Advocate Spotlight: Brandon Belcher

Categories: Advocate Spotlight

Brandon is an active member of the Southeast climbing community, especially in his hometown of Atlanta. He serves on the equitable access committee for Southeastern Climbers Coalition (SCC), helping to advise the local climbing organization on equitable access policies and issues regarding diversity in climbing. He also advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in climbing through his role as a Gnarly Nutrition and Asana athlete, working with these companies to support their DEI initiatives. Brandon’s good work doesn’t end there: He is also passionate about helping Atlanta communities through mutual aid, and works to promote the Free 99 Fridge and Free Food Fridge Atlanta.

5 Questions for Brandon:

What’s your favorite cause in climbing advocacy right now?
I’ve really loved seeing the work that affinity groups like Brown Girls Climb, Climbing in Color, and Sending in Color have done to connect their communities to a variety of workshops, scholarships, and events. They’ve all also done a great job connecting their followings to a plethora of mutual aid initiatives, which is a form of assistance that directly benefits communities at a more granular (i.e. grassroots) level.

What does it mean to you to be a climbing advocate?
To me, being a climbing advocate means finding ways to support and speak up for underrepresented individuals within our community; it means leveraging whatever privilege I have in order to empower and defend those individuals who may be experiencing bigotry, harassment, or violence from others within the climbing community and beyond; it means constantly listening and absorbing the perspectives and experiences of others who have lived through a different identity from my own.

What’s your advice to new advocates?
Listen. Be patient. Be humble. I think the latter is incredibly important for folks who are new to advocacy work. In this context, humility is more than just being modest; it means that you will need to be humble enough to not become defensive when you ultimately come to the realization that you are a direct contributor and beneficiary of whatever privilege—or privileges—you possess. There will be a lot of instances where you’ll need to confront some level of shame or discomfort. Sit with it, internalize, and learn from it.

What excites you the most about getting into the advocacy world?
It ultimately comes down to how the community has changed and how the narrative is shifting within climbing. It’s nice to see more professionals and companies talking about social justice initiatives in a more general sense and not just in an “outdoors” context. The myth that climbing is this vacuum that isn’t impacted by social issues is narrative that is slowly being broken down. Issues like racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, and xenophobia have an overreaching impact in all aspects of some people’s lives, and those issues oftentimes prevent individuals with marginalized identities from pursuing activities like climbing.

Additionally, it’s nice to see more Black and Brown faces in the outdoors.

Who is another climbing advocate whose work is really inspiring you right now?
Some of these names have already been brought up, but Liz Ndindi of Climbing Life Kenya; Brittney Leavitt from Brown Girls Climb and Outdoor Afro; Kai Lightner from Climbing for Change; Lor Sabourin from The Warrior’s Way; and Laura Edmondson.

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