Mills explores diversity in outdoor activities

“An American Ascent” follows a group of African American mountaineers and captures their journey up the highest peak in North America, Alaska’s Mount Denali. The movie shows the group’s struggles, setbacks and triumphs through members’ monologues and action footage of the trek.

More importantly, the film addresses issues involving diversity and outdoor activities, specifically the underrepresentation of people of color pursuing outdoor adventure.

The film was shown Oct. 3, along with guest speaker James Edward Mills, as a creative audience event.

“It’s insanely important,” said JSC student Nick Metruk. “I thought it was a very inspirational film. I grew up with black friends and always played outside with them, so I never realized how big the issue was. I think it’s very important for more people to become involved and aware of this issue.”

Mills is an African American journalist and media producer who was one of the film’s writers. He specializes in stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living. He’s worked as a guide, writer, photographer and has had a broad range of outdoor ventures that include mountaineering, rock climbing, backcountry skiing and kayaking.

Mills says that if we change the narrative and the face that represents these outdoor activities, a new generation can become involved and flourish. Mills discussed the many untold successes of African Americans in mountaineering expeditions and how damaging it is that these stories are suppressed in our society.

“If we don’t tell these stories, it’s as if they never happened,” he said.

At the event, Mills encouraged the audience to go to his website, The Joy Trip Project.

According to the site, The Joy Trip Project gathers news and reports on outdoor recreation, environmental conservation and practices of sustainable living. Mills presented a slide show that explained his interest and enthusiasm regarding diversity and the outdoors and why they’re important as a duo.

Mills explained that more African Americans and Latinos need to feel welcome in participating in these activities and be inspired by the outdoor world, noting that they will soon make up the majority of the population.

“The mountains don’t discriminate, so why do we?” said Mills.