Access Fund’s Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Categories: Perspectives , Community

Climbing is changing. Instead of debates about rap bolting and ground-up ethics, diversity and inclusion have become central issues to our community. Women, people of color, and other underrepresented groups are standing up, amplifying their voices, and demanding representation—and the climbing world has noticed.

Damon Yeh, Bethany Lebewitz, Rina Huang, Kavi Jivan, Dan Lebewitz, and Taimur Ahmad at Color the Crag 2017. Photo courtesy of © Adventure Visionaries

My name is Taimur, and I’m a climber from New York City. I’ve just recently started as Access Fund’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) fellow, based in Bishop, CA. My goal, and the goal of my position, is to make both Access Fund as an organization and the climbing world broadly a place that is more inclusive and better able to support people of all backgrounds, and provide them with the same opportunities.

My first day on the job was working the Access Fund booth at the Color the Crag festival, down in Horse Pens 40, Alabama. The festival is devoted to diversity in climbing and is an amazing gathering that exemplifies so much of what I love about climbing and our community: high psych, perfect stone, and great people to share it all with. In between wrestling incredible sandstone slopers, the community was also asking hard, important questions about diversity, inclusion, representation, and tribal sovereignty in the climbing world. Both at the Access Fund climbing and conservation panel and at our booth, a number of participants were curious about how the organization might engage with these issues. Specifically, people asked how we work with tribes and whether we are supportive or antagonistic when it comes to issues of access overlapping with sacred sites. Others asked how we see ourselves working in DEI in the climbing world going forward.

2018 Color the Crag at Horse Pens 40, Steele, AL | Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek Territories | Photo courtesy of © Fabian Santiago

Access Fund is committed to collaborating with the broad community to answer these questions, and many more. We aim to partner with tribes to find solutions to climbing management that respect sovereignty and cultural needs. We want to listen to climbers to understand what our community needs to do to make climbing a more welcoming place for all people, and we want to look internally to see how we can make ourselves a more diverse and equitable organization.

This work has already started. Our track record—from supporting the June closure at Devils Tower to teaming up with tribes to sue the Trump Administration over the Bears Ears National Monument reduction—informs the direction we want to go with our tribal partners. Since 2015, Access Fund’s Native Lands Coordinator, Aaron Mike, has been engaging on climbing issues with the Navajo Nation and many other tribes. On issues like land acknowledgement, we believe tribes deserve respect and proper recognition for the deep ties they have with the land we climb on.

We’re also building partnerships within the DEI organizations in the climbing world. Access Fund has worked with Brothers of Climbing, Brown Girls Climb, and Flash Foxy as they continue to build out Color the Crag, the Women’s Climbing Festival, and other initiatives. We’ve collaborated with Latino Outdoors to translate The Climber’s Pact into Spanish and make the information it contains culturally accessible. We are sponsoring and attending the 2019 PGM ONE conference, which focuses on bringing together environmental leaders of color. And we’re also building DEI into our policy work by convening a working group to make our Climb the Hill event, a joint partnership with the American Alpine Club, better represent all members of the climbing community.

Access Fund’s mission remains firmly in protecting our climbing areas and the climbing environment. Our commitment to partnering with tribes and supporting the many organizations leading on DEI in our community compliments and enhances our ability to do this work by bringing together more ideas and collaboration to protect the climbing areas we love.

This is just the beginning of what’s going to be a pivotal time for the climbing community, and I’m thrilled to get the chance to be in the middle of it. Both Access Fund and myself know that we have a lot to learn, and we want to listen. Please feel free to reach out at [email protected].

To learn more about Color the Crag, check out this article by another attendee.

Taimur Ahmad
Taimur is the Access Fund’s diversity, equity, and inclusion fellow, and also works on eastern Sierra and southern California policy issues. Taimur is from New York City and got his start in climbing bouldering on Rat Rock in New York’s Central Park.

Credit Photo Courtesy of:
© Joe Sambataro

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