GARFIELD PARK — Tears swelled up in Chevy Linear’s eyes the first time she saw the vast night sky illuminated with thousands of stars.
Linear grew up on the South Side, where the city lights drowned out all but a few of the brightest stars. It wasn’t until she was in her 20s, when she and travel partner Kameron Stanton took a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, that she got a good look at the sky above.
That backpacking trip opened their eyes to world of outdoor adventures, something they never knew was theirs for the taking. Now based in Garfield Park, Linear and Stanton want to share those experiences with other city dwellers who, like them, hadn’t considered exploring nature.
The two launched Black People Outside, a TikTok channel with more than 62,000 followers dedicated to making outdoor adventures accessible and welcoming to Black people.
“It was our first time seeing shooting stars. It was so clear, it was more stars than sky. We saw the Milky Way,” Linear said. “It made me kind of sad because I’ve seen a lot of things in the world, but I’ve never seen this. Everybody deserves that experience. And we really realized there was a lack of people of color because … we did not see anybody Black.”
The pair makes videos about camping and hiking to dispel the stereotypes and presumptions that prevent Black people from participating in outdoor adventures.
The absence of Black people on hiking trails and at campsites is part of why it took Linear and Stanton decades to get involved, and they experienced firsthand how hard it can be to get into those kinds of activities when there isn’t a visible community of adventurers who look like them.
“It’s the outside. It doesn’t belong to anyone. It’s for all of us,” Stanton said.
Spending time outside in nature isn’t just fun, Linear said: It’s also a powerful tool for keeping mentally and physically healthy.
“We get to center ourselves around nature. We get to relax. We get to meditate. We get to become one with the world again and kind of get back into ourselves, and it’s super important to have a really good mental mindset right now,” Linear said.
Outdoor adventures can be accessible to anybody, regardless of their experience, Stanton said. Black People Outside clips are full of tips that make it easy to get started.
“You need to see someone doing it, and then you believe I can do that stuff too. It’s possible,” he said.
It’s not necessary to travel to national parks across the country to get in tune with nature, Linear said. There are many parks near Chicago that sport stunning views, beautiful coastlines and pristine forests. The pair’s favorite local spots to visit are the Indiana Dunes, Starved Rock, Warren Dunes and Governor Dodge State Park
But people who aren’t ready to leave the city can test the waters with a short hike through local parks, like the South Shore Nature Sanctuary or even The 606, Linear said.
“People get in their heads about a lot of things and say something is scary, when it’s really just a lack of experience. Even if you don’t have any experience, you can still go,” Linear said. “I want people to be able to at least have somebody to show them the way.”
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