Refuge Outdoor Festival, a powerful experience for People of Color and allies, goes virtual

Refuge Outdoor Festival, a powerful experience for People of Color and allies, goes virtual

Keiko Betcher / Aug 31, 2020 / Events, Justice Equity Diversity Inclusion

The three-day virtual camp-in geared toward People of Color will be filled with workshops, DJs, performances, art and more. Tickets are on sale now!

By Keiko Betcher, Communications and Outreach Associate

We’ve been looking forward to Refuge Outdoor Festival all year—and it’s almost here! For the third year in a row, Conservation Northwest staff have had the opportunity to support and attend this amazing event centered on building community through outdoor recreation, conversations, music, and art happening on September 18-20.

Tickets are on sale now! You can also get involved as a volunteer, or by making a donation. To learn more about Refuge Outdoor Festival, check out the even website: refugeoutdoorfestival.com

While this experience is geared toward People of Color, all are welcome. This event is for you if you:

  • Are a person of color that wants to build community with other People of Color
  • Are a white person that respects, supports, and wants to build community with People of Color
  • Have an interest in the outdoors but don’t know where to start
  • Love the outdoors and are looking for a community to share it with

Conservation Northwest staff who identify as both People of Color and allies have found this event to be a truly powerful, moving, and inspiring experience. Personally, it was incredibly refreshing and comforting to experience the outdoors in a way that was intertwined with art, music, community and celebration. The warmth and openness people share here is genuine, and my own reflections on race, ability, and representation in the outdoors have been transformative. And not to mention—the performances, skills, and talents shared and celebrated throughout the event are amazing! Refuge Outdoor Festival is truly a place where I feel like my body, mind and spirit are being healed and rejuvenated.

“When I arrived at the first-ever Refuge Outdoor Festival, I had no idea what to expect or what I wanted to get out of the event,” says Heather Hutchison, Special Events and Public Engagement Coordinator. “As a white-presenting (meaning, I look white), biracial woman of color, I wasn’t sure what my role should be, so I opted to spend the weekend listening. Within hours, powerful stories were being shared—stories that embodied the pain and struggles of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) fighting for space in the outdoors. Some of the stories resonated deeply; many did not. It quickly became clear how a BIPOC-centric event is empowering, healing and essential.”

Attendees at the Refuge Outdoor Festival had a great time enjoying live music. Photo: Keiko Betcher

“After an emotional weekend that was Refuge Outdoor Festival, I went home to grapple with my own privilege and role in making space in both outdoor recreation and in the environmental movement,” says Heather. “But my biggest takeaway was simple: the best way to be an ally is to listen and learn.”

“For two years, I have had the opportunity to attend Refuge Outdoor Festival. As a white ally, I believe in doing the hard work that needs to be done to see truly equitable spaces and representation in the outdoors and environmental and conservation work,” says Laurel Baum, Central Cascades Conservation Associate. “Refuge was pivotal and eye opening to some of what is missing in white-dominated spaces. I was able to come away having experienced open, honest, and vulnerable conversations about race and the outdoors.”

“I came away from the festival feeling committed to creating inclusive spaces, having conversations from the heart, addressing inequities in the outdoors, and supporting leaders and community organizers that are dedicated to furthering this work,” says Laurel.

Heather, Laurel and I are excited to attend Refuge Outdoor Festival again this year, as well as host a virtual workshop called “Wildlife Safety 101” about staying safe while recreating near wildlife. We hope you can join us for this event, and support this important effort to increase equitable access to the outdoors and create community.

Visit REFUGEOUTDOORFESTIVAL.COM to learn more and get your tickets today! For more perspectives on this event from our staff, check out HEATHER’S PIECE from 2018, or a BLOG I WROTE earlier this year.
Attendees gather around for the first-ever Refuge Outdoor Festival in 2018. Photo: Heather Hutchison