Out & Back: How Denice Rochelle encourages outdoor skill-building

Through her group The Bronze Chapter, Rochelle helps BIPOC rewrite their narrative — and explore the PNW.

Denice Rochelle is a child of the Pacific Northwest. Growing up in Washington, she spent most of her time outdoors, creating memories while adventuring in the region’s parks, camping and spending time on the water. There was nothing particularly unique about her experience except for one thing: As a biracial Black woman, she rarely saw people who looked like her doing the things she was doing.

Rochelle stayed connected to the outdoors through her adulthood. In the summer of 2018, she took a solo road trip to Northern California and found that throughout her nearly 2,000-mile journey, she didn’t bump into a single other person of color adventuring. That trip led her to wonder why there wasn’t anyone on the road like her, and what if anything she could do to address the discrepancy.

That wondering eventually turned into action, and in 2021 Rochelle created The Bronze Chapter to provide opportunities for BIPOC to safely and enjoyably experience the outdoors. Rochelle believes that each of us has the power to rewrite our outdoor narratives. While historical trauma and racism have negatively impacted the opportunities for people of color to get outdoors and to feel psychological and physical safety, shared positive experiences in the outdoors can help us to create new stories and possibilities for ourselves.  

Particularly important for Rochelle is a focus on activities that are both fun and promote learning new skills. The Bronze Chapter regularly hosts clinics and certification courses geared toward creating new leaders in the outdoors. Rochelle’s hope is that by doing so, more BIPOC become stewards of the land who are deeply invested in addressing issues of environmental justice and climate change.  

In this episode, Denise and I visit a beautiful lake outside of Seattle for my first-ever solo kayaking experience. We discuss the importance of BIPOC-led outdoor activities and our hopes for how increased connection to the land can ultimately lead to climate activism.

For more from this episode, listen to the Out & Back podcast. You can find it on SpotifyApple Podcasts, Amazon or wherever you get your podcasts.

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