When Londoner Tianna Johnson set off on an impromptu camping trip in North Carolina in 2017, she had no idea that it would be the genesis for creating Black Girls Camping Trip, a London-based outdoor retreat for Black women and non-binary people. ‘We watched the sunrise from the mountains and it was incredible. It was my first time camping, so when I came back to the UK, I tweeted one night asking if any Black girls wanted to go camping with me.’ Johnson woke up the next day to a flood of enthusiastic responses. The first trip took place three weeks later.
Alongside activities that cater to all sorts of campers, from party people to exercise enthusiasts, the heart of Black Girls Camping Trip hinges on healing and vulnerability within a welcoming and receptive environment. ‘A lot of our attendees have experienced different forms of violence, such as domestic or sexual abuse, at the hands of men. Through being Black, they also experience racial violence in the UK. When you’re healing from traumas, it’s important for it to take place in as safe a space as possible.’
With 90 percent of Black people in the UK living and being raised in cities and urban spaces, taking time out surrounded by nature often feels like a white pastime. ‘When it comes to us thinking about getting away, it’s often about going to other cities,’ shares Johnson. ‘I think one of the powerful things about Black Girls Camping Trip is that it’s in the UK, not even that far from London, but you’re isolated and that pushes you to look inwards.’ And camping is not easy – it requires teamwork and trust. ‘You’re battling with nature, which is considerably stronger than any individual, so you have to rely on the network of people around you.’
Tianna and her team have had to consider Covid as they devise their next adventure, due to happen in August 2021. ‘We’ll be planning our trip as normal with social distancing and we’re also looking at masks.’
In the meantime, the organisation has been running ‘e-campfire’ sessions, such as therapeutic writing with author Bolu Babalola. ‘When we’ve been physically around the campfire, that’s literally where all the best conversations take place, with jokes, learning and healing. We wanted to create that in people’s homes,’ explains Johnson.
Whether people join the retreat online or IRL, Johnson hopes attendees will get a better understanding of authentic rest and relaxation. ‘If you’re somebody who goes to a spa for massages, yes that’s how you technically like to rest but you still have to be vulnerable in front of a stranger as they touch you, and that, to me, is not true relaxation. I want people to be able to learn how to rest authentically in ways that aren’t difficult or expensive. You just need to know how to carve out the space.’
Find out more at www.blackgirlscampingtrip.com