Brown is a beautiful color


Episode 6 of Season 2 — Hosted by Emily Harwitz.

About this Episode

We’ve explored many ways to play in the redwoods this season. What resonates most, beyond any single activity, is the relationships formed and fortified—with one another, with the outdoors, and with one another in the outdoors. In this season’s finale, beneath the redwoods in Oakland, Grace Anderson (she/her) and Mo Asebiomo (they/she) embody Black joy (spontaneous laughter alert!), the expansive meaning of playing outside (cloud watching or an adrenaline-pumping bike ride, choose your own adventure), and the powerful affirmation that comes from affinity and resilient friendships. Let’s play!

Music and sound design by Nhu Nguyen and Anni Feng.

Read Episode Transcript

Follow Save the Redwoods League on Instagram @savetheredwoods

 Portrait of two BIPOC people outdoors
Grace Anderson and Mo Asebiomo

About our Guests

Grace Anderson (she/her) (she/her) is a dreamer, networking weaver, and joy enthusiast based in Oakland, CA. Mo Asebiomo (they/she) is an outdoor educator who loves cloud watching and sleeping under the Sun. They are the Camp Co-Director at Abundant Beginnings, a collectively run, Black-led community education and empowerment initiative.

Read Transcription

[Theme song intro]

Emily Harwitz:
Welcome to Season Two of I’ll Go If You Go, a Save the Redwoods League podcast. We’re building community and illuminating how Californians from all walks of life think about and experience nature and conservation in the redwoods and beyond. I’ll Go If You Go — because when we explore together in community, the experience is all the more powerful.

Hey, friends! Summer’s here and the time is right—for dancing in the redwoods. I feel like I say this every time, but today’s episode is truly special, for a number of reasons. First, it’s the final episode of season two!

And what really makes today’s episode special is our lovely guests, Grace Anderson and Mo Asebiomo. Grace (she/her) is a dreamer, networking weaver, and joy enthusiast based in Oakland, CA. Mo (they/she) is an outdoor educator who loves cloud watching and sleeping under the Sun. They are the Camp Co-Director at Abundant Beginnings, a collectively run, Black led community education and empowerment initiative.

We met up in Reinhardt Redwoods Regional Park in Oakland, which is within the unceded and ancestral homeland of the Ohlone peoples, to play in the redwoods. What exactly does it mean to play? You may be surprised by Grace and Mo’s answers to that question. The act of playing can spark so much inspiration, and it led us to explore the concept of relationships — with each other, with the outdoors, and with each other in the outdoors.

When I was a kid, I loved playing outside. I did a lot of running around playing tag with friends or making up fantastical games or trying to climb trees. Sometimes — actually, quite often — I’d fall and scrape my knees. But my dad taught me how to pick myself up, dust myself off, and get back to playing. Why waste time crying when I could be having fun? That’s what worked for me, anyways. The outdoors was a place where I could fall down and get back up again, where I could be me and push myself and have a good time — a place where I could play.

[transition sound of footsteps walking outside]

Grace and Mo, welcome to the podcast!


Grace: Thank you.
Mo: Thank you, Emily!

Emily: Mo showed up in the most lovely earth tones.

Mo: I love brown. I love earth tones.


Grace: You look so good.

Mo: Make sure the mic caught it!

Grace:  I’ll say it again. You look so good, Mo.


Mo: Thank you, thank you, I do what I can. Earlier this month… well, I guess in February for Black History Month, I set a whole theme for myself and the apartment, and it was ‘brown is a beautiful color.’ Because I was just thinking about when I was younger, when we were in art classes and brown was like the color of poop.

Grace: Right. That was always the undesirable color.

Mo: It was always the color of poop.

Grace: Exactly.


Mo: And people would mix the colors and be like, “Look at my mud, poopy.” And I was like, “You know what? Brown is a beautiful color. And it has different tones and different hues.”

Grace: Do you ever wake up and like there’s sun on your skin and you’re like, ah – it’s me!

Mo: Yeah, I love that.

Grace: Oh my gosh, my skin is so pretty and brown. Yeah.


Emily: I asked Grace and Mo to introduce themselves and however way they’re showing up that day.


Grace: I think what’s up for me today is: I’m Black, I’m creative, I’m really smiley and sensitive. I love Black people and enjoy being — Yeah, the car ride with Mo and being like, oh, I need more of this, and I want to figure out ways like just to live and bask in Black joy. Yeah, I feel like I’m in a big place of evolution and transition — to what, I don’t know what yet, but that feels pretty big.

I’m a cyclist. I love flowers. I love being outside. My people are really important to me. Like, when I love people, I like love really hard. And I want to love more people outside. Yeah, today’s been really sweet so far. Oh, I should be outside in the twilight more.



I would describe myself as Black, first and foremost. I’m a climber. I am a cloud watcher, a writer an author. I’m Nigerian American. And I would like to think that I’m really good at listening. I also taught a class this morning, a fitness class, so I feel like that feels very, more relevant than others. So, I feel like a coach. I was yelling at people this morning, telling them to dig deep. [Mo and Grace laugh]


So that feels very relevant right now. So, I would say Coach.



How do you feel about the word, ‘play’?



Play just like, evokes such a warm feeling in my body. It’s like laughter, It’s like intimacy. It’s like stillness, like it just feels loose and warm and giggly and joyful. I pictured myself like, tumbling in a delightful way, like tumbling down a hillside, like just rolling over, and over, and over again. And that isn’t always what play looks like for me. But that’s what it feels like, just like letting go, and just tumbling over and over. It makes me feel so warm, that like, just like hearing that word. It’s like, “oh, let’s go play.” And I wish more people would be like, “oh, let’s go play, let’s go play together.” And that can mean so many things.



