Celebrating Juneteenth and the Outdoors

June 19, 2020

Juneteenth, also known as “Emancipation Day” or “Freedom Day,” is an African-American holiday that commemorates the day when enslaved Black Americans were emancipated on June 19th, 1865, in the former Confederate States of America. Although Juneteenth is not a federally recognized holiday, Ventures wants to celebrate this critical moment in American history and honor the liberation of people whose rights were stolen. A unique way that our community can acknowledge this holiday is by embracing the outdoors at the upcoming events that are hosted by Chevon Powell’s Golden Bricks Events.

Born and raised in Texas, Chevon has always loved the outdoors ever since she was a child and would fish with her grandmother and go to summer camp. “The outdoors has always been a part of my life,” said Chevon. Chevon joined Ventures’ community of entrepreneurs two years ago, with over twenty years of experience in the event industry. She has been a trusted consultant for organizations and was recognized by the South Seattle Emerald as a source of fostering a healing community for people of color.

This year, she won the fan-favorite prize at InnoVentures, Ventures’ pitch competition and fundraiser. Chevon created the first Refuge Outdoor Festival in 2018 to elevate people of color and their experiences outdoors. Chevon stated, “When people are interacting with the outdoors, they are healthier as an individual and as a community.”

Chevon’s appreciation for the outdoors had never faltered, even when she was pulled over by the police in Vermont on a solo backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail. “It was a terrifying experience. They looked at me and didn’t perceive me to be a part of the outdoors.” Chevon’s story is intertwined with many others who have experienced similar encounters. This prompted her to launch her business, Golden Bricks Events, to change the narrative around how others view people of color interacting with the outdoors. “It’s not nature that’s discriminatory.” Through her consulting and event business model, she challenges other organizations and businesses to think through a community-centered inclusive lens.

Representation matters. That is a statement that Chevon lives by when showcasing her work through the Refuge Outdoor Festival. The mission of her business is to create experiences that meet the needs of people of color who want to enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment. The Refuge Outdoor Festival is usually a two-day camping event geared toward people of color that is centered on outdoor recreation, community conversations, art, and music.

This year, it is set to be an online event on September 18th – 20th. Although the opportunity for a large public gathering is limited, it will not stop the event from being held virtually. It will still feature local artists and community members who support creating a safe space for people of color.

Chevon’s dream is to work herself out of business so that everybody can feel included in outdoor activities and hobbies. However, as a Black business owner, there are a different set of challenges that come with managing a small business⁠—as is still evident by racial discrimination in financial institutions. Chevon mentioned “being a solo entrepreneur has always been challenging, so it’s good to have support and guidance from organizations like Ventures” that are aware of the widespread economic inequalities in this country.

Growing up, Chevon knew the importance of celebrating Juneteenth as a holiday in her community. “We should all be aware of this very important day,” Chevon stated. As a child in Texas, Juneteenth was not a holiday that she and her family could take off from school and work. However, it was a day that her family encouraged her to commemorate to remember what Black Americans and allies strived to achieve after years of being devalued as humans by the transatlantic slave trade. It is an opportunity to remind Americans of the past, and to amplify equitable access to opportunities and success for African Americans.

You can follow Chevon’s work on Instagram and Facebook to receive notifications about upcoming events and opportunities.