The team aims to increase visibility and normalize Black people participating in outdoor activities.
For the first time in history, an all-Black team is set to climb Mount Everest. The outdoor industry has always been cornered by white people but it's becoming more diverse, thanks to people like Phil Henderson who is set to lead the first-ever all-Black American expedition to the top of Mount Everest. “We just need more propulsion. We need more power,” said Henderson. He is hoping the all-Black team inspires more people from the African-American community to try outdoor sports and adventures. “This is our boost. We are priming that engine,” said Henderson, a Cortez mountaineer who helps train guides and organizers for expeditions to the top of the world’s highest peaks, reported NBC News.
No Black-American has ever stood at the summit of Mount Everest and Henderson's team is hoping to change that as well. Henderson understands the weight of history on their shoulders. The first American expedition reached the top of the world in 1963. It was the year Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his iconic 'I have a dream' speech. Henderson and his team are already dreaming of breaking down doors for future African-American outdoor enthusiasts. Henderson has previously led an all-African American team to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania but climbing Mount Everest to the top of the world will be the crowning jewel as far as Henderson is concerned.
For Henderson, who has led several climbing expeditions in Nepal and South America, it's also about encouraging people to respect and connect with nature. “It’s kind of emotional for me as well,” he said. “I’m realizing and living these things I’ve always said were so important and how it’s so vital for all of us to be connected to the natural environment."
Eddie Taylor, an accomplished climber and mountaineer, says that only eight Black people have ever stood atop Mount Everest. Taylor, who's part of the all-Black group says it's not traditional for people to be outdoor enthusiasts. Taylor said he was lucky to go camping and skiing with his family. “Those are not traditionally things that families of color do,” he said. Having started out with an invitation from a friend, he states how vital it is to invite other people of color to join them outside. Those invitations are “really important,” he said, but adds that "there are only so many people of color who can invite other people of color to get outside.”
The Full Circle team is hoping to inspire more people from the African community to simply step outside. "From gardening to bird watching to climbing Everest, the sky is really the limit when it comes to people just getting outside and really understanding the benefits of spending time in nature,” said Henderson. The team plans to leave for Nepal next year and he's hoping the story of their journey serves as an 'invitation' to other people of color to step out and participate in outdoor activities. “That’s the hope, that we give visibility and normalize this experience for Black folks,” said Taylor.
This one trip alone, if successful, could double the number of people of color who have reached the highest point on Earth. “We definitely hope this will have a lasting impact on our community,” said Taylor. Misha Charles, another member of the group, said she looks up to Henderson as her “mountain mentor.” He had helped her organize her own expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro. “He has accepted the responsibility of being a mentor, a guide, and a role model for a whole generation of people of color and certainly Black people in the outdoors,” said Charles. “He is very conscious of the fact that he is carrying all of us to the top of Everest and that means an awful lot to this community and to quite a few of us personally and individually.” Henderson says it's nothing new for the community. “We are used to that weight. It’s like we always have something to prove.”