Little Old Ladies in Tennis Shoes?
By Shelley Silbert
Executive Director, Great Old Broads for Wilderness
When you hear the name Great Old Broads for Wilderness, it’s obvious who we are, right? Older women who like to get into the wild, which may or may not conjure up the image of little old ladies in tennis shoes. (Curiously, this phrase was coined disdainfully in 1961, according to William Safire’s Political Dictionary, to describe intensely-dedicated Republican women from southern California whose doorbell ringing led to Barry Goldwater upsetting the forces for Nelson Rockefeller in the California primary.) Today, LOLITS—not to be confused with lowlifes—commonly refers to older activist women. Now that’s a fit for Broads!
WRINKLES NOT REQUIRED
Recently, a few of you have asked if the face of Broads is changing, with younger women on our staff, in our Broadbands, and in our ads and images. It’s a good question. There’s no doubt that a group of older, grey-haired women carry a certain standing and clout, and attract media attention, especially when walking into a congressional office, as grannies with rolling pins rallying against public land bullies, or arms linked together to protect an old growth tree. At the same time, we have always stated “Broadness is a state of mind.” It’s even printed on our logo coffee mugs. We know that older women will always form the core of our membership, and the very definition of who we are. As a women-led organization, we’ve noticed that younger women seek us out, too. Searching for the camaraderie of females who value humor and the wild, perhaps seeking mentorship, or simply wanting a place for activism where they know their voices can be heard. We welcome them wholeheartedly, knowing that they will carry the torch when we no longer can. And we are delighted to have a varietyof ages on our staff, bringing in a breadth of skills and perspectives to strengthen our organization. And of course, as always, Broads’ members come in all genders.
INCREASING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION—WITH A PLAN
Just as we value ecosystem diversity, we value diversity in our human ecosystem. Yet anyone can recognize that our membership does not yet represent the face of America. Our Values Statement has long said, “We value expanding racial, cultural, and gender diversity in the conservation movement.” We also value action, and that’s where we’ve fallen short on this point. With that in mind, Broads is instituting a Diversity, equity and Inclusion Policy, followed by the creation of a diversity plan to ensure we have identified the steps to expand to our potential. To that end, we welcome any members who have experience with implementing diversity plans or who represent racial, cultural, or gender diversity and can help with this needed work.
Contact Broads to be part of this important work. We must also acknowledge the history of public lands as traditional homelands of indigenous peoples. Many public lands encompass sacred sites, are essential for ceremonial life, or represent important historical events to people of color, but lack appropriate recognition or interpretation. For example, all-Black troops made up some 20% of America’s frontier cavalry and played a role in mapping “wilderness” and protecting settlements. Today, conversations about diversity in the conservation movement are underway, but people of color remain vastly underrepresented. This is equally true in the outdoor industry.
To right this, we will work to seek the representative voices of Native Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans and other groups whose ancestral history and present-day identity is embedded in the land. We know that we form the most effective partnerships when we work on issues of interest to diverse partners and where our commitment can help right environmental injustices. Here are examples of current engagement:
• Supporting the designation of Bears Ears National Monument and the work of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition
• Supporting free-flowing rivers in salmon habitat such as the Lower Snake River in the northwest
• Fighting fossil fuel drilling, pipelines, or export terminals in multiple locations
• Fighting a massive, expensive, and unnecessary wall in the U.S./Mexico borderlands
• Working with the San Carlos Apache Tribe to protect Oak Flat in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest, an area sacred to the tribe that faces privatization for copper mining by a multi-national company.
As we approach our 30th anniversary, it’s a great time to reflect on Broads’ history, and map a pathway for our future. We’ll never stray from our commitment to protect wilderness and wild public lands, and the multitude of plants and animals that depend upon them. Ensuring our transformation into a grassroots organization that weaves diversity, inclusion, and equity into our very structure is not only essential to who we want to be, but necessary to our success as protectors of America’s wild public lands.
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