By Pamela Slaughter, Founder
Hello. My name is Pamela Slaughter. I’m a native Portlander, retired Adult Protective Services Investigator, and full-time Realtor. Like most Oregonians, I love nature. Unlike most Oregonians, I don’t always feel welcome or even safe outdoors in nature. Black people and other people of color sometimes experience verbal abuse, threatening behavior, and even physical attacks while enjoying the outdoors. As a result, going outdoors to enjoy nature can feel like a potentially dangerous thing to do.
People of Color Outdoors is a Meetup group that I started in July of 2017. I had just stepped down as the leader of Outdoor Afro Portland to take a break. Rikeem Sholes, a biologist and enthusiastic Outdoor Afro member, offered to volunteer to lead hikes if I would start a new group. I remembered being asked regularly by people of color if they could join Outdoor Afro though they weren’t Black. I decided to take Sholes up on his offer, and People of Color Outdoors (POCO) was born.
POCO is a welcoming community where Black people and other people of color can explore a variety of activities. POCO has hosted a vision board party at Camp Collins. Members might learn about the geology of the Sandy River at Oxbow Park. Members can choose from environmentally educational outings, outings that teach members of local history, or outings that introduce members to new outdoor skills such as rock climbing or canoeing. Sometimes the outings are strictly fun and meant to give members an opportunity to get to know one another and deepen new friendships.
Generations of people of color have become disconnected from nature due to displacement, environmental pollution and destruction, and exclusion. As a result, there’s a lack of internal wellness in the community that can be at least partially healed by reconnecting with nature.
POCO intends to help to facilitate the reconnection. POCO reminds members that being in nature can and should be a part of their lives on an everyday basis. Spending regular time in nature means improving one’s quality of life. Healthier, happier individuals contribute to healthier, happier communities. It’s more than important for people of color to connect with nature. It’s critical.
POCO has over 1,200 members between meetup and Facebook and has hosted over 100 events since July of 2017. POCO has a goal of building a retreat center on an acreage that will provide a welcoming environment for all.
As a Portland Audubon member and former volunteer, I love birds and encourage bird watching, especially in children. Look for my book Hi! My Name is Robin! in July 2020. I can be reached at email@example.com.
Learn more about People of Color Outdoors, how you can get involved, and what you can do to support at pdxpocoutdoors.com.