DETROIT — Ian Solomon is bringing diversity to outdoor spaces. He's the head of Amplify Outside, which aims to claim a space and a place in a national conversation.
“You know, the narrative is that Black folks aren’t outside, don’t enjoy it, don’t have access to it. But we are out here,” Solomon said.
According to one study, White Americans make up 72% of outdoor participants while they are 59% of the U.S. population. They make up nearly 80% of employees at national parks. And where white Americans are overrepresented, communities of color are underrepresented.
“When we first started, we launched a survey, and it was all about asking, ‘What’s your interest in the outdoors? What keeps you from getting out there?’ But one of the things that was said as far as what’s the hesitancy so often was racism,” Solomon said.
In Solomon’s survey, 85% of Black Michiganders said they were “very interested” in outdoor recreation. But less than 30% said they were “very experienced.” Barely 30% found it “very accessible.” And nearly two-thirds said their willingness to try was hindered by racism.
“It’s really about the unknown. That’s why people are fearful. So how do we demystify the experience?” Solomon added.
He uses his platforms to reach his people like, Will Garner.
“Being outside is where you really come to be free," he said. "It just feels like you can breathe easier out here.”
In Congress, there are several bipartisan bills that promise new investments in outdoor recreation. One specifically focuses on urban and low-income areas. It's unclear whether any of the bills will reach the president's desk.
In the meantime, Solomon will continue on his own quest to spread the message that the outdoors is for everyone.
“It shows, like, ‘Hey, we’re not all talk. We are actually out here, and this is a space for us. Like, we have the right to this space, to this land, to this enjoyment,’” Solomon said.