Black Folks Camp Too, founded in 2019 on the mission of introducing more Black people to the outdoor lifestyle – including RVing – has announced its first RV manufacturing partner: Colorado Teardrops, a Boulder, Colo.-based maker of teardrop campers that was founded in 2014.
“We are putting the Unity Blaze on all of our trailers rolling out now,” said Dean Wiltshire, founder and owner of Colorado Teardrops, which produces about 150 trailers a year. “That will give us the opportunity to explain to each customer what the Unity Blaze is as we walk around the trailer.”
Wiltshire and Earl B. Hunter Jr., founder of Black Folks Camp Too, have known each other since Hunter’s previous job at SylvanSport, which is where he first realized the outdoor industry – RVs in particular – are missing out on what could potentially be a huge, relatively untapped market: the Black consumer.
The Unity Blaze is what Hunter calls a symbol that encapsulates the message and motto of his organization: “Treat everyone, everywhere equally.”
The Unity Blaze originally existed as a simple campfire design at the heart of the Black Folks Camp Too logo. Hunter said he realized the symbol alone was powerful enough to allow RV dealers and manufacturers, campground owners, outdoor gear manufacturers and anyone else to show it off and send a message that Black folks and people of color are welcome to shop in their stores, buy their products and camp on their properties.
The symbol plays a key role in his company’s business model because it raises money for what Hunter calls his company’s Digital Education Initiative – producing content specifically geared toward Black people like himself.
“My job is to educate those folks on why we haven’t gone camping, why we haven’t enjoyed the outdoors, why we haven’t done these things, why it’s important, and then get them to remove their fears, add some more knowledge, and invite some more Black folks and people of color to come out and enjoy the same things other people already enjoy, which is where the Unity Blaze came in,” Hunter said.
He spent the first year in business gathering empirical data that would back up what his own experiences already told him: that Black people in some parts of the country were raised being told the woods was not a safe place for them to be. He had heard that first-hand from his relatives growing up in the south, he said, and his surveys proved a lot of Black people felt that way.
Another fact revealed by his surveys was that Black people don’t really understand or know much about the outdoor lifestyle because most haven’t been exposed to it.
As an example, he said “RV,” to many Black people, would mean a Winnebago motorhome and that might be the extent of their knowledge of the product. That gap of knowledge is the foundation of Black Folks Camp Too and it’s where the Digital Education Initiative comes in.
“If we can get past one thing, if we can get past the fact that Black folks feel like, ‘Well, that’s what white folks do,’” Hunter said. “Well, when you’re brandishing the Unity Blaze or your camper, on your mountain bike, on your water bottle, on your backpack, what it says to people who don’t look like you is, ‘Man, you don’t have to be scared of me. C’mon in and let me show you how amazing the outdoors is. Let me show you what you’ve been missing because of whatever the reason is. Let me share with you the 640 million acres of public lands that we all pay for.’
“We know all Black folks aren’t going to go camping. We want to remove fear, give them knowledge and let them make an informed decision.”
How-to videos; first-hand accounts of those in the lifestyle; demonstrating the wide variety of RV types there are and what it’s like to shop for one – this is the content being funded by sales of Unity Blaze flags, stickers and licensing.
Hunter likes to call his mission a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s deals like the one with Colorado Teardrops that get him one step closer to his dream. And it’s a dream that Wiltshire is 100 percent supportive of.
“For us, it’s an education thing,” said Wiltshire, who launched his company in a garage seven years ago. “We just want to share. Go back to (Hunter’s) story of, ‘Grandma and Grandpa said don’t ever go back in the woods.’ That’s what we want to bust through. We want to get that message through that the woods are inclusive of all people. Come out to the woods where it’s comfortable, the fire is warm, the stars are amazing, the wilderness is beautiful. That’s what we want to share and inspire our customers to perhaps donate on their own to Black Folks Camp Too.”