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Ky. man trying to get more minority participation in outdoor recreation

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 1:19 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - A Kentucky man wants more minority participation in outdoor recreation throughout the commonwealth.

Gerry James says this has always been his mission, but he says the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmad Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have fueled his fire.

He wants to address a lack of diversity and inclusion in Kentucky’s great outdoors.

As he travels up and down the Kentucky River enjoying all its beauty, he notices something missing.

“I’ve paddled this River 255 miles from Beattyville to Carrollton,” James said. “I have never seen another Black person paddleboard on the Kentucky River in Frankfort, ever.”

James wants to change that.

Knowing change happens in small waves, he wants to see more African-Americans go outdoors to get on a mountain bike, take a hike, or go mountain climbing.

James runs the website Explore Kentucky.

Founded in 2013, the site’s mission is to uplift Kentucky’s land and it’s people through recreation.

A few years ago, when he taught programs about Kentucky’s outdoor spaces, he noticed, “90 percent of my attendees are white people,” James said. “Not wrong, but why?”

His answer is simple and complex.

“It is a system of oppression of why,” James said. “There’s not that heritage or legacy when we go to these places because we were not allowed to go. You gotta think we could only go to one State Park. We are blocked from different trail systems. A lot of black folk live in urban populations and, so, black folk that live in these urban populations have systematically been disenfranchised by a place like this.”

James says the recent killings of Ahmad Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd has put more emphasis on diversity during his programs.

“What’s really important is to get those kids those kiddos and mold them,” James said.

Gerry James is on a mission to create a diverse group of explorers at one with nature, just like nature is diverse within itself.

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