Fierce

How This Latina-Created Club Is Helping Women Feel Safe And Confident On Hiking Trails

Growing up in a Guatemalan-African American home in Woodbridge, Virginia, Evelynn Escobar-Thomas didn’t feel like outdoor activities were always accessible to her. After a few summer trips to Los Angeles, where she hiked regularly with her aunt, she realized that she enjoyed nature.

However, with little representation of women of color on trails in mainstream media or in the real world, she often felt excluded from the outdoor recreations she took so much pleasure in.

Evelynn Escobar-Thomas

Hoping to create a safe, fun space that could encourage more women like her to bask in the natural environments around them, she created Hike Clerb.

Founded in 2017, Hike Clerb is an intersectional women’s hiking club and nonprofit aimed at creating experiences in the outdoors that are accessible, empowering and inclusive. While primarily located in Los Angeles, where Escobar-Thomas relocated partly because of its biodiversity, the collective is international, with members as far as South Africa and the United Kingdom. Although predominantly consisting of women of color, the collective is open to anyone who shares the group’s vision and mission.

“There’s a huge sense of community and empowerment because we are out there as a collective of women of different shapes, sizes and colors,” the 29-year-old social activist tells FIERCE. “Women of all walks of life come together to honor ourselves, our bodies and our own individual healing journeys through this radical community.”

In Los Angeles, Hike Clerb hosts monthly treks in areas that are easy to commute to and are capable of being completed by veteran and newbie hikers alike. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these regular in-person trudges, which could include crowds of 10 to 100 people, have mostly been put on pause. However, the group did link up once in June for a protest hike in support of Assembly Bill 345, legislation that would have created environmental protections for communities living near oil and gas operations in California that failed to pass.

“We met up for a hike protest in support of this bill and had signs and information on how others can get involved,” Escobar-Thomas says.


With social distancing mandates in place, the group has focused on new ways to create community. For instance, Hike Clerb posts monthly challenges that encourage followers to hike on specific days and photograph themselves in an effort to establish a sense of togetherness even though they are all physically apart. Additionally, Escobar-Thomas has been using social media to educate users on hiking etiquette, safety tips as well as on the racist history of public spaces like U.S. parks, trails and beaches.

“Let’s be real here: these spaces, although outdoors, which you would think by default are open to anyone, were made for white people. And to take it back a step even further, they exist on stolen land,” Escobar-Thomas says. 

On Instagram, Hike Clerb has posted educational materials that inform followers about this history. There’s the Yosemite National Park, which was founded on the displacement of the Ahwahneechee people who were later used as entertainment for white visitors, as well as the Grandstaff Canyon, which up until 2017 was called “Negro Bill Canyon” after the mixed-race Black rancher who once resided near the area, among many other examples. Even more, Hike Clerb also shares how beaches were once segregated, with Black communities often limited to remote shores that were polluted and in hazardous locations.

“The way that these idyllic structures and spaces have formed were already on a foundation of violence and exclusion, so it’s not hard to see the connection from the way that these places were formed to the way that we participate and consume them now,” Escobar-Thomas adds.

Among their group treks, it’s not uncommon for the women behind Hike Clerb to hear racial microaggressions. “Hiking Helens,” what Escobar-Thomas calls the disgruntled white women who take issue with large groups of Black and brown people taking up space outdoors, have confronted members about their so-called “urban group.” Other times, these women have accused the collective of obstructing their communities after wrongfully assuming members parked in their neighborhoods.

“You hear these little microaggressions, and it’s like no, we deserve to take up space out here just as much as anyone else, and this is why we are doing what we are doing,” she says. “The outdoors are not just this playground for white people. We should all feel equally entitled to it.”

Despite these occurrences, Escobar-Thomas says that creating hiking experiences has overall been healing and empowering for the women who participate in them. For some, it has even been a catalyst for them to start their own individual journeys with the outdoors, with many taking solo road trips and hiking at larger parks across the Southwest.

For Escobar-Thomas, that’s exactly what Hike Clerb is about: giving women, especially those of color, the resources, education, safety tips and confidence to claim space in environments they had previously felt fearful of or excluded from and to help facilitate those experiences.

“I just really want Hike Clerb to become this destination and resource for women of color, and anyone else who is aligned in our mission, to make the outdoors more representative of the world that we live in,” she says.

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Mother And Teen Daughter Endured Ten Years Of Separation, A Dramatic Border, And A Covid Hospitalization To Be Together

Fierce

Mother And Teen Daughter Endured Ten Years Of Separation, A Dramatic Border, And A Covid Hospitalization To Be Together

Lucas Uebel / Getty

Separated from her mother for a decade, seventeen-year-old Cindy (who is only being identified by her first name) took a chance last month to see her. Despite her age, a raging pandemic, and the risks of crossing the Mexico–United States border she journeyed from Honduras to see her mother in New York. Her love for her mother was so deep, she was willing to risk everything.

In her mission, Cindy wound up in U.S. immigration facilities where she contracted Covid-19. After three days in a hospital bed in California, Cindy was finally able to contact her mother who had not learned of her daughter’s hospitalization.

