Furthering its commitment to celebrate Black lives and joy through the connection to outdoor experiences, Outdoor Afro launches a commemorative celebration to gather perspectives on what it means to be free in America, in light of Juneteenth this year.

June 19 is known as Juneteenth, an annual recognition of the day when 250,000 enslaved Black Americans in Texas were told they were free in 1865 – nearly two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The proclamation declared all enslaved persons within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

“Freedom for me has always been found in the outdoors, unencumbered by human prejudice,” said Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp. “The direct connection to the earth has always enabled me to connect with my story and the stories of my ancestors. This year, more than ever, the concept of freedom is complex and nuanced. I invite everyone to spend time considering the word, its origins, and how it is applied in this country.”

“The Hewlett Foundation, which is a proud supporter of Outdoor Afro, is joining this Juneteenth initiative by encouraging our team members to reflect on what freedom means to them, especially in connection to the outdoors,” said Larry Kramer, president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. “As we think about the land that we live, work, and play on, we know that the outdoors should be a safe place for all people and a place for joy, healing, and reflection.”

As the national racial reckoning continues, and with it, a new understanding of the country’s complicated past, many corporations and organizations are now recognizing Juneteenth as a company holiday. This year, as Juneteenth is on a Saturday, participating organizations will observe the day on Friday, June 18.

Outdoor Afro is inviting participants to contemplate what freedom truly means in America by visiting a nearby park, forest or beach in honor of Juneteenth for 2.5 hours [in honor of the 2.5 years freedom was denied for 250,000 enslaved people in Texas]. Participants are then encouraged to submit written, audio, or video reflections at OutdoorAfro.com/juneteenth2021. Outdoor Afro will aggregate, organize and publish some of the reflections.

Registration before Juneteenth is encouraged but not required; for more information visit outdoorafro.com/juneteenth2021.

Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. Started by Rue Mapp as a blog about her passion for nature in 2009, Outdoor Afro has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide network with 100+ volunteer leaders in 56 cities.