Podcast | How getting outside changed Alison Mariella Désir’s life

The Out & Back host tells the story of how she rediscovered running in Harlem before she and her family moved to the PNW.

Woman in the woods

Alison Mariella Désir moved to the Pacific Northwest to explore her love for the outdoors. (Sarah Hall)

Alison Mariella Désir is a runner, an activist, a mother and an author; a lover of the outdoors; and a student of history. And now, with a new video series and this accompanying podcast, she gets to highlight other BIPOC folks in the Pacific Northwest who are deconstructing historic and modern ideas about who belongs in the outdoors. Along the way, viewers and listeners will meet groups and individuals who are reclaiming the outdoors and encouraging others to get outside with them.

But before Alison gets into a season full of adventures and conversations, she has her own story of reclamation to tell. It begins before she and her family moved from the Bronx to the Pacific Northwest to give her son a life more connected to nature. It begins in her youth, with her father teaching her that history is told from the perspective of the winners and that history is one thing while the truth is another. 

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The truth is, though the outdoors don’t always feel welcoming to everyone because of past and present exclusion and trauma, getting outside can be life-changing. It changed Alison’s life and led her, like many she will introduce you to this season, to work to make the outdoors more welcoming to all.

For this episode of the Out and Back podcast, Alison’s husband, Amir Muhammad Figueroa, interviews her. You will also follow her on a run as she explains her mantra “meaning through movement.”

Before listening, we suggest you watch the debut episode of the Out & Back series here.


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