How do you think we can play more?



I attended a goal setting workshop, and it was, you know, “what are your goals?” And I feel such an aversion to that question. It feels rigid, it feels inflexible. It feels very like a failure/success binary. And so, I instead ask myself a question of “what am I trying to honor in this life?” Because I feel like that is a little more fluid.

Grace: Come on!

Mo: Yeah!

Grace: Beautiful. That is a beautiful question.


It’s a beautiful question that a friend of mine, Julia had. We keep going back to it, of “what are we trying to honor in this life?” And when I think of what it means to honor play, I think of all the things I love to do outside, like climbing and running, and like bicycling. I don’t know if I — well, I would consider bicycling, “cycling” — let’s say cycling. Because for me, those things are playful. And when y’all were describing play, it sounded very serene, and beautiful and nourishing. But when I think of play, I think of adrenaline, like pumping. Kind of an intensity there. But afterwards, you can kind of have this fall from. And I feel like that’s me in my raw state, when I’m falling from that adrenaline high. And I’m just like, wow, like I’m alive — like this is, I’m experiencing the universe.



I want to hear about how you two met — and how would you describe your relationship?



I love when people are like, “your meet cute story.”

[Mo and Grace laugh]


Mo: Grace and I met in 2017?

Grace: Sure. [Mo and Grace laugh] What is time?

Mo: What Is time? Sometime, somewhere along then or 2018. And Grace was one of — a guest speaker in a series of guest speakers that came to talk about diversity in the outdoors at Stanford campus, where I was attending at the time. And I don’t remember much about what Grace spoke about, except for two main things: One was, Grace was sharing about her parents and her parents’ reactions to her being an outdoor educator and loving the outdoors and camping and all the things that Grace does outside. And their aversion to it. And this was really the first time I heard my story in someone else. And I was like, “Oh my goodness. That’s like my parents.” [Mo laughs]

And the second thing, and maybe Grace didn’t really say this, but it was my first time seeing a Black person with natural hair of my texture. Grace, would you say you’re 4C?

Grace: Yeah.

Mo: Like with the 4C —

Grace: 4C representation!

Mo: Come on, 4C rep! That matters!

Grace: It matters!

Mo: It really does matter because hair is just so important in the Black experience. And it’s something like camping, which is not the only way to engage in the outdoors, but it’s hard when you have different hairstyles. If you’re wearing a wig, or if you’re wearing braids — well, I feel like braids are probably much easier. All to say that it really struck me that it was someone who mirrored similar aspects of my identity, who was doing all these dope things and outside.

And I was like, “What?! Who is this person?” And honestly, that was enough. I was just saying — like, I didn’t really talk to Grace. I wasn’t really that vocal or like, I’m not even sure if I introduced myself — like I may have, but it was really just seeing Grace existing in her own vibration that made a spark for me. And I remember Grace was talking about the company that she worked at, and I was like, ‘I want to work at that company!’ And I was just like, “I want to be like Grace!” [Mo laughs]

Grace and I are very different people, but we do have a lot in common in terms of our journeys and aspects of our identity. And I was really fortunate that, I think the year after we met in person, Grace was also the co-director of the People of the Global Majority Conference. It was in Philly. If you haven’t heard of the People of the Global Majority Conference, it gathers all these people in the outdoor sphere — conservation, recreation — jump in, Grace.


Rematriation, all the ways.


All types of, all types of ways that people engage with the earth. And they’re all BIPOC. They’re all Black, Indigenous, people of color. And we all came to Philly and we just had a great time. And we just stayed in contact ever since. And I think something about mentorship that I want to emphasize is that, it really doesn’t have to be this — well, for Grace and I, it didn’t have to be this continuous check-in, and like, frequency. I think Grace sees me. And I would like to think I see Grace as well. And that has been the foundation of our relationship, and we don’t necessarily need to constantly see one another to continue to build on that foundation.



For me, Mo, it’s like, I’ve just always held you. Like, once I saw you, like — when I see Black folks, specifically, femmes, and women, and non-binary people who look like me, who really look like me in terms of like, darker skin, kinkier hair, backgrounds that I have, I just can hold them and feel like I have this compartment in my heart of just like, “Oh, I see you,” and whenever there’s an opportunity to like, uplift you, reflect yourself back to you, validate you, affirm you, send money your way, like any way that I see possible — like, I’m just gonna do that.

And I think in those years when I was at Stanford and other spaces, I was also looking for myself. I’m like, ‘okay, I’m in spaces with people of color, but they don’t — they’re still not looking like me.’ Like, I’m not seeing as many Black people, or any Black people, and it’s not looking and feeling like me. And so, I think that year, I met you, and I met Darrell, and I was just like, ‘Oh, I’m also searching for you!’ And so, I’ve just always held you in that. I just try to always be mindful of what you’re working on and what you’re dreaming about so that if there is ever an opportunity where I can support you, I do it, and I think yeah, I just wish —I wish I had had that.


[transition music]



So, both of you came to outdoor education on your own, it sounds like without much influence from family. How did you both come to it and your love for the outdoors? And also, what is the outdoors?



I grew up in Virginia and I went to a historically Black college in North Carolina, Winston Salem State University. And yeah, I just have never been a fan of school and structure in that way. I started as an elementary school teacher major. And yeah, I thought I