On Tuesday night in Roux Lantern, the Bowdoin Outing Club (BOC) screened “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, But It’s Complicated,” a virtual conversation about the representation of Black women in the outdoors.
The conversation was hosted by Middlebury College and moderated by Teresa Baker, founder of the In Solidarity Project, an organization that helps outdoor industry companies improve their diversity and inclusiveness. Baker welcomed special guests Sophia Danenberg, the first ever African American and Black woman to summit Mount Everest and Dr. Carolyn Finney, a global “trekker” and artist-in-residence at Middlebury College’s Franklin Environmental Center. Finney visited Bowdoin’s Roux Center in 2019 to present “Black Faces, White Spaces: Re-Imagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Outdoors.”
Since her record achievement, Danenberg finds that people focus solely on the difficulties Black women face in the outdoors. She, however, likes to say that “it’s complicated.”
“They want my story to be of hardship,” she said. “And I won’t tell it. I will tell the boring story because that’s the truth … I climbed Everest because I had a ton of privilege. A ton of privilege. A lot of Black folk do not have that privilege.”
Finney also climbed Mount Everest, although not to its summit. She and Danenberg shared disbelief at how few Black women they encounter while adventuring. Finney remembered thinking while on Everest, “Could I be the first? I can’t be the first.”
Finney also admitted that she had not heard of Danenberg’s summit until about three years ago.
The BOC held this event to increase student exposure to stories and perspectives like those of Danenberg, Finney and Baker.
“Students have shown both enthusiasm and engagement in previous events centered around these topics,” Eric Guiang, assistant director of the BOC said. “We wanted to take advantage of Middlebury’s generosity in making this a public event and provide a space for students to continue to engage.”
When Finney came to Bowdoin three years ago for “Black Faces, White Spaces,” she encountered an overflowing audience at the Roux Center. Students at the viewing on Tuesday agreed on Finney’s talent for engaging audiences and creating meaningful and dynamic conversation.
“She talked about her dad, their relationship, and the ways in which he instilled strength in her and maybe the way that generational trauma affects all Black people,” attendee Irene Brogdon ’22 said. “I loved the way that [Finney] was able to move between talking about vast systemic issues and also her personal experiences.”