A local nonprofit called Culture Queens is set to be featured on Public Broadcasting Service’s “Ten to Try: Trails,” a television show that highlights adventure and cultural opportunities in and around North Carolina.
In 2019, Culture Queens began as a nonprofit for Black creatives in Charlotte to explore local arts by taking group trips to art museums and art exhibits.
But at the start of the pandemic, the group visits halted. In search of safe ways to meet, founder Jennifer Evertt expanded the program to include outdoor activities.
In October 2020, the Culture Queens —a group of six women at that time — completed their first group hike at Linville Falls and Gorge. This began a series of monthly meetups on hiking trails and expanded Culture Queens into Culture Queens Outdoors.
On the show, Everett will be featured on an overnight trail adventure with some of the other members of Culture Queens.
In a Q&A with QCity Metro, Evertt shares some of her favorite hikes, challenges she’s faced running the group, and how people can join Culture Queens.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Everett.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
What inspired you to begin Culture Queens
I was going to art exhibits and private halls; whenever I was there, there were not any women that looked like me in the room. I remember asking my date ‘Why don’t we see more people that look like us?’
The more I pondered this question, I realized a lot of Black people, or people of color, don’t visit museums because they don’t know they didn’t have access. So I started using the relationships that I was creating with gallery owners and key players to create Culture Queens to have private tours.
When COVID-19 started, all the museums were shut down. We had to stop doing the tours and exhibits, and I started walking every day because I was going crazy being in the house and I loved being outdoors. The ladies came for our first hike, and they loved it. They enjoyed it and we’ve been doing everything since then: all things arts and culture and outdoors.
How often are the hikes?
We do at least two events per month. We do camp out sometimes where we stay overnight or we will do a day hike where we meet up in the morning.
How many people go on these hikes?
Our hikes range from around five to 15 or 20 people.
What are the health benefits of getting outdoors, mentally and physically?
During our car conversations [after hiking], that is where we really decompress. If there’s something that’s been going on [personally], hiking gives you the opportunity to talk about it.
The mental benefits that I get just from being outdoors disconnected from the phone and emails [are beneficial]. It’s a reset; you literally have time to do nothing but think, process, reset, and live in the moment. The mental clarity, the peace that you get, the excitement that you get, the feeling of accomplishment, you take all that stuff back home, and the next day you’re like okay, if I [completed this hike], I can do this.
Physically, your heart is racing, your body is using your muscles. It’s a full-body exercise and when you’re doing it with other people know you have that support from them. It just gives you the strength, the courage, the support you need to deal with the daily challenges of life.
Do you have a favorite hike you’ve taken?
Our first Mother’s Day camping experience. Some of the ladies camped out at South Mountain State Park [in Burke County, N.C.] right by the stream. Some of the moms brought their children and we were climbing and hiking.
The children were [working together]. Three kids, one is reaching down to the other, who’s reaching down to the other to pull her up to the top of the rock. It was the most amazing experience.
It was a symbol to me of how we work together and help each other.
[Another favorite was] a hike out to Rainbow Falls in Gorges State Park. That was one of my favorite [hikes] because we had a larger group.
Another favorite was when I went with one of the other ladies [to Asheville.] It’s a favorite because I lived through it. We took the wrong turn on one of the trails and ended up going [lost]. Because we didn’t follow the signs like we were supposed to, I didn’t think we were going to make it back. We had over 12 miles back to the car because we went the wrong way. But we finally made it back. So that’s a favorite because I lived through it; I learned from it.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Everett.
Some people believe Black people don’t like to get outdoors. Do you have an opinion on that?
Oh, absolutely. Part of the reason I started Culture Queens was because we are defying stereotypes. People believe the stereotype that Black people don’t get outside, Black people don’t love the outdoors, Black people don’t swim or Black people don’t hike, Black women especially.
By doing [these] things, I’m showing Black women that it’s a safe space. [Black people] do everything. That’s [why] Culture Queens’ programming [is] to build confidence, to build a safe space, to develop life skills, to clear your mind. That’s what we’re here for.
We’re teaching [people] things so that they feel comfortable when they go outside. Every opportunity [helps to develop] more life skills and [confidence] in a different area.
Do you have any advice for beginner hikers?
Always do your research. If you decide you want to go hiking, look up your location, research the area, make sure you know where you’re going. What are your trail markers? What trail do you need to stay on?
Once you find where you’re going, you’ve reviewed the map, and you’ve got the directions, screenshot it because a lot of times, we lose cell services in the mountains or in the woods.
Most importantly, always bring enough water and have good shoes. If you don’t have [water] and you’re tired, you’ll get frustrated, and your brain doesn’t work right. Your body needs the water —even in the wintertime. Wear good shoes because if you’re outside and your feet start hurting, you’re gonna be miserable. You’ll want to turn around and go back to the car because your feet will suffer.
Are there any plans to expand the group?
We will absolutely be expanding and [growing Culture Queens Outdoors]. [We want people to know] they can get outside. You can go hiking, and you can find your sisterhood or find a tribe.
We will be starting a chapter in South Carolina; We have members [there], so we’ll be doing hikes in South Carolina and doing some art tours. We are also looking at starting a chapter in Virginia.
What is the biggest challenge of the group?
The biggest challenge has actually been funding. Funding is needed in order for me to
Getting us from point A to point B [is also a challenge]. There are a lot of women who want to join us [but] can’t because [Culture Queens doesn’t have] transportation to be able to pick them up. So we need a van.