When I first saw Earl B Hunter, Jr. in the fall of 2021, I was working a shift at DD Bullwinkels Outdoors in Brevard, NC and I thought he was just a customer wearing a statement t-shirt. It read, “Black Folks Camp Too” with a little campfire blaze logo on the front. It kind of made me wonder who he was and what his shirt was all about. Was it to raise awareness? Was it a cause? I soon found out that Earl was not shopping. He was working, dropping off merchandise for his company, Black Folks Camp Too, for a promotion featuring his organization and products. Outgoing and energetic, it didn’t take him long to introduce himself and share his story.
A successful past Vice President of sales for Sylvansport, and one of the only black executives in the RV industry, Earl started Black Folks Camp Too after touring the country in an RV with his son and seeing how few people of color were out enjoying the state and national parks and other recreational camping areas. He wanted to change that and so, Black Folks Camp Too was born.
On the day Earl visited DD Bullwinkels I heard him give his pitch about his organization, its mission, and why he founded it to a group of supporters in the upstairs loft overlooking the retail store below. It was a lot like going to church. Earl didn’t just speak about his cause. He preached it. His voice rang out with clarity. “Our job is to create unity in the outdoors,” he boomed. He shared stories, made people laugh, and he even sang. He explained that Black Folks Camp Too is not just about getting more people of color to enjoy spending time hiking, camping and recreating outside without fear. He urged whites and blacks to join together and share their love of the outdoors together and with everyone. He had me ready to go pack my tent and join the cause.
To get an idea of what Earl is like in person, you can check out the video, Night of Unity on the website or instagram. As he’s preparing a group of newcomers to go camping you hear him say, “We’re going to do this like a family. We’re going to get people to pitch in and help people get tents together…Don’t be afraid and don’t feel bad if you don’t know what to do. We’re going to show you what to do.”
“There’s a lot of generational fear of black folks in the outdoors.” Earl explained that in black families, great grandmothers, grandmothers, and mothers have told their children for decades not to go in the woods. The woods represented danger, whereas in the white community, the forest is a place for recreation and relaxation.
“We bridge the gap between people of color and the outdoors,” Earl commented in his interview with North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Black Folks Camp Too does this through educational initiatives and marketing their unity blaze logo and concept nationally. Earl has taken numerous trips around the country, used social media channels, in person activities, email subscriptions, and has a website to spread the word. He has given many, many interviews which you can find by googling or on the BFCT website.
Earl has been very successful in securing co-promotions with some of the top outdoor industry providers of camping and hiking gear, equipment, apparel and of course, RVs. His founding sponsors include Backcountry, Mid State RV, and South Carolina State Parks. Additional business partners include Treeline Coffee Roasters, GSI Outdoors, and Nemo Equipment, to name a few. My very own favorite hiking boot company, Oboz, sports the Black Folks Camp Too (BFCT) unity blaze on shoe inserts. I wear mine almost daily. But the products are not the focus of the organization.
In his many videos online he stresses that Black Folks Camp Too was not founded “just to get black folks to go camping with black folks…We were created to get black folks to camp with any and everyone. We want us around the campfire so we can start having conversations with any and every one…because we believe the campfire in our logo is the portal to amazing conversations. It doesn’t matter your race, your age, or your gender, we all have something to say.”
Visit the BFCT website for camping tips and outdoor recreational advice and view news and videos about the organization.
Outside Business Journal video https://www.outsidebusinessjournal.com/videos/straight-talk-earl-b-hunter-jr-black-folks-camp-too/