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Community Partner Spotlight: Braided Seeds

Get to know Braided Seeds, the Black-led outdoor education initiative! Braided Seeds provides opportunities for rest, restoration and reconnection to the land, especially for communities of color through increasing access, knowledge, and opportunities to outdoor recreation and food sovereignty.

We recently worked with Braided Seeds as a community partner for SAL’s Women You Need to Know (WYNK) Series event with Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar and editor of the We Are Each Other’s Harvest anthology, a hybrid collection of perspectives from Black farmers. If you didn’t get to connect with Braided Seeds at the event, Ashleigh Shoecraft, their founder and Executive Director, shares more about their mission and  programming below.

By Ashleigh Shoecraft, Executive Director & Founder of Braided Seeds

Braided Seeds is a Black-centered nonprofit committed to removing barriers to experiencing the wonders of the Pacific Northwest for the BIPOC community. We provide opportunities for rest, restoration, and reconnection to the land, especially for communities of color, by increasing access, knowledge, and opportunities to outdoor recreation and food sovereignty. Specific services include distributing free Discover Passes to the BIPOC community, partnering with schools to integrate BIPOC centered environmentalism and nature connection activities into the curriculum, resourcing participants with gear, leading hiking,

The research documenting the positive health benefits of time spent outdoors is extensive. The history of natural spaces as a source of historical trauma for BIPOC bodies has created an estranged relationship with the land that creates yet another barrier of access to a source of health and thriving. When people do want to experience the outdoors, class privilege prevents many from doing so. Parking fees and expensive specialized gear leave many unable to experience the healing benefits of nature.

We believe these benefits are crucial right now given the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on communities of color. To that end, Braided Seeds is dedicated to decolonizing outdoor education, removing barriers, and creating onramps to positive experiences outdoors, especially for the communities of Color. Our team is made of individuals who have both experienced stigmas related to the wilderness firsthand, and who have a heart to dismantle them.

Braided Seeds was birthed in honor of our Black ancestors’ commitment to survival against all odds. Before boarding ships as a part of the Transatlantic slave trade, they braided seeds in their hair as an act of subversive resistance, commitment to survival and as a testament to their determination to set down roots in any environment. Braided Seeds’ programs are designed to address the lack of inclusivity and equity around access to the outdoors. Our hope is that we, too, can actively commit to our survival, subvert harmful systems, and set down roots in the PNW.

Our vision is for those we serve to be rooted in an accurate and dignifying history of BIPOC outdoor excellence and environmentalism, to be soaking up the healing benefits of nature for positive mental and physical health outcomes, for Black bodies and minds to be safe, for Black people taking up space outdoors to be normalized, for Black communities to have increased proximity to natural spaces and beauty, for Black people to be resourced with gear and opportunities, and for Black joy to be invested in and thriving. All of our programs are designed with this vision in mind. We do not believe there is a right way to be outdoors, and so offer diverse programs that require varying levels of mobility.

We have learned that subverting the narrative of the outdoors as a site of harm must start with exposing youth of color to a different experience that can reorient and maybe even define some of their relationships to the land before they are socialized to fear it.

Last summer, after taking a group of youth backpacking along the coast, one mom revealed that she hadn’t seen her son smile so widely as in the pictures of him getting washed over by waves in the Pacific Ocean. We had several requests for parents to be invited on trips with their children and requests from youth for extended trips. Youth provide onramps for their families as they model what it looks like to be open to the outdoors and trust their experience above outside narratives. Youth also become ambassadors for outdoor stewardship due to a renewed vision for what their relationship with nature can look like.

Thank you, Ashleigh and Braided Seeds!

Posted in Community Partners