African-American Everest expedition aims to diversify the outdoors

The Full Circle Everest Expedition will be attempting to reach the top of the world later this year in a bid to aid representation in outdoor sports.

The 10-person party aims to be the first all Black-American Team to summit the Nepalese mountain, a feat completed by just 800 people each year.

outdoorCredit – Full Circle Everest ExpeditionLed by Phillip Henderson, the expedition is hoping to increase black representation in outdoor sports. This is a change which Nigerian research engineer and outdoor enthusiast Fawaz Ojobowale says is long overdue.

“The lack of representation in these sports can signify that they’re reserved for middle class white people. Black kids should have other options outside of football and music. If i hadn’t of gone out of my way to develop an interest in outdoor sports, I wouldn’t have anything encouraging me to”.

An Issue of Historic Inequality

Credit – Fawaz Ojobowale

Despite over 5,000 alpinists completing the challenge since 1953, only eight have been black. A stark reminder of the impact historic racial inequality has had in many parts of society.

Some believe that this lack of representation stems from unequal opportunities. Black people hold the highest poverty rate inside the USA at 19.5%. As a result, problems occur with outdoor activities that require expensive equipment. For example, the average price for an Everest summit in 2022 is $45,000. Full Circle have covered this with high profile sponsors such as The North Face and Mammut.

Nigerian BBC World Service journalist, Olubunmi Okunnu, says that this can be discouraging

Credit – Students Union Bournemouth University

“This one- dimensional representation can be off-putting for black people who are inclined to take up outdoor activities. I  have a friend who is worried about signing up for a community hiking trip because, well, she would be the only black person in the group”.

“Brands and outdoor organisations need to be thoughtful about inclusivity and go the extra mile to reach black people”.

Change on the Horizon

Although Full Circle are a more well-known team, others are still taking steps.

Outdoor Afro, a non-profit dedicated to connecting African-Americans with nature, organises excursions for black people of all ages. Soul Trak Outdoors takes on a similar role, but with a focus on mountain climbing.

The existence of these organisations and their counterparts is a sign that change is on the horizon. However, it is clear that much work is needed for outdoor sports to reflect the diverse world that we inhabit.

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