SN_Ep13 - Alice Lyn with Sergio Cira Reyes

Aug 20, 2020

Shaping Narratives

Alice Lyn talks to Sergio Cira Reyes, Director of Community Engagement at Urban Core Collective about bringing the Latino community into the outdoors and feeling a sense of belonging.

Alice Lyn, host of WGVU’s Color Out Here, a TV show that reframes outdoor narratives for people of color. On this podcast she talks to outdoor experts of color about enjoying the outdoors safely.

Shaping Narratives is created by WGVU NPR in partnership with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and WGVU NPR sustaining monthly donors. Become a sustaining monthly donor now at to support WGVU NPR’s local programs, including Shaping Narratives.

Full Transcript: You're listening to shaping narratives a collection of voices from West Michigan's communities of color brought  to you by WGVU NPR and PBS in West Michigan in the partnership with the wk Kellogg Foundation. The voice of today's episode is Alice Lyn host of WGVU’s color out here to show reshaping outdoor narratives for people of color. Raised in Brooklyn, New York and educated in Michigan's upper peninsula. Alice talks to national experts about how people of color can safely and creatively enjoy the outdoors

Sergio Cira Reyes is a Mexican immigrant who grew up in Los Angeles, California before settling in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he now serves as director of community engagement for the urban core collective. Growing up as an under-documented immigrant shaped his life's work, which includes organizing with Movimiento Cosecha and building community with the Latino community coalition and the Latino network of West Michigan. Sergio’s work has recently intersected with a dormant passion of his to get people outside. He recently started a local chapter of Latino Outdoors and national organization designed to inspire, connect and engage Latino communities in outdoor spaces and outdoor recreation. And this work has recently led him to enter the environmental justice space as well. Sergio in the past. What has kept you from attending I'm outside or working, doing the work that you do in environmental justice? Uh, what kind of barriers or experiences have you had that just made you feel like that wasn't a space for you?

Uh, I think it started from when I was a kid. First of all, I was, as I see it now, I, my parents today kind of, um, do that with us as a family, which now I see in friends that are involved in outdoors and, and their family did it as. As like a, you know, almost like a Rite of passage as a family tradition, but that's something that wasn't inherited. So my me and my siblings or any of my cousins, uh, it was more like the traditional during holidays. You go to the club or maybe you go to the mountains or to the beach. I don't think that's the same. It's uh, the outdoors was like a. Like any other setting. Um, I think that's one of the original barriers for me where it wasn't, um, part of our, like, like a value of our family. Um, and I think it's, it's sad because it was something that was, um, that was part of our family. But since. Like inherent in our immigration story and our immigrant, uh, immigration journey and that you lose connection to the land. That you feel that you own, and then you're in a foreign country and suddenly you don't own public land. You don't own public spaces. You're just a guest. And then venturing into public spaces could possibly mean people like asking you why you're there. Um, or you can’t you know behave. You can enjoy the public spaces the way you would in the past. I've walked in on people's lawn, walking on people's grass, laying on it. That's like as a kid, I remember that. And then the neighbors just telling me to get off the grass, get off my, and I thought, well, that's why you have the grass. So, you know, people are gonna enjoy it. And I think later on in life, You know. I came to grand Rapids, got married. And so we didn't have a lot of money. Didn't have a lot of means. And so then it was about valid seconding. We, we were worried about paying the rent, paying the bills, going, camping, doing things that required buying equipment. Um, And then friends that we had were Latino that also didn't practice that, um, that leisure and the outdoors was something that we didn't, wasn't never got invited to do with friends, at least events around that. So I think those are two major barriers, like access and just with our social networks that in practice, um, being outside, being outdoors.

What pushed you past, I guess the imposter syndrome that we talked about. So what, what opportunities came up for to allow you to kind of shake, um, to put that aside enough, to start doing the community building that you're doing and the work that you're doing with environmental justice, um, like what was sort of that, that catalyst that kind of pushed you past curiosity into action.

Some of the reasons that I started doing this work and push past that imposter syndrome with, I think that I finally had networks that I was part of and that had helped to build to a Latino network through the Latino community coalition and that some of those groups were, um, I kept pushing for us to do more outdoor activity. Um, more not going tubing, and people would say, no, I'm not, that's not really my thing. Or they were kind of done with it because they did it as kids. Whereas I haven't done it as a kid because I came from LA. We didn't have like rivers like we do here. So I think that network that we, that I was part of and, and we had multiple activities. Um, like a month and we would get together. I think that kind of like made me feel like, you know, there’s enough of a network that if we get five people, that's enough for me. Um, so building that community or around outdoors activities was, um, partly due to that, but also I think. On a more personal note. It was, uh, I saw that as a way to get people to start talking about the outdoors and the environment and our role as, um, a lot of like Latino leaders to start thinking about it. It was honestly it was, um, part of a strategy first, get them out the doors. Next get them to start talking about the environment and preserving it and why this is our role. And then start talking about leadership in these spaces that had been traditionally occupied by mostly white people. And then the next step is they talking about, um, environmental justice and, um, leading to that. So it's, it's part of a plan, I guess, internally. And, um, Make them more professionally, a part of the vision, I guess, on a personal note is just me, um, wanting to be outside and do something. Um, but I think that confidence came from me doing other work and, and, um, kind of organizing people to do more equity work, racial equity or the capacity around the females. And that kind of was like, it made it easier for me to, to, to want to do something similar and just kind of replicate that model, but, um, outdoors related activity and just having fun.

