Get a weekly dose of Black Joy in your inbox every Friday. Subscribe to the Black Joy newsletter here.
Hints of spring are finally breaking through winter’s spell, y’all.
The birds are chirping. The flowers are blossoming on our trees and foliage. When it comes to the changing of the seasons, that first touch of warmth after months of frigid temps is *French kiss* for me.
Warmer weather for me means it’s time to stretch my legs and head outdoors. Yes, I do realize that nature doesn’t close its during the winter, but I ain’t Elsa. The cold very much bothers me.
BUT there are people you can follow and support on social media who can give you those outdoorsy vibes year-round. Examples: An Alabama family explores the vastness of mother nature together as Black Adventure Crew. A father who hits the trails with his young daughter.
And then there are Black nomads, those who live their lives unhitched to the traditional ways of adulting. Switch out the house mortgages for different forms of mobile living. Think renovated school buses and custom sprinter vans.
Search “van life” in Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok and you’ll have to do quite a bit of scrolling to find a Black nomad. Never fear! Black Joy is here to amplify the Black folks who are diversifying the outdoors – because mother nature is for all of us.
Share the melanin magic of outdoor living by forwarding this newsletter to your friends and fam. If you have a great outdoor story filled with Black joy, consider hitting us up here. You may be featured in our newsletter in the future.
Snow Black and her adventure outdoors
Toyin Ajayi has been slaying her goals ever since she ditched the rent and mortgage life on Jan. 22, 2021.
Sis has been dreaming about transitioning into nomadic life since 2018. Now the 36-year-old is living it up in her camper at a Black-owned campground in southeast Georgia. She’s also pushing against the invisible boundaries that keep Black people from enjoying the outdoors through the power of entrepreneurship.
In May 2021, Toyin launched the Outdoorsy Black Women app, a social network where Black women can connect and celebrate each other as they enjoy the vast playground of the outdoors. About 1,200 users have downloaded the app, which comes with all the fixings of a social media app, like building a profile, forums, quizzes, a book club focused solely on Black women authors. There are also different groups you can join. Whether you’re a stargazer, hiker, waterfall chaser, gardener, farmer, surfer, etc., you’re sure to find a home within Outdoorsy Black Women.
“Black women are amazing, and they’re doing so many dope things in the outdoors,” Ajayi said. “We’re really happy to have Black sisterhood and a space for us to enjoy and encourage each other to be even more amazing.”
It’s all a part of Toyin’s mission to increase Black representation and access in the outdoors space. Her family used to call her “Snow Black,” based off Disney’s Snow White, for the way she would frolic in nature and take care of the animals. Toyin wants all Black women to experience that same freedom.
Toyin is also working to build community outside the virtual space. Tickets are sold out for Outdoorsy Black Women’s inaugural Wine and Waterfalls Weekend in May in Helen, Ga. The all-inclusive retreat offers different lodging accommodations that suit attendants’ comfort levels, such as primitive camping for veteran campers and cabins or “glamping” options for less seasoned adventurers. Attendants will get to connect with different Black-owned, especially Black women-owned, brands as they enjoy multiple outdoor activities like a guided waterfall hike, wine vineyard tour and paint and sip.
Whether it is online or outdoors, Toyin is making sure Outdoorsy Black Women is for the culture! Read about Toyin’s journey of how she’s healing Black people’s complicated relationship with nature by building a platform that increases black representation in the outdoor community. Sis is also looking for ambassadors to start Outdoorsy Black Women chapters in other states. More details available here.
A trail guide for nomad life
Toyin has been writing a women’s lifestyle blogazine called “Your Life After 25” for the past 11 years. She said society pressures women to have the job, marriage and other life milestones already secured by a certain age. She wanted to ease women’s fears about running out of time to hit all of their goals.
“When I was turning 25, I was like, ‘Dude, life hasn’t even begun for me,” Toyin said. “So I wanted to start something that will allow women to recognize that life’s not over. It’s just the beginning. There’s so much more we can be doing with ourselves.”
That blogging experience came in handy when she started nomadic life. A section of Outdoorsy Black Women gives space for Toyin and other bloggers to talk about their adventurous trips and travels. Toyin gives a lot of good advice on the platform. Here’s a few posts for hers that caught my attention. Think about it like a “trail guide” for those of you who are curious about nomadic living:
- Things to keep in mind as you look for the RV or camper van of your dreams
- What Toyin learned during her first few months of living in her camper full time
- Black-owned campgrounds and farms you can visit and support
- How to face your fear of hiking alone and how to pack for your first backpacking trip
- How to handle your period while on the trail or on the road
- Dating as a #vanlifer
Dopeness on the go
Here are some Black nomads you can check out and support because they are doing some pretty dope stuff out here, y’all):
Kadedra Holmes is food access activist who is currently living in Virginia. She started Black Nomads Meet in October 2019 to help Black people explore nomadic living options while creating space for Black Nomads to link up with each other through virtual and in-person meet ups. She noticed a lack of diversity in the outdoor world during a cross-country road trip. So she started a virtual tour series on YouTube that introduces people to Black nomads from across the country. She has also organized meet ups and campouts at Black-owned spaces so nomads who look like her can find community in one another.
