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This Black History Month, we honor the GAME CHANGERS: Everyday heroes whose actions make life better for the people around them. SEE ALL OUR GAME CHANGERS HERE.

Rue-MappRue Mapp

Place of Residence: Oakland

Why She’s a Game Changer: We’ve all heard the myths that surround Black folks and the Great Outdoors: “That stuff is for White people” or “I’ve never met anyone Black who is into hiking, camping, or nature.”

Rue Mapp is out to destroy those lies with her group, Outdoor Afro. She deserves to be a Game Changer for the name of the group alone, but wait, there’s more. Mapp uses social media to connect  African Americans with outdoor activities and to family and new friends. Health, both physical and mental, is also part of the equation. Mapp tells Bay Nature why she founded the organization:

I founded it in 2009 after some soul-searching about what I really cared about. There have been a few constants in my life: love of nature, the desire to connect in nature with people who look like me, and technology – when I was younger I was always on my Commodore 64! Later, I studied art history at UC Berkeley, which helped me to understand the power of visual representation to tell stories, to dispel the myth that African Americans don’t engage with the outdoors. And recently, social media has allowed me to connect with people in a more strategic way.

Mapp gained a love for the outdoors as a child when she would split time in Oakland and at her family’s working ranch. It was there that she connected to the outdoors and learned to fish and hunt.

Today, her blog has posts, such as “When Camping Goes Wrong,” and talks about fun outdoor activities like geocaching, which uses GPS to lead people on a fun scavenger hunt to new sites.  Mapp’s efforts are leading people to discover nature that they pass by every day but didn’t know exist. Mapp believes that there are a myriad of benefits to becoming reconnected with the outdoors.

“I consider recreation in natural settings as a form of “dating” the outdoors. I believe that repeated recreational experiences leads to a deeper relationship, passion, and eventual love for natural settings that are necessary to fuel curiosity….,” she told Sciencetopia.

Mapp has been invited to the White House to help with First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” health initiative and President Barack Obama‘s “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative to develop a conservation and recreational plan for the next century.

“Outdoor Afro has become a bridge to help me connect to many different communities that I never anticipated helping. It has given me a way to enjoy all the parts of who I am – nature lover, family person, technology geek – and get to do some good in this world,” said Mapp.

Check out Mapp below discussing what is known as Nature Deficit Disorder:

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