Q&A with Oge Ejizu of Black Girls Hike
Written By: Ben Mounsey
Oge Ejizu is the London Regional Leader of Black Girl’s Hike, a group formed in 2019. We caught up to talk about her love of the outdoors, the importance of BGH and how we can all work together to broaden the hiking community, making our rural spaces more inclusive and diverse.
Hi Oge! Let’s start with a brief introduction. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I always find this question hard because the default is to explain ‘what’ I do and not really who I am, but I’ll try my best. I grew up in London and still live here. My parents are Nigerian and I come from a large family, which I absolutely love. My other loves include my Christian faith, Disco music and hiking. When I’m not out exploring new places, I’m usually spending time with my friends and family explaining why they should come out hiking with me. I’ve recently started learning about photography and really enjoy taking landscape photos.
What do you love most about hiking and when did you first become interested in exploring the great outdoors?
That’s a hard one. I love living in London because there’s so much to do but sometimes it can feel claustrophobic and it feels like my attention is pulled in so many directions. Hiking allows me to take a minute to breath and let go of whatever is going on. I always learn something about myself when I’m hiking, it has allowed me to challenge myself and get outside of my comfort zone, to not be so timid with life and to put myself out there even if I’m scared. Living in London, I didn’t have the experience growing up of exploring the outdoors, but it wasn’t until a friend took me to Dartmoor in 2018 that I really appreciated the beauty of nature and how expansive it is that I wanted to do more exploring.
For obvious reasons, 2020 has seen a huge increase in people taking up exercise. Has it given you a chance to explore anywhere new?
Yes! To be honest I’ve really done more locally. I always thought that London had nothing to offer exploring wise - that it was just a big city with pretty lights. But lockdown has given me the opportunity to explore and appreciate the green spaces that are on my doorstep. During the first lockdown I took time to explore the Thames Path and Green Chain Walk around South East London and have really enjoyed exploring Bostall, Abbey and Oxleas Woods.
Photo Credit to Patrick Whitcomb
Where is your favourite place in the UK to hike and explore?
I don’t think I’ve explored enough places to have a favourite just yet, but Wales does have a special place in my heart because Gower Peninsula is where I did my first solo hike, and it was an amazing experience.
Which areas of the UK are on your list of places you'd most like to visit?
It’s funny because my new year’s resolution for 2020 was to do more hikes in the UK, I even made a hit list. I’ve been able to tick off the Lake District but If I had to choose the 3 places I would most like to visit it would have to be Isle of Skye, Yorkshire Dales (for the 3 peaks challenge) and Snowdon (anywhere in Wales will do)!
You are the London regional leader of the group Black Girls Hike. Please can you tell us more about the aims of BGH and your role within the group.
Black Girls Hike was set up in 2019 as a safe space for black women to enjoy the outdoors and be themselves without feeling judged, misunderstood or experiencing microaggressions from others. For many black women, getting outdoors can feel intimidating especially when you don’t see people you identify with. That’s why Black Girls Hike was created; to empower black women to feel comfortable outdoors and create a community to do it within. As the regional leader my main role is to organise and lead our London hikes and to make sure everyone has a safe and fun time.
Photo Credit to Patrick Whitcomb
After recent studies, the UK National Parks and areas of countryside are very much seen as predominantly 'white' environments. Would you agree with this statement and is this reflective of your own outdoor experiences?
Yes, I do agree with this statement and the countryside has felt like a space where I don’t belong. I grew up in a very racist area and faced racial abuse so at times when I go out on solo hikes, I am a bit apprehensive as I don’t know what type of attitudes I may be met with. Although most of my experiences have been positive, I don’t want to discount that the countryside has felt intimidating for me and for others.
The Black Lives Matter movement and increased media awareness have really highlighted the lack of diversity in the outdoors, do you think people’s awareness and attitudes are beginning to change?
I would say there has been progress but it’s far from perfect and often feels draining and slow. I’m really inspired and encouraged by the meaningful conversations that are being had with people who have been championing for diversity in the outdoors for a long time. However, I am conscious that we can get stuck in a place of endless conversation without tangible actions being taken. I think there’s always room to listen and learn but it also needs to work in tandem with efforts and investment to change behind it.
Moving forward - how do you think we can further increase diversity in the outdoors and make green spaces more inclusive for everyone to enjoy?
I think one suggestion I would give is for there to be greater investment in community groups that already exist. A lot of the time people think that we need to reinvent the wheel instead of engaging with what already exists. I also think that not everyone has the means to go on hikes to the Lake District or Peak District, improving and investment in the maintenance of green spaces that are locally to people can make all the difference as this year has taught us.
You can follow Black Girls Hike on instagram and get involved. Click here to follow Oge and read about more of her adventures. If her story has inspired you to hit the trail yourself, then check out our Hiking hub for tips and inspiration, and get kitted up with everything you might need from hiking shoes to jackets over at our Outdoor Store.