Kadedra’s favorite Black joy moments so far happened in June at the inaugural Black Nomads Meet Up at Warthen RV Park, a Black-owned campground in Washington County, Ga. About 85 people enjoyed each other’s company as they had fun and shared wisdom together during different workshops that focused on how to make money while on the road, how to be more eco-friendly by cutting down on waste and homeschooling on the road. This June, Kadedra said Black nomads will be rolling out together during her 69-mile caravan and campout event in Georgia. She said there’s something powerful in watching her community commune, exchange knowledge, swap items and break bread together.
“It really battles this stigma that black people don’t work together. That we’re just disorganized. There’s just so many unfair stigmas about us,” Kadedra said. “But the amount of people who have reached out to me – Toyin being one of them – but even some Black landowners who have reached out to me who were like, ‘We’d love to host you here.’ It has really defeated this notion that is projected onto us. I have truly seen community through this – through Black Nomads Meet.”
Along with raising money to grow Black Nomads Meet, Kadedra secures her bag through her vegan brand @eatfreshveggies where she offers private consultations and vegan meal planning webinars. Kadedra wants to give her community what van life gave her.
“I just want Black people to heal,” Kadedra said. “And I have really resonated with what the nomad lifestyle has done for me personally and I love healing myself through my community.”
Jo and her partner Om are guiding people along their journey of healing through their brand JOM on the GO. They’ve been living the #vanlife since June 2020 and their gifts are definitely in alignment with their mission. Jo is a beautiful model who is also a spirit guide who helps you discover the beauty within yourself as a breath facilitator, meditation guide and yoga instructor. Om is a musician and mystic who helps others on their path of enlightenment. They live out of their van named Freedom, because that’s exactly what van life gifted them.
Van life is interconnected to JOM on the GO’s purpose of bringing healing and enlightenment to their community. Om said debt through rent, mortgages or student loans is being used a tool to keep people in indentured servitude. Van life is a tool that allowed him and Jo to have ownership without debt.
“In America, in our culture, debt is just an accepted aspect of life,” Om said. “How can we change our minds? Can we get down to the bare essentials that bring us joy and happiness and structure life around that rather than the formula of the American dream of going to higher ed, which will put you in debt?”
Jo said being amongst other Black nomads brings her joy. While looking for inspiration for their own van life on social media, Jo said most of the posts were made by white travelers. That wasn’t the case during the Black Nomads Meet up, where JOM on the GO hosted a breathwork and meditation workshop during an event that was held at a Black-owned campground. Jo said all of the campers treated each other as if they were blood.
“Everything was intentional and when you’re intentional about things, magic happens,” Jo said. “It wasn’t like we just came there to work, do the workshop and then we left. It was bonfires. It was all the babies, newborns who were there. Everyone’s dogs and pets were there. It really was like a big family reunion.”
Currently JOM on the GO is Miami, but Jo and Om will be heading to Atlanta by the end of the month. In May, they will start a campaign through the crowdfunding site indiegogo to raise funds to build a larger van so they can expand their mission to bring healing to the Black community while on the road. You can monitor JOM on the GO’s Instagram and YouTube channel to get more info about that.
Om said the adaptability of van life brings him joy as a Black nomad. Living without a car note or mortgage allows them to live life with minimum overhead costs like, internet, gas, food and insurance. This allows them to have the space to invests in their gifts that will help the community.
“I value service to people, but I don’t look at that as work. It’s an offering. We all have something to offer each other to make our lives better and that should be the focus,” Om said.
Tayhlor Coleman is a seventh-generation Texan combining van life with voting rights. This year, she will traveling all over her home state to register people to vote in her van named Barb, shorthand for congress woman and civil rights leader Barbara Jordan. She’s also juggling a full-time job senior account executive for a Democratic media firm.
According to this write up in Texas Monthly, fighting for voting rights is in Tayhlor’s bloodline. Her family built up Black political and economic power during Reconstruction. And now Tayhlor is continuing the walk they started as she navigates around Texas ridiculously complicated voter registration laws.
Now go hit the road and spread the Black joy! See ya’ next week!