Veteran, angler, activist, and filmmaker Chad Brown founded Love Is King to create support for people of color in the outdoors. The group’s latest initiative, Stalwarts of Safety (SOS), is working to create legally protected spaces where BIPOC and LQBTQ people can feel safe to simply be outdoors. They need the support of all of us.
A Navy vet who served in the Gulf War and Somalia, Chad Brown wanted to share the restorative power of getting out on the water, where he had found solace and healing, so he founded Soul River (soulriverinc.org), a nonprofit that brings together at-risk youth and veterans who serve as mentors. In 2020, in the midst of an American reckoning on race, the activist, explorer, and filmmaker created Love Is King (loveisking.org), an initiative that empowers “Guardians,” people of “all ages, shades, and creeds” who love the outdoors and want to take action to make the outdoors truly accessible to all. Now, Love Is King is launching a powerful new initiative called Stalwarts of Safety (SOS), which will push for the passage of Oregon SB 289, which would help protect people of color in outdoor spaces by keeping those convicted of certain racially biased crimes off state lands. SOS is pushing for national legislation on these lines, and working for an end goal of simply making historically marginalized people feel safe in the outdoors and creating a compassionate dialogue about safe spaces.
Why is Stalwarts of Safety necessary?
For historically marginalized communities such as LGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, outdoor areas often feel unsafe. These people often feel excluded, unwelcome, and unprotected from harassment—or even violence. Love Is King recognizes racism, bias, discrimination, and intergenerational trauma as barriers to participation. We know safe, unhindered access to the outdoors and participating in outdoor activities are integral for mental, spiritual and physical health.
What will the program do to create change?
Our “Behavior Change” strategy is, at its core, education to deliver a deeper understanding of ecology and their relationship with nature, its preservation, and its benefits. Our safety training will provide the skills and instill a new feeling of fearlessness! We’ll engage BIPOC individuals in conversations to understand their current barriers and fears. We’ll inspire those in our BIPOC community to go beyond their comfort zones and reimagine a safe and healing relationship with nature. We’ll continue to provide safe, inclusive, and convenient outdoor opportunities, events and experiences to help ignite participation.
What’s the purpose of the SOS badge?
The SOS badge represents courage, and it will become a powerful symbol of urgency and inclusion. It’s a personal declaration that expresses support. It’s a symbol that creates a community. The person wearing this symbol is easily identified as a Champion of Safety. This badge is also a powerful marketing device that triggers dialogue “on both sides” and begins to elevate the urgency of safe and equitable access for the BIPOC community. It will spark a lot of conversation! Our movement is built on these conversations of safety, empathy, and justice. We’ll partner with local urban parks, small businesses, outdoor brands, state parks, national parks, governments, and nonprofits to develop and define the SOS standards, practices, and training.
Why does this effort need legal support?
SB 289 is a bill that is committed to ensuring safe and equitable access to the outdoors for all. We see the freedom to roam in nature as a Human Right. SB 289 celebrates diversity and the power of inclusion. Our responsibility is to ensure that SB 289 becomes actionable and that the BIPOC community is educated on the impact and intricacies of the law. Our mission is to have a nationwide adoption of SB 289. We also support efforts in prevention of racism, intimidation, and discrimination outdoors by embracing education, enlightenment, and love.
What is the best approach to make this vision a reality?
We truly believe that love is king and queen. Our ambassadors will lead with love, patience and empathy. They will be committed to creating a reimagined outdoor environment and experience for BIPOC participation. Our Ambassadors will be present and become a visual and living symbol that elevate safety, community, and confidence. We understand that changing behavior will take time, but we believe that being present, mindful, and engaged will ignite a change in biases, perception, and behavior. We believe in the power of love!
Cover photo: The SOS badge lets people know you come in the name of love. Photo courtesy of Love Is King.