Go exploring with Outdoor Afro, the group helping black people get back to nature.

"I opened my mouth and my life fell out."

That's how Rue Mapp felt in 2009 when she first shared the idea for Outdoor Afro, a blog to reconnect African-American people with the outdoors.

"And that was a surprising moment, one of those moments where all those things that you just take for granted about who you are come into really sharp focus."


Mapp whitewater rafting. Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

Before she founded Outdoor Afro, Rue Mapp came of age in the great outdoors.

She grew up in Oakland, but her family had a ranch 100 miles north of the city. Mapp grew up hunting, stargazing, fishing, and participating in Girl Scouts. Her parents raised animals, preserved food, and made wine. Her family often hosted large gatherings of friends and people from church.

"So having this thread of nature and hospitality instilled in me at a very young age has become the centerpiece of Outdoor Afro today."

Mapp rock climbing. Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

In 2009, she started Outdoor Afro, a blog that soon became much more.

At first, she shared her own stories of growing up in the fresh air and how her experiences as a child and young woman shaped her in the best ways. Before long, other African-American outdoor enthusiasts started following her and chatting online. Mapp was pleasantly surprised to learn she wasn't alone.

Since then, the program has moved beyond the web to local meetups.

There are now Outdoor Afro chapters in 30 states. Each group holds open events and programs, including hikes and walks, camping trips, rock climbing, local farm tours, river rafting, and more. If it's outside, someone in the group is probably willing to give it a try.

An Outdoor Afro meetup on the water. Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

The programs and trips are led by volunteer Outdoor Afro leaders.

They're not professional mountain climbers or adventure athletes; they're often professionals with a fondness for the outdoors: more community organizer than wilderness expert.

"Outdoor Afro leaders don't need to be the one that has all the gear and expertise," Mapp says. "We want people who can connect-in with other people."

Outdoor Afro leaders at a training session. Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

Brittany Leavitt, an early education teacher, discovered Outdoor Afro on a blog and decided to give the group a shot and is now their D.C. leader. Stefan Moss, an environmental science professor and leader of Outdoor Afro-Atlanta joined the group to find more outdoor activities for his young family. Plus, getting outside helps him feel more connected with the world.

"Through outdoor activities I find a deeper understanding of meaning and purpose as I observe the natural order and the way in which things interact with each other," he writes in an email.

Outdoor Afro Leader Stefan Moss takes it all in. Photo via Stefan Moss, used with permission.

That's what's so powerful about Outdoor Afro. It's not just about getting outside, it's about getting outside with black people.

While everyone is welcome at Outdoor Afro events, the meetups and programs are designed by African-American people to encourage African-American people to explore together.

"In the outdoors we can celebrate our humanity and our melanin, without intimidation or judgment," Moss says.

Members meet up for a hike. Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

Members can also celebrate the unique and often forgotten relationships black people have to outdoors. From the Buffalo Soldiers of the Old West to the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail in Alabama, there's world of history to take in. Leavitt planned a four-day backpacking trip through the Appalachian Trail, mirroring part of Harriet Tubman's route to freedom.

"It was really fun," Leavitt says. "We had seven outdoor leaders total, and two people who were brand new to backpacking."

Hiking the Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail. Photo via Brittany Leavitt, used with permission.

Communing with each other became especially important in the wake of violent and hurtful attacks against African-American people.

After Ferguson, Mapp braced for a long night of protests and demonstrations in her hometown of Oakland. Like many people, she felt heartbroken and wondered what she could do to "show up" for the movement. She reached out to partner organizations and launched the first of many  Healing Hikes, a chance for Outdoor Afro participants to collect their thoughts, share, and reflect together in natural spaces.

Photo via Rue Mapp, used with permission.

"The following weekend we had ... about 30 people show up in the Oakland Hills, and we started off with some yoga and some intention-setting, and we worked our way down into the Redwood Forest."

Soon the group found themselves hiking along a beautiful stream and the weight of history and purpose immediately struck Mapp.

"It was this clear epiphany that we were doing what African-Americans have always known we could do, and that's to lay down our burdens down by the riverside," Mapp says. "We were doing something that was in our DNA to do."

Finally tried out this whole selfie stick thing. #HealingHikes with #GoodPeople 💙

A photo posted by Jesstastic 😎😘✌🏾️🌟 (@missjessica2u2) on

It's easy to feel intimidated by the great outdoors, but it's important to get out anyway.

You don't have to have all the gear or all of the answers, just a willingness to follow through on your curiosity. You may already be more outdoorsy than you realize. If you grill out, garden, or walk your neighborhood, you're farther along than you think.

"If you like to walk, consider a hike at a national park. If you like to swim find the most scenic lake or beach in your area and swim there," Moss says. "Have fun, take lots of pictures and celebrate your own connection to the outdoors!"

In other words: Get outside and let your life fall out.

Go ahead, take it all in. Photo via Stefan Moss, used with permission.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

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