Q&A: A New Approach to the Sport with Brown Girls Climb

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

This growing organization for women and non-binary climbers is on a mission to evolve the climbing community and beyond.

Brown Girls Climb is a social enterprise that strives to facilitate mentorship, provide access, uplift leadership, and celebrate representation in the outdoors and climbing for People of the Global Majority Leadership envisions an “outdoor” and climbing community that honors individual relationships to the land, complex histories and truths, centers the experiences and voices of those most impacted by colonization and industrialization of the land, and provides a just redistribution of resources so that everyone can find their relationship to the land around them.

    BGC began as five leaders from DC, Colorado, and New Hampshire connecting with each other in a united vision to evolve the climbing world from within. Today, the organization has expanded to 34 leaders across 8 states. They hope to continue that growth with timely crowdfunding from fellow outdoor enthusiasts and like-minded industry partnerships. 

    We interviewed BGC Leaders, Tiffany Blount and Brittany Leavitt, about past, present, and what's next for the sport-changing organization.

    Q: Tell us about your first Brown Girls Climb meet-up. When the meet-up was over, what were you collectively thinking and feeling about your mission?

    A: (TB) On Zoom --The first BGC meetup I hosted was via Zoom due to the Pandemic. I was nervous and wasn’t sure if a non-climbing virtual climbing event would even work. But it worked. That meetup was when I really realized how much people need spaces like this even if they’re virtual. Just having a safe space to vent or cry or laugh is sometimes the only thing our community craves. 

    In-person -- Our first in-person NYC meetup was magical and centered around Building Connections. Around 20 folks attended and were randomly paired off with others who challenged one another to try various boulder problems. There was chatting, climbing and lots of laughing. The group walked away thankful for the space and again helped me realize how needed these spaces are.

    Q: What was the driving force behind creating Brown Girls Climb?

    A: (BL) We were a platform showcasing and sharing stories of women and non-binary folks who have a passion for climbing. Once we started meeting up in person, we realized that it isn't only storytelling that's important but also creating spaces for folks to come together, learn, celebrate, and mentor each other in the climbing community. Many people deal all the time with having to navigate crags and gyms that feel unwelcoming. Now we have a Brown Girls Climb App where folks are able to connect and discuss with other climbers in their area.

    We want to help support the conversation on understanding how there is more than one way to be a climber. 


    Q: You're at a crucial time in your organization -- in need of funds to carry on and grow. With contributions from funding, what is your 5-year plan for BGC?

    A: (BL) Our goal for the next five years is to deepen our relationship with our members and partners to provide valuable, accessible, and affordable access to climbing gear and mentorship. 

    We want to make sure we are able to continue strengthening support for our local leaders while being able to expand to other areas. We also hope to become one of the primary sources for investing in businesses and entrepreneurs that can make a difference in the industry. We plan on continuing to work towards building a stronger foundation for operations to grow, which means we would be able to hire folks!! 

    Q: We hear you're creating a values-based marketplace to help folks navigate the outdoor space?

    A: (BL) Yes! We're creating a marketplace that will be a values-based shopping experience for the outdoor enthusiasts committed to a better future for all. It will incorporate search filters beyond what you find in a typical retailer. We offer an option for you to filter brands by your values because let’s face it - the details matter. Search options include: Ownership (BIPOC, Women & Non-Binary (NB), and LGBTQIA2+), Fit & Style (Adaptive, Gender Inclusive, Plus Size), and Corporate Responsibility (Environmental & Social initiatives).

    Q: Folks often have thoughtful sport-related analogies related to life challenges, growth, and learning. Do you have an analogy for climbing? If so, please share!

    A: (TB) As an introvert and overthinker, I’ve always compared climbing to low-budget therapy. It’s the only sport (and I’ve done many) where my brain shuts off completely when I’m on the wall. Climbing speaks to me in a way nothing else does and I feel revitalized after a session, especially a session with friends.

    Q: What is the message you want to share with women and girls of color who are interested in climbing or who have yet to find belonging in the sport?

    A: (TB) In the beginning, climbing might feel hard. You might feel like an alien in the gym, and you might feel like you’re making a lot of sacrifices (manicures be damned, chalky hair, and ohhh your feet), but the moment you find your community, none of that will matter. 

    Regardless of where in the world you are, be patient. 

    Your community is out there. It just might take some time to find it. Trust that this sport was made just for you, it doesn’t matter the shade of your skin or the shape of your body. Climbing truly is for all. 

     

    Cover photo: Ben Pingilley

    We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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