In 2020 when George Floyd, a Black man, was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, his final words were, “I can’t breathe.” It hit Only Footprints Founder Crystal Gail Welcome hard. As a Black woman, who only within the past six years reunited with Mother Earth, Crystal understands the devastating reality – that Nature, along with the freedom she affords, can be taken. In a sorry plight, she turned her love for backpacking into a form of protest to sustain Black lives.
In the summer of 2021, Crystal will begin hiking the John Muir section of the Pacific Crest Trail as part of the program’s, Footprints for Change, Hike for Justice. Crystal says, “BIPOC communities have had to endure the traumatic burden of fighting for their right to healthy environments while simultaneously fighting for freedom from discrimination and police violence. The current COVID-19 pandemic has amplified these struggles. However, only people who are insulated from systematic racism can opt to enjoy outdoor spaces.” She wants that to change. Her hike’s primary goal is for visibility and to inspire BIPOC people, especially BIPOC youth, to foster a positive relationship with the natural world — free from barriers.