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Honoring Black History Month with Outdoor Afro

When we saw Outdoor Afro’s Black History Month shirts we knew you needed to see them too! The national not-for-profit that inspires Black connections and leadership in nature knew that they could make a statement with custom shirts and they were right. Their post announcing their new merch got great engagement online.

The team came to Custom Ink to make their t-shirt series that bears the phrase “I’m Black and I ____” filling in different outdoor activities. As their post says, “Creating an ‘I’m Black and I _____’ series has always been something that founder and CEO, Rue Mapp, wanted to do. So, go ahead and dispel those, “Black people don’t [insert outdoor activity here] and declare your love for your Blackness AND love of the outdoors!” They also have a shirt that celebrates historically Black beaches Idlewild, Sag Harbor, American Beach, and The Inkwell.

As part of their Black history celebration, the team plans to highlight Black historical figures and locations that are known for their involvement with outdoor recreation throughout the month. Their list includes mountaineer Charles Madison Crenshaw, the first Black man to summit Denali; Will ‘Akuna’ Robinson, the first Black man to hike the Triple Crown; and Florida’s first Black resort, American Beach.

We reached out to Yanira Castro, Communications Director for Outdoor Afro, to learn more about the organization and its own history. She told us, “Outdoor Afro was founded by Rue Mapp as a kitchen table blog about her outdoor activities out of her Oakland home. She had a love for the outdoors through her parents, who had left the Jim Crow South in the 1940s and built a rural paradise north of Oakland.”

A woman stands in the woods surrounded by trees with her arm around a hiking trail sign. She's smiling and wearing a custom tank top that says "Nature Never Closes."

Product shown: Sport-Tek Women’s electric heather racerback tank top Photo: Courtesy of Outdoor Afro

“The blog came about after she noticed that she didn’t always see a lot of other Black  Americans enjoying the outdoors or see many representations of that in advertising. When interest in the blog began to pick up, she put out a call for more Black leaders to begin guiding outdoor trips and people responded.”

The organization sells custom gear from Custom Ink through their website because it can help them engage and inspire their audience. “Custom gear helps us to promote who we are and what we do. It allows people to share their love of Outdoor Afro.”

“We have bought a number of products from Custom Ink including totes, beanies, sweatshirts, and t-shirts. We chose products based on what our community was asking for and products that are useful in the outdoors and ways to show people’s love of Outdoor Afro. Our latest campaign is about declaring your love for your Blackness and for nature.”

They also know that choosing the right products for their audience is important. That’s why they offer custom athletic tanks, water bottles, face masks, and hoodies in addition to t-shirts, all perfect for the outdoors.

A woman stands on a hilltop smiling wearing her custom Outdoor Afro sweatshirt with their logo that shows the silhouette of a person's head with a tree growing where the brain would be.

Product shown: Bella + Canvas Ultra Soft Pullover Hoodie. Photo credit: Tiffany Womack

Their logo, a silhouette of a person’s head with a tree growing in it, is simple and eye-catching. “Our logo was designed by artist Jeremy Collins in 2015. Founder and CEO Rue Mapp and Jeremy were KEEN ambassadors together. On a retreat, he convinced Rue that the old logo (which was a character of her) was not representing the breadth of what Outdoor Afro was about! She was skeptical, but the version Jeremy came up with was incredible and very close to what we use today.” The rest of their design vision is led by their CEO, along with input from their 82 volunteer leaders.

We asked what advice she’d give to someone else in her field who is thinking about getting custom gear and Yanira said, “Understand what your community wants, just not want you want. Find a great partner who understands your needs and is willing to become a partner to you, like Custom Ink! Set up your promotion, distribution, and fulfillment options, There are so many ways to go about this, so explore all your options. Additionally, make sure you have a customer service mechanism in place.”

“At the end of the day, Outdoor Afro is a love story. And we are so happy that the community that we have built over the past 11 years has grown to more than 40K people that we connect to the outdoors on a consistent basis.”

Celebrate Black History Month by purchasing one of Outdoor Afro’s shirts or head over to our site to create your own custom celebration gear. Get a design boost with our Black History Month template library and see active fundraisers on our Black History Month page.

Miellyn is the Director of Marketing Content at Custom Ink. Her work has spanned marketing for television networks like TLC and Travel, educational content for Smithsonian and National Geographic, marketing and story for indie video games, essays for publishers including Random House, The Telegraph, and Smart Pop Books, and stories for press outlets like VICE and VH1.

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    • Camille

      Thanks for the highlight! Love the Meet Up options on Outdoor Afro – highlighting nature lovers around the country who can be a great guides for your curiosity!

    • Hovlyn May

      Love it! I am Black (and Cherokee and Choctaw) and I SWIM. I also am the director of LULAC in my school district and involved in equity and inclusion projects on a local and national level. Thank you.

    • Miellyn Barrows

      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing this!

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