Embracing My Culture Through the Outdoors
There’s a diversity problem in the outdoor industry – for too long, it hasn’t reflected the breadth of people and voices in the outdoors. In recognition of Black History Month, L.L.Bean Ambassador and children’s book author Dineo Dowd wrote this essay about the lack of diversity she saw in outdoor spaces, and how the life and legacy of singer-songwriter Miriam Makeba helped Dineo find her own place in the outdoors.
I changed “the man in the mirror.” I introduced my daughter to the outdoors when she was born. I introduced her to diversity right away. I wanted to be a good role model for my daughter. Miriam Makeba reminded me that I come from a country that is rich in diversity. Makeba was an amazing and inspiring woman, way ahead of her time – and that’s who I want to be.
The outdoors became my best friend. I found myself hiking solo in the mountains in Utah with no fear of human beings, just wild animals. I couldn’t sit at home anymore and stare at the mountains from a distance. The trails became my personal life. I found joy and peace while hiking. Miriam once said, “Nobody will know the pain of exile until you are in exile.” No matter where you go, there are times when people show you kindness and love, and there are times when they make you know that you are with them but not of them. That's when it hurts. It is kind of painful to be away from everything that you've ever known, and that was my life when I came to the United States. I had no friends; it was just me and the mountains.
I’m reminded every day that nature never closes and nature heals. I told myself I have to keep hiking, find my tribe, make global friends, be the badass outside mom, and document my journey.
Dineo Dowdis a full-time mom and writer who was born in South Africa but now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband and daughter. She creates books with diverse characters to encourage children of all backgrounds to discover the joys of the outdoors, including Sunset Hike, Adventure Day, Spring Hike, The Dowd’s Adventures: Summer Camping, and Christmas from Both Worlds! Learn more or follow Dineo on Facebook and Instagram.