When Judith Kasiama turned to hiking and running as an outlet for stress, she hit the mountain trails near her home in Vancouver. She noticed there was a great diversity of people on the trials – but this was at odds with the lack of diversity in adverts for outdoor clothing and activities. With the desire to connect with likeminded athletes from a similar background to herself, and with visible representation evidently low, Judith formed Colour The Trails, to bring Black, Indigenous, and People of Color together outdoors.
I had a vision of how to create an inclusive space for everyone. I did a lot of research: I read books on diversity and inclusion, and I joined social media groups and asked people from underrepresented communities if they would be interested in a hike to the mountains around Vancouver. It was important to me that people who were new to hiking and running could come in without feeling shame, or that they didn’t belong. I felt I could help create an inclusive environment by organizing a group of people who shared similar backgrounds. Through word of mouth, curious people began to show up.
After the events of 2020 [Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd’s murders and the Black Lives Matter protests], the support for Colour The Trails rose. People were seeing the importance of what we were doing in bringing representation to the forefront so I expanded our program to cover running, mountain biking, hiking, backpacking and sailing.
Our motto is: Community starts with an invitation. This is because a lot of the activities we offer start with an invitation from someone already performing in that space. We now operate in Vancouver, Alberta and Toronto – and talk to local people to see if they want to partner with us, to subsidize access to that sport. For example, our mountain biking mentorship started with an invitation from a local woman, Jacqueline, who owns a mountain bike guiding company. We built the program together through an organic partnership. I bring the people and she shares her skills to teach people how to ride bikes.
Many people still think allyship is giving money and walking away. This is a very western perception – that if we throw money at a problem, the problem will be resolved. At Colour The Trails, we work to cultivate relationships with sustainability. We don’t want one-time donations, but we want a long-term commitment from company partnerships to create opportunities for people in the outdoors. It’s an ongoing partnership or allyship. We want to work together to make the outdoors more inclusive.
There is often an assumption in the BIPOC community that there’s no point trying activities because it’s a White person’s sport. But it’s time we moved away from that perception, and give people the opportunity to try all sports and see if it is for them. There’s diversity in choice. There’s also a misconception that throwing gear at the BIPOC community solves problems. What about education and knowledge? Our role is to teach people how to be safe when hiking and running or taking part in any sport. That sustainable development is important.
I am now seeing a lot more representation in Canada’s marketing for outdoor activities. I’ve also seen a lot of improvement when speaking with brands about sustainable support versus one-time support. We’ve been talking to the federal government; they now recognize what we do and why we exist. However, there is still work to do. We still need more diversity in the upper levels, on boards, in senior marketing teams, and behind the lens. This is an important consideration because the world is diverse. [In the meantime], my community keeps me inspired. Being able to take people to beautiful trails and see their faces light up, or witnessing that reaction to seeing a bear for the first time – it’s all really special.
Find out more about Colour The Trails