Awesome. Thank you. Uh, and then, uh, I guess kind of the last big question is, uh, Yeah. You talked about Latino Outdoors. Um, what, what are you doing now to grow that community and, you know, while you're continuing to learn, um, or maybe better yet, what is it, what is it like? What does it feel like to kind of be growing that community? Uh, and, and still. You know what you said before newbie? Um, yeah. How, how are you doing that? And what's that experience like in helping other people kind of learn alongside of you?

Actually that's probably done the best part. I'm kind of growing in that community. It seems like there was a lot of people that were had the same idea in mind that were feeling the same way. And I was actually just talking to a friend of mine who was reading about play and, and how we can use play in different scenarios and, um, help people understand that it's not all work we need to also be and think about what play and leisure and whatever context does for, as it says, human beings. And, and, and, and so then starting that group and then talking about it in, every room that I'm in, if anybody even remotely mentioned the outdoors, I mentioned the group to them. I mentioned activities to them, and everyone is so excited about it has been really for me. Just really rewarding to watch it grow and, and, and to make posts on social media. I bought it and had like 20 people respond within an hour. Um, that's um, it's been really fun to watch that happen. Um, so started a, like a Facebook group and Instagram, like hashtag, um, leave, like kind of backing anyone more out. Um, Kind of talking to people about it that are hesitant, that, um, are not sure whether they want to do it, whether it's for them ask a lot of questions and kind of creating the, uh, setting the tone for the group saying this is long to said, it's for people of all levels, everyone's welcome to save space. This is what we're about. Um, and then just. Yeah, I'm following up with all the people that respond after. I wish I knew that this was happening. I would have to go calling them about the next day or the next outing. So that's that this part has been mostly a lot of songs for me. Um, and it's, it's been, um, it's been, I would say fairly easy to get people to say yes to being on the steering committee. There's about five people. Um, and yeah, that has been kind of a lesson learned from other work that we do at everyone called for like just, um, getting different minds together and having it be like collective efforts. And so if it's multiple people represented and then leveraging their own networks and getting them to elevate different groups promoted as part of something that they are also building. That is also, um, working well. So overall it's been, um, has been a really positive experience for me. And I'm excited to still be like, the people are talking about being this year. We've gone back in a few times now and the turnout has been great, like from people that I haven't seen in months and not just because of the pandemic So all in all been a positive experience.

What have you learned.W hether it be about, you know, yourself and things that you like to do that are kind of your hobbies or activities, or what have you learned about what it means to be an expert. In doing this work, um, has that been redefined for you? Just the term association of expertise.

Yeah. That's about being an expert in anything, especially in this kind of thing. It's just that it's, it's like a misnomer. It's, it's really just about, um, individuals. It's very subjective, subjective, and that we all have like experiences and they're all valid. And, um, it's, it's also been, um, kind of like an introspective journey about how complex, um, this identity piece is. I think identity is at the core of like what we're talking about and that people have to go through this, um, this process of introspection and, and realizing that. They've told themselves they've, um, internalized this box that we put ourselves in that and, or keep ourselves out of and about enjoying the outdoors. And I think people, um, like there's conflicts about like being easier and, and, and people that are. Forced to have learned like work ethic and how people feel about like taking an entire day just to do nothing. And they're, they're thinking about work and how this is like, kind of like almost a waste of time. And should they almost feel guilty? I've heard that from some people. And it’s also about belonging.

Shaping Narratives a collection of voices from West Michigan's communities of color is brought to you in partnership with the wk Kellogg Foundation, a partner with communities where children come first. Want to hear more Shaping Narratives episodes download and subscribe at WGVU dot org or wherever you get your podcasts. Please rate and subscribe if you get a chance, it helps us to know you're listening. Shaping Narratives is produced by WGVU PBS and NPR in West Michigan through the facilities of the Meijer public broadcast center in the service of Grand Valley State University. Matt Gruppen processed all the audio, Joe Bielecki edits each episode, Vance Orr designed our graphics and manages our Web presence, Phil Lanes is our director of content. The views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the hosts and their guests and do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU or Grand Valley State University.