Transformation through Outdoor Spaces: Aleshea Carriere
Our outdoor community is built on seeking adventure. Sometimes this means spending time in harsh weather conditions and challenging ourselves physically, while other times it means having difficult conversations and changing our perspective. In this three-part series, we'll be sharing the stories of individuals redefining what it means to be outside.
Written by Luisa Vargas.
At the beginning of February, we witnessed the power of community. Slim Pickings Outfitters is the first Black-owned outdoor shop in the nation. They’re a fellow Texan business whose home is not too far from ours in Stephenville, TX. Their mission is bringing diversity to the outdoors and building a space where everyone feels welcome and supported.
Like most small businesses, the pandemic hit them hard. When The Outbound Collective caught hold of Slim Picking’s struggles, they quickly set up a Go Fund Me, and with the help of social media, in just three days they raised over $100,000 and hit record sales.
People saved Slim Pickings Outfitters and everything they stand for.
This brings me hope. It’s proof that collective power is real and we each have a part to play in it. If you’re reading this, you likely want to do something to help, and I’m here to remind you that you can. You can start by supporting organizations and businesses led by Blacks, LatinX, Asians, Muslims, Immigrants, LGBTQ+, and people with disabilities. It’s in the intersectionality of these groups that we will bring about transformational change.
Today, we’ll be learning about Aleshea Carriere’s life. Listening is one small thing we can all do, but actions still speak louder than words. At the end of this post, you’ll find a list of resources and things you can do to help others like Slim Pickings Outfitters.
For now, let’s dive into the story behind Glitz n Grits.
Aleshea at Guadalupe Peak: 8,749 feet
Aleshea Carriere was 5 years old when she came home from school with a Girl Scouts flyer asking her mom if she could join a troop. This didn’t mean she would automatically be participating in outdoor activities, but her mind was set on being outside.
Alesha’s mom volunteered to lead the new group of 20 girls who wanted to take part in this adventure. While Aleshea’s sister’s troop focused on more scientific learning, Aleshea was adamant about getting to do the adventurous stuff.
Girl Scouts became Aleshea’s way of exploring the outdoors.
Aleshea and her Girl Scout troop on her first campout at Eisenhower state park
Aleshea studied history and political science in college with ambitions to go to law school, but after interning with a law office, she realized it wasn’t for her. Aleshea says she accidentally stumbled into a teaching job but continued to spend her free time in nature and taking pictures.
After working seven years in education she decided that it wasn’t a job that fueled her. She decided to quit her job, and that summer Glitz n Grits was born.
What started as a food blog quickly developed into a travel and outdoor adventure blog as well.
“I heard the song ‘My Texas’ by Josh Abbott after college and realized I had lived here my whole life and hadn’t done half the stuff in Texas,” Aleshea says.
She started sharing the outdoor activities she was doing and recognized that she was an anomaly. People were asking her why she was spending so much time outdoors, and that’s when she connected the dots.
“The Civil Rights Act wasn’t passed until 1964. So when people ask why Black children are nine times more likely to die from drowning, I explain that my mother was born before 1964, so there was a time she wasn’t allowed in public swimming pools or public places,” Aleshea says.
As she began sharing more, more people wanted to learn more.
Aleshea enjoying a day of exploring Texas
Eventually, Aleshea was asked to come back to Girl Scouts and help plan trips to places such as Arches National Park.
Before the pandemic, she led a backpacking troop in Plano. When Aleshea sat down with the girls and asked them what outdoor activities they wanted to do, there were many responses.
Aleshea said a little Black girl told her, “I want to climb a mountain.” To which Aleshea responded, “Okay we can do that.”
Aleshea recalls that the girl’s eyes lit up as she asked, “Really? You can take me to climb a mountain?” Aleshea replied, “Girl, we’re going to climb a mountain.”
Partly, it’s businesses that fail to show a wide range of humans on their platforms. Another part is that people don’t see different kinds of people out on the trails. Not only different races but ages, abilities, and genders.
Aleshea volunteering at Day Camp
Aleshea shared several instances where people have stopped her on the trail asking her if she knows where she’s going or what she’s doing.
“The number of people that stop us to make sure we know what we’re doing. I think, do you not see the backpacks, poles, and water bottles?” Aleshea says.
She also shared that on a trip to Caprock Canyons State Park, she was with a friend who is white and LGBTQ+, and people were shocked when he said he was an Eagle Scout.
“When I say yeah people who identify as LGBTQ+ can be in Eagle Scouts, they’ll just look at me,” Aleshea says.
At Girl Scouts they have a saying, “you can’t be what you can’t see,” and Aleshea says that can be applied to diversity in outdoor spaces. If we don’t see others who look like us climbing mountains, we begin to believe that’s not a possibility for us.
While there is still so much work to do, Aleshea shares the progress between generations.
“I was joking with someone that this is my ancestor’s wildest dreams. I’m getting to do things they probably never got to do or would’ve thought of doing,” Aleshea says.
Organizations to support:
Adaptive Climbing Co
Indigenous Women Hike
Check out Trailey’s guide of resources here.