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Spotlight on Danielle Johnson - Creator of North Carolina BIPOC Climbers Asheville, NC

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

This story is presented by Coleman

Erin McGrady, a Coleman Collective member, filmed Danielle Johnson, creator of North Carolina BIPOC Climbers Asheville, NC, for an upcoming documentary short. We spoke with Erin on the film, why Danielle's organization is important, and how the two connected. 

An interview with Erin McGrady on her film with Danielle Johnson

A woman in a long sleeve shirt, pants, and backpack loads her camera gear into a white van.
Photo courtesy of Authentically Asheville.

1: What drew you to highlight Danielle specifically in this film?

I knew I wanted to create a short film series that highlighted four incredible humans and the work they’re doing to make the world a better, more inclusive place. Once I narrowed it down to people in the Southeast (U.S.), who also had a tie to the outdoors, Danielle’s name kept coming up because of her involvement and leadership with NC BIPOC Climbers.

The common denominator with all four of the people in this series is that each of them has and is actively working to strengthen and build their communities within their respective fields. With Danielle, it was her climbing community.

2. Why did Danielle create NC BIPOC Climbers, and why is it a group that is specifically important to have in NC & the greater climbing scene?

Danielle created NC BIPOC Climbers back in 2020. She didn’t see any representation in North Carolina and she wanted to create that community for herself and others. She started a Facebook group during the pandemic and from there it grew and grew and eventually led to some Zoom meetings. Once things loosened up a bit (with Covid restrictions), they started having informal meetings in person. The group has continued to grow, and now they have BIPOC nights at two of the gyms in the Asheville area.

NCBIPOC Climbers is important in North Carolina and the greater climbing scene because it’s an affinity space for BIPOC climbers in the area. Plus, this grassroots network supports climbers of all levels. NCBIPOC Climbers highlights, supports, and connects people to one another.

3. How did you first hear about Danielle and the NC BIPOC Climbing group?

I first heard about Danielle and NCBIPOC Climbers from a couple of mutual friends. She and I met in March of 2021 at a vigil I helped organize after the Atlanta spa shootings that targeted members of our AAPI community and I’ve been following her and her work ever since. I haven’t gone climbing with the group yet, but I hope to join them at one of their meet-ups.

4. Why is sharing the story of Danielle and the other subjects you will highlight important for the whole of your Coleman Reimagine Purpose Project?

Sharing Danielle’s story as well as the others in this series is a tremendous honor. I am so thankful that each of them allowed Caroline and I to share space and time with them and to do so in such an open and vulnerable way. I think getting parts of their story out into the world is one way to not only increase representation but also spark conversations that will hopefully create lasting and dynamic change.

5. Why is it important for BIPOC climbers to climb with other BIPOC community members? How can BIPOC climbers seek this community?

For me, anytime I’m in an affinity space I can let my guard down a little. It’s not only restorative but can also be healing. You can connect with NCBIPOC Climbers via Instagram or Facebook.

6. When partnering with Coleman & becoming a part of the Coleman Collective, did you already have this film series in mind?

Yep! I had this idea in my mind for several months. After being a part of the Coleman Collective for a year, I knew they’d be great to partner with since we share a common value of working towards a more inclusive outdoors. Plus, I genuinely like their gear and use it in my daily life, so it felt like a natural fit to team up with them on this project.

7. When can we expect to see the other films in your series launch? 

We just finished filming the second project and will be working on editing it and releasing it sometime later in October. (Editor's note: It's live! Watch here.) The last two will be filmed in late October and we anticipate they’ll be released in November. For more info and to view this project, follow me on Instagram at @e.mcgrady and @authenticasheville and be sure to check out @ColemanUSA. Eventually you’ll be able to see longer versions of each person’s story on YouTube.

Feature image is of Danielle Johnson (she/her/they/them). Photo by Authentic Asheville.

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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