians, Indian, Africans….people who make their home all over the world. Are you categorizing them as white now? Do they have to sign a privilege paper, too? What about the scores of bi-racial people? Do they count for anything, or are they just an inconvenience in your redemption plan?

  • Philip : Jun 5th

    Wow, apparently the ATC isn’t content to focus on things that it actually has influence over. Like other groups, they’re going political either because they’re tired of the business they’re actually involved with or they’re wanting money (probably both). This article mentions some legitimately terrible cases of discrimination, but it would be a stretch to try and say they represent behavior typical on the trails. Are there problems to work on? Yes! And the people who generate these problems come in all shapes and colors. So, I’m not going to “join” the ATC in their new pursuit, because I didn’t start out with any ill will towards others to begin with, and so I’m not going to help carry whatever baggage of guilt they think they have. How about continuing to educate the young against littering and off-leash dogs? Older adults need this education, too, but too many are hopeless cases in this regard. As far as the ATC seeking “diversification”, this is really code for another form of discrimination. Just imagine what it’s like for an African American to be in the forest and have a bunch of these “activist” types nodding their approval and success at finally spotting something so rare. Awkward at best.

  • Bebop : Jun 10th

    I find it hard to believe there are only three comments. Have any been deleted?

  • CT HIKER : Aug 23rd

    This article is a joke


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