A Navy vet who served in the Gulf War and Somalia, Chad Brown suffers from PTSD. But he found solace in the wide-open spaces of the natural world and with his faithful companion, his service dog, Axe. Brown saved himself from inner darkness by embracing fly fishing and decided he wanted to share the restorative power of getting out on the water, so he founded Soul River (soulriverinc.org), a non profit that brings together at-risk youth and veterans who serve as mentors. Soul River puts them out on “deployments” in the wild, where they discover the powerful connections, self-awareness, and sense of self-worth that comes through adventure and contemplation in nature. The program has earned Brown numerous accolades, including a Breaking Barriers Award from Orvis and the Bending Toward Justice Award from Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.
With so much unrest in the U.S. right now, Brown, who lives in Portland, Oregon, wanted to find a way to make a difference, to bring all people together to create a more equitable society. So he created the Love Is King initiative. “Love is King began as recognition, response, and acknowledgement that equality and equity doesn’t exist for people of color,” he says. “Love is King sees a world where nature’s lessons, beauty, nourishment, healing power, and strength are accessible to all people. Love is King is committed to providing equal opportunity to ensure equitable and safe access to the outdoors for children, families, and communities of people of color as a way to improve the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the most vulnerable among us.”
To achieve that Brown is seeking Love Is King “Guardians,” a movement of people of “all ages, shades, and creeds” who love the outdoors and want to take action to make the outdoors truly accessible to all. White allies pledge to speak up for people of color, listen, and change the dominant paradigm in the outdoors and beyond that supports systemic racism.
“The ultimate goal we should always practice is the art of the love ethos of a warrior,” says Brown. “This love is what it will take to bust down the forces of hate, ignorance, bigotry and racism.”
Anyone who wants to become a Love Is King Guardian can go to loveisking.org to join.
Cover Photo: Suffering from PTSD after serving as a combat veteran, Chad Brown found hope in wild rivers. Now, he wants to bring that same compassionate resilience to creating equality in outdoor spaces. Photo courtesy Chad Brown