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Editor’s Note: To launch the BFGoodrich® Trail-Terrain T/A® tire, we featured real people pursuing real adventures to build meaningful lives, like Zenovia and George Stephens of Black Adventure Crew. In line with our mission to enable adventure, @BlackAdventureCrew is building to inspire families of all backgrounds to get outdoors together every day. This is their story.
On New Year's Day, 2020, Zenovia Stephens was washing dishes at her family sink in Huntsville, Alabama when she heard an answer to a question she’d been asking for months. Over clinking silverware and the rush of running water, three words rang out clearly:
A moment of clarity, at the bottom of a pile of dirty dishes. Black Adventure Crew was the name she’d been looking for. A summary of the mission that she and her husband had been thinking about for years. She stopped scrubbing and ran to her phone to check Instagram for @BlackAdventureCrew. It was available. The next day, Zenovia posted a family portrait and wrote the following message:
“Welcome to our page! We are a family of five, 3 boys, and we aim to find adventure in everything we do. Our goal is to show our boys that “adventure” can encompass many different things and that you don’t always have to look far to experience something new, exciting and fun. We hope you enjoy our family adventures and we hope you are inspired to seek out more for your family!” – @BlackAdventureCrew
Perhaps as a kid, you went on a family camping trip every summer. Perhaps you were sent to sleepaway camp. Or maybe, you were trapped on a fishing boat with your dad and his brothers for a whole weekend with no way out. In the moment, these outings may have felt like pre-teen torture. But looking back, you also probably have some good memories, some useful skills, and a broader sense of the world because you experienced the great outdoors with your family as a young person.
Your younger self might not see it this way, but those experiences were gifts. Gifts that your family went to some lengths to give you. Gifts that George and Zenovia are going to great lengths to give their kids, inspiring other families along the way. Specifically, black and brown families who — for a mix of cultural reasons — aren’t adventuring outdoors together on a regular basis. Yet.
“Showing our family is us saying to other families, ‘hey, you can do these things too! This could be your family.’ We can change the picture just by doing things together. I want to inspire black families, but I also want people that aren't black to follow me to be like, ‘wow, look at this black family doing all these wonderful things.’ They may not see it happening in their local community, but seeing us opens up their eyes to know that black people are out here doing these things too.” – Zenovia
One of the first lessons any parent learns is that kids love to mimic. At first, it’s cute. They repeat phrases you frequently say, or maybe walk a bit like mommy walks. But then, junior starts refusing to eat his green vegetables because dad also doesn’t like them. Or, they won’t go to bed until you do, too. That’s when things get serious, and many people realize that as a parent, your habits — the healthy ones and the unhealthy ones, too — are being passed onto your kids every day.
Parents mimic too. Luckily, it’s a bit more intentional. As a default mode, most people raise their kids the way their family raised them. But they also watch their neighbors, their friends, and the parents on TV and on the internet. Whether it’s a dedicated parenting blog, a celebrity that overshares, or a family account like @BlackAdventureCrew, social media is full of parental role models. Hopefully good ones.
George and Zenovia are very good role models. For their kids, and for their community.
“A lack of exposure keeps a lot of people from doing different things because they’ve simply never done it before, and they don't know anybody that does it. You need community. And if there is no community, how do you get into it?” – Zenovia
The Stephens are a real family. They’re not elite athletes. They’re not professional outdoorsmen. They’re just a sweet couple in Huntsville, Alabama who love the outdoors, and who want to pass that love onto their three kids. You can check out their page for toddler hiking antics, how not to paddle a canoe, and the hard-earned wisdom of first-time RV renters. They include these moments as well as the picturesque ones because they don’t want you to visit their page and see perfection. They want you to see yourself. Not your vacation self. Not your “finally saved up to buy a kayak” self. Your “let’s do something outside today” self.
“ I want to make sure that my kids understand that doing things like kayaking, hiking, chasing waterfalls, and looking for beautiful views aren't special things. Those are things that you can do on any given day, right where you are. We don't wait on special moments to do these things. We don't wait to have the money to travel out of the country for a beautiful view. We can do those things where we are, because what if those special moments never come? I want them to experience everything that's around them in a way that I feel a lot of people seek out only on vacations.” – Zenovia
“Let’s do something outside today” is exactly what the Trail-Terrain T/A® tire was built for. To empower real, everyday people to fill their lives with real, everyday adventures in their own backyards. Most of the beautiful parks and wilderness areas featured on the Black Adventure Crew channels are just a short drive from where the Stephens family lives in Huntsville, Alabama. The couple met there while attending college, and they shared dreams of moving to Colorado after school.
“There was a period when we believed that we had to be living in Colorado in order to do all these wonderful outdoorsy things. We had many conversations about moving to Colorado. I applied to many jobs. That's what you picture when you think of outdoorsy people who enjoy this type of lifestyle. You think about people that live in Colorado.” – Zenovia
Colorado was where, in their mind's eye, they saw outdoorsy people doing outdoorsy things. Big outdoorsy things. It was what they had been exposed to. Where they “saw themselves” outdoors. This mindset shifted when they visited a local waterfall.
“We went to a state park and saw DeSoto Falls: this big, beautiful waterfall. That's when we realized how much the area had to offer. We went to the gift shop and looked at all the brochures for the different State Parks in Alabama. I remember Zenovia looked at me and said, ‘I want to see them all.’ And I just felt it. I knew what our lives were gonna be about right there.” – George
“There's no shortage of things to do where you live. The biggest thing is just having an open mind. Adventure does not have to be this big, huge, extravagant thing. You can literally find amazing things to do right where you live. I get a lot of messages from people saying, ‘I would have never imagined that all of this was in Alabama!’” – Zenovia
“Seeing yourself outside” seems like such a simple thing. But we don’t live in a simple world. For people of color, there are many barriers to entry when it comes to outdoor recreation. Financial barriers, geographic barriers, and psychological ones, too. Camping alone out in the Alabama woods is not something every person of color feels comfortable with. This discomfort is something that George and Zenovia feel, too.
“There are a lot of fears associated with being in the woods because of our history and how we were treated as a people. There are many times where we pull off onto some backroad or trail or somewhere, and I have so much fear of what could possibly happen. I don't know who we're going to encounter and what's going to happen.
I truly believe that the majority of the time, there's nothing to be fearful of, but it's something that you have to work past. And in order for me to encourage others to work past their fear, I have to push myself to work past it. With George by my side, I'm able to. I also push through it because I don’t want my kids to be fearful. We want to teach caution, but not fear.” – Zenovia
Pushing past fears and expanding mindsets when it comes to outdoor recreation isn’t always easy, but it’s absolutely worth it. Mentally, physically, and developmentally, their three boys are reaping the rewards of a life full of outdoor experiences. Mom and dad are too.
“Being outside is healing. Breathing in the fresh air, getting vitamin D, it helps us to feel better. It helps us work through things. It can bring clarity. When my kids spend time outside, they're learning how to be independent. They're learning leadership skills. They're being exposed to new careers, new ways of thinking, and new ways of living. It's amazing to see their creativity blossom because of the things that we’re doing.” – Zenovia
Take it from @BlackAdventureCrew, it doesn’t have to be big or extravagant to be an adventure. It just has to be outside.
To stay inspired by Zenovia, George, and their adventurous family, follow @BlackAdventureCrew on Facebook and Instagram.
Ready to run down your own adventure? Find your fit here: BFGoodrich® Trail-Terrain T/A® Tire.
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