Thanks to the help of a doctor who lent her their phone Cindy was able to make the call to her mother, Maria Ana.

“There are backlogs and delays in communication that are really unacceptable,” Maria Ana’s immigration lawyer Kate Goldfinch, who is also the president of the nonprofit Vecina, explained to NBC.

After learning about her daughter’s COVID-19 hospitalization, Maria Ana feared the worst. “Following weeks of anguish and uncertainty, Maria Ana spent most of her nights painting the bedroom she has fixed for Cindy, just ‘waiting for my girl,'” she explained to NBC.

Last Wednesday night, Maria Ana flew to San Diego to be with her daughter after she’d finally recovered from Covid.

At the emotional mother-daughter reunion, Maria Ana assured her daughter “no one else is going to hurt you.”

After Cindy crossed the border, she spent several days in a detention facility in Texas in the custody of Customs and Border Protection. According to NBC “On any given night, Cindy said, she would share two mattresses with about eight other girls. She could shower only every five days in one of the eight showers the facility had to serve 700 girls.”

“It was really bad,” Cindy told the outlet..

Cindy was among almost 13,350 unaccompanied children left in the care and custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS. This last year has seen over 3,715 unaccompanied children at these facilities diagnosed with Covid-19. Worse, there are currently 528 unaccompanied children who have tested positive for Covid-19 and put in medical isolation.

Now, immigration advocates and families are pressing the U.S. government to pick up reunions of children and their families in the United States. Over 80 percent of unaccompanied minors currently in federal custody have family living in the states. According to Goldfinch, “40 percent have parents in the U.S.”

“So we would think that it would be fairly quick and simple to release a child to their own parent. But because of the chaos of the system, the reunification of these kids with their parents is really frustrating and backlogged,” Goldfinch explained, “most frustrating, of course, for the actual children and their parents.”

While Cindy was in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, no one managed to notify Ana Maria that her daughter was in the hospital according to Goldfinch

“I don’t know why my daughter has to be suffering this way, because it’s not fair. It’s something very sad for me,” Maria Ana explained to NBC

“I’ve already been through a lot,” Cindy went onto share. “But I hope it’s all worth it.”

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Here’s What You Should Know About Getting Your Covid Vaccine

Entertainment

Here’s What You Should Know About Getting Your Covid Vaccine

FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images

The world has almost turned the page on the Covid pandemic that has upended our lives for the last year. Vaccine strategies across the nation are helping to end the pandemic, but we are not out of the woods yet. Here are some things you and your family should know about getting your vaccination.

The vaccines are safe and effective.

In the U.S., there are three main vaccines that people are getting: Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. All three have been proven to be safe and effective. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 109 million doses of the vaccines have been administered to people in the U.S. Millions of Americans have lined up and gotten vaccinated with a very small number experiencing the rare serious side effects.

The common side effects from the Covid vaccine are pain or swelling at the injection site, headache and chills, or a fever. These side effects disappear on their own quickly. After your vaccine, according to the CDC, you can expect to be asked to wait 15-30 minutes to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Vaccination personnel are equipped with the medication and treatments needed to reverse serious and threatening allergic reactions to the vaccine.

There are currently three vaccines available in the U.S.

Americans can expect to receive either the Pfizer-BioTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson / Janssen vaccine. Currently, these three are the vaccines that have been approved for use in the U.S. to end the pandemic. Pfizer-BioTech and Moderna vaccines require two shots taken three weeks and four weeks apart, respectively. Johnson & Johnson is a one-shot vaccine. All have been proven effective in preventing hospitalization from the virus.

There are currently two more vaccines in Phase 3 of their trial that could bring even more relief to the American public. The Oxford-AstraZeneca and Novava vaccines are currently being tested and are showing promising results in the U.S. trials.

Speak with your healthcare provider about medications and the vaccine.

There is still a lot we do not know about the vaccine as we are still learning its full effect. As of now, healthcare providers and experts don’t recommend taking pain relievers (such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen) or antihistamines to avoid vaccination side effects. It is unclear how these medications will impact the efficacy of the vaccine.

The vaccine is not a replacement for wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

It is important to make sure that you follow proper Covid safety guidelines when you get vaccinated. This is for the safety of you, your healthcare provider, and anyone else in the area.

Covid safety guidelines aren’t going away any time soon. Even as you and those you know get vaccinated, it is important that people continue to wear masks when in public and maintain social distancing when possible. While the vaccines are effective in protecting you from getting sick and going to the hospital, doctors are still learning whether or not vaccinated people can spread Covid. This is why fully vaccinated people need to practice social distancing and continue wearing masks to ensure that they keep their communities safe.

However, for people who are fully vaccinated, life is a little freer. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can gather with other fully vaccinated people indoors without masks and no social distancing. Fully vaccinated people can even gather with one unvaccinated person from another household who is at a low-risk of severe Covid infection. Lastly, fully vaccinated people do not have to quarantine when they are exposed if asymptomatic.

This is the first set of guidelines released for fully vaccinated people and it is showing that life can start getting back to normal as more people line up to get their shots when they are eligible.

READ: Rite Aid Refused To Give Undocumented Residents The COVID-19 Vaccine Even Though They’re Eligible

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