June 8, 2020
Dear Outward Bound Community,
In this time when so many are experiencing pain, isolation, and anger, we want to be clear with you, our Outward Bound community: we stand with our Black community members who continue to experience pain from the violence brought upon communities of color in our country. The racist threats to Christian Cooper in Central Park, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and the death of George Floyd on the street in Minneapolis are examples of the all-too-familiar notion that not everyone in our country is safe to live their lives. We are sad, frustrated, and disheartened.
For almost 60 years in the USA, Outward Bound has worked with students to inspire them to build community and live lives of compassion. We do this work by bringing people from all walks of life together in nature: in the backcountry, in community parks, and in schools and classrooms. Still, we recognize that equitable access to the outdoors does not yet exist. And, in places where equitable access may be achieved, equity within those spaces may not exist.
Those of us with privilege often forget that the outdoors holds tenuous and contradictory histories. What for some may be considered a place of spiritual enlightenment is a place where African Americans were chained and murdered. What were natural and wild places early conservationists sought to preserve are places where indigenous people were forcibly removed in order to make way for settlers from other lands. What are places that provide food for our tables are workplaces for marginalized essential providers.
What does this mean for Outward Bound in this moment? We know we must do better. All of us, but most especially those of us who live with privilege. We must continue to do the work to understand our advantages, power, biases, and what it means to be living in a society built upon unjust structures that prop up some and hold down others. As an organization, it means deep learning to understand and active work to dismantle structures—internal to Outward Bound and externally where we have influence—that perpetuate these unjust systems and allow us, even if unknowingly or unintentionally, to “other” members of our community.
The Outward Bound educational model, founded on the principle that we are stronger together, builds on collectively facing often insurmountable challenges and learning through those experiences. Our core values point us to continual improvement and learning, even when it is hard, challenges our own assumptions, and establishes processes that may be unpleasant. As we embrace this critical work, we invite you, as our Outward Bound community, to join us on this journey—with the full understanding that we are not experts but rather we are students discovering what may be possible, together.
Outward Bound USA pledges to:
- Listen: Listen to POC members of our community and leaders in our industry.
- Amplify: Amplify those voices and messaging both publicly and within our community.
- Share: Share and uplift the messages of those organizations leading the movement for equity and change, because we have much to learn from them.
- Learn: Facilitate learning within our organization through supporting individuals with professional development funds and continuing to invest in our organizational Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion efforts.
- Acknowledge: Unpack and understand our institutional history, our biases, and the role we play in our industry.
- Act: Act in solidarity, service, and support for our communities, staff, students, and families through programming, investment, access, service, and advocacy.
In the coming days, we will continue to update you on what this critical work will look like at Outward Bound USA, recognizing that no single social media post nor single letter to our community can adequately outline the necessary changes we must make. We commit to sharing our work, over time, with you.
In community, together.
Outward Bound USA
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