OCCUPY NATURE: Parks Are For People

About the Author

Rue Mapp is the founder of Outdoor Afro, a community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, fishing, gardening, skiing and more! Outdoor Afro uses social media to create interest communities, events, and to partner with regional and national organizations that support diverse participation in the Great Outdoors.

It does not matter if you choose to take to the streets, the Occupy Movement has captured the imagination of everyone, and is not going away any time soon. The Occupy prompt has become a symbolic directive to give voice to a wide range of concerns – from corporate bastions, to conceptual ideals, to icons of popular culture.

Of course, being me, I thought of nature – the outdoors, and found it almost ironic how Occupy protesters in my hometown of Oakland, and in every urban hub, were also making themselves sustainably visible in protest by camping outdoors in public plazas all over the country. An ironic twist on the Great American Campout!

As I sat at home with my children following on Twitter the frightening turn of events happening in Oakland recently, I also contemplated what alternatives we might find to affirm (Occupy) peace in our everyday lives. How might we balance the economic pain that has touched us all in some way?

With African American participation clocked as low as 1 percent in the National Park System, I thought of the 99 percent of people who look like you and me; those who do not benefit from this public and important resource that holds the possibility of personal enrichment and sustainability in ways hard to quantify in dollars.

Therefore, though Outdoor Afro, it is my goal to help generate a future where people of every hue know that not only public plazas, but also parks and wild spaces are their inheritance, and theirs to benefit from and support.

What might that look like?


THE WILD: An African American Faces Her Fear

EVERY CHILD NEEDS NATURE: 12 Questions About Equity & Capacity

TIERRA Y LIBERTAD: A Camping Trip Illustrates Nature’s Place in Family and Heritage


  1. Michael Barton

    Recently I posted a picture to Flickr of a man feeding pigeons at Occupy Portland, and gave it the title: “Pigeons are part of the 99%.” I received a comment: “I love the title of this photo. It serves to remind us that nature itself is always at stake when improper social, economic, and political policies are imposed upon it.”

    Occupy Nature, indeed!


  2. Yes! This is so exciting. I’ve been posting on this very subject on FB and talking with friends and associates these past few weeks about starting an occupy nature movement. It is my greatest belief that all of humanity will benefit when we stop railing against the concrete and return to nature. It is healed when we allow it to heal us. I even bought the domain name! As a mother and lover of life, I am so thrilled to read your news. I love what you’re doing and will definitely stay in touch! Thanks for sharing CN&N.

  3. Occupy nature we shall do Marlowe! Thanks for your comment.

    Hi Michael – glad to see the photo link once again!


  4. LOVE IT. I personally would like to be holding a sign – like yours – but w/ me sitting in my wheelchair. Ironically, Nature is not accessible to all. Sad. But True. Thanks for sharing this provocative perspective!

  5. What a great idea! People need to feel connected to nature…especially those of us who live in cities. Even a walk in a city park will reduce stress and brighten your whole day. Occupy nature!

  6. Hi Rue!

    I’m a huge fan of all that your doing to spread the word that nature is for everyone! Your message is so powerful, and your present it in such a beautiful, compelling way. Thank you for being a voice for the movement!

    We’d love to have you visit northwest Ohio sometime to give a talk and go birding with me and Kenn! (You already know this, but he’s a big fan of yours, too!) Maybe this spring when migration is in full swing and the place is like a carnival for birders! That would be SO much fun!

    Take care, and thanks again for all that you do!

    Kimberly Kaufman

  7. I love the support and synergy of thought and ideas we all share. @Kimberly – I would LOVE to bird with you in Ohio or wherever. Let me know – I am just a tweet away!


  8. Hi Rue,

    Thank you for writing this. I dream about the time when we occupy our yards, neighborhoods, and parks again.

    Bernard Spiegal,director of PLAYLINK in England, reflected on the riots in London and wrote an article “Places in Common”. In the article, he quotes Ken Worpole:

    “When outdoors nothing stands between us and the world … The park and the street give us our freedom, and the buildings, too frequently, take it away.”

  9. With the Bay and the East Bay Regional Parks so close, it is crazy that more people don’t head for them. Bus lines, although sometimes only hourly, go to these areas. But just a walk on the beach in Alameda or a hike on the trails behind Merritt College can be a great experience and a stress relief.


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