Rue Mapp offers transformation through new book, ‘Nature Swagger’ – Times-Herald

For those who want to discover transformation through nature, the new book “Nature Swagger” can be seen as a universal road map.

Or in this case, the overall Rue Mapp collection.

Mapp, a native of Vallejo, is the Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, and oversees a team of carefully selected and trained national staff and volunteers. Since establishing Outdoor Afro in 2009 as a blog, Rue has captured the attention and support of millions through a multimedia approach based on personal connections and community organizing. She has taken celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams on walks.

Last week Mapp spoke with the Times-Herald to discuss “Nature Swagger” and how it’s healthy to find your nature nearby and within. Interspersed throughout “Nature Swagger” are essays by Mapp on the rich history of Black outdoor involvement, activism, and conservation, as well as resources for readers who want to explore nature in new ways. It is a combination of photographs, stories and Black history.

“In the last two years I wrote the book while the racial reckoning was happening across the country,” Rapp said. “I wanted to double down and remind people that nature never closes and is always nearby. Nature is truly a transformative platform. This book is not just myself but a collection of many people, and it is very diverse. Our youngest contributor is 9, while our oldest is 99. There are 30 contributors in total.”

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Mapp said the book is full of all kinds of images, from images from the 1970s to more recent photos.

Mapp will be at Alibi Bookshop to promote “Nature Swagger” on December 11.

Meanwhile, Outdoor Afro is a national non-profit organization that has become the nation’s premier progressive network for celebrating and inspiring Black connections and leadership in the outdoors. They have offices in Oakland and Washington, DC, and leadership networks across the country. With over 100 trained volunteer leaders in 30 states from across the country, Outdoor Afro connects thousands of people with outdoor experiences, and is actively changing the face of conservation. From its grassroots beginnings, Outdoor Afro now enjoys national patronage and is recognized by major organizations for its role in addressing the ongoing need for greater diversity in the outdoors.

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Mapp is also no stranger to helping Solano County and Vallejo. Earlier this year U.S. Representative Mike Thompson announced Mapp as his 2022 Solano County Climate Crisis Champion.

Thompson was pleased that, for the past five years, Outdoor Afro has included a policy and education group that has advocated for environmental protection legislation, including the Groundwater Conservation Fund, which funds parks and public land. Outdoor Afro includes over 60,000 participants and over 100 volunteer leaders who promote and participate in outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, cycling and more.

“Mike Thompson has always been consistent in his love for Outdoor Afro,” said Mapp. “He also gave us accommodation in 2019. He is very special. I share the same passion for duck hunting as him and in 2018 we both took part in a community bike ride. We rode all the way from the waterfront to the Carquinez Bridge and back.”

Mapp said it’s important to explore nature in your hometown, not just places far away.

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“I really like the Vallejo waterfront, because it’s so diverse,” Mapp said. “It’s a cross section of warmth and people actually talk to you there and say ‘hello’,” Mapp said. “I’ve not only walked there, I’ve skated there, I’ve fished there and eaten in good restaurants there.”

Mapp said she also enjoys Lake Chabot because of the Kayak groups and a few parks on Mare Island as well as her own Vista neighborhood.

“Nature is truly equal,” Mapp said. “When I took Oprah and Serena on hikes, I think they wanted to go to a place of healing where no one was constantly telling them what to do. Somewhere where they could get out of the public eye. Nature evens all that out. The trees don’t care if you’re Black. The leaves don’t care how much money is in your bank account. I felt they had an experience in nature that they could enjoy.”

Nature Swagger, Stories and Visions of Black Joy in the Outdoors can be purchased at Chronicle Books as well as bookstores such as Alibi Bookstore in Vallejo.


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