anna brones

writer + artist + producer

Posts Tagged ‘Tersa Baker

Teresa Baker

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“Hope is infinite, without it there would be no reason for any of us to move forward.”

-Teresa Baker

Teresa Baker is the founder of African American Nature & Parks Experience, and as an advocate for diversity, works tirelessly to ensure that not only the country’s national parks are more diverse in their staff and visitors, but also the outdoor industry as a whole. She also created the Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, focused on improving representation across the industry, from marketing teams to ambassadors and athletes (learn more about it in this She Explores episode).

She is a powerful voice for diversity, equity, and inclusion, in an industry that—like many others—has long been white and male dominated. I think that Teresa’s work highlights the essential intersection of environmentalism and social justice. But as Teresa reminded me in this interview, it’s not an intersection but a coexistence. For us to make social and environmental progress, we have to stop thinking about them as separate. Nature is for everyone, and we all deserve an equal place on this planet, and we all have to fight to protect it.

What does wisdom mean to you?

For me wisdom is the means to think for myself and not allow outside influences to determine my moral standing.

Is there an influential woman in your life who passed along a piece of wisdom to you? Who and what?

Maya Angelou was and still is someone I look to for intentional grounding of self. Her words are a constant reminder to me of who I am and why I am. It is because of her words that I understand I am a vessel in this life, this life is not about me in the physical sense. I am here to carry a message forward, as are we all, we just need to learn to walk in that understanding. And we can only do this by being courageous. “Courage is the most important of all virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.” My favorite quote from her.

You are a diversity advocate, and work on a number of initiatives to promote and encourage diversity in the outdoors. Diversity and equity are obviously something we need to focus on within all areas of society, what about the outdoors made you want to focus on that industry specifically?

What most people overlook about the work I do is that it is all tied to environmental protection. Now more than ever we need more people involved in the protection of our outdoor spaces. And right now the voices that are not involved in this work, as much as they can be, are from underrepresented communities. This is why I fight for equal representation across the board, so that we can have more people on the front lines fighting for the spaces we hike, climb, ski and walk through.

I see a lot of your work at the intersection of environmentalism and social justice. Can you talk about why this intersection is important?

I don’t think there is an intersection between environmentalism and social justice, the two must co-exist. When we separate the two it’s like saying we can have one without the other, we can’t. I don’t think of myself as an environmentalist, nor a torch carrier for justice. I think of myself as someone this society has overlooked for far too long. Someone who gives a damn about the spaces that surround us all. I understand that for myself and many others, these outdoor spaces are sanctuaries where we can go to escape the insanity of our day to day lives. They are roofless cathedrals and we need to protect them as such. And within that obligation, if we are able to put our physical differences aside, we exist under the umbrella of… Justice for all.

What is your personal relationship to nature, and how does that shape the work that you do?

Nature has always been a place of serenity for me, it is my think tank. I escape for self healing and self reflection. It truly is my cathedral, my religion, my shelter. I feel a “different me” when I’m out hiking among the redwoods, hearing nothing but the whispers of the birds, the swaying of branches and the wrestling of my feet as I walk along the leaves that have fallen to the ground. There is nothing that compares to the connection I feel to nature, she is what grounds me. A physical reminder of why the work I do around DEI is so important.

Through the work that you have done, what gives you hope?

Hope is infinite, without it there would be no reason for any of us to move forward. Life is hard no matter our path, hope is what I awake to, hope is what speaks to me when frustrations kick in, hope is what I cling to when doubt tries to creep in. I am nothing without hope and the belief of divine driven purpose that I am doing the work prescribed to me.

What wisdom would you share with your younger self?

A talk with my younger self would go like this….Your self doubts today are preparing you for a life of service that will inspire change beyond your time here. Hold on to your anger, it is part of the journey. Know that you are with purpose. Do not take education so lightly, for it will be of great use moving forward. Surround yourself with the smart ones, the ones whom you will gather with in the future. Do not be afraid that you think and feel differently than the ones you surround yourself with today. Fall in love cautiously and not just because you find him cute. And most importantly, spend more time talking to your parents, those days will past faster than you know.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

January 22, 2020 at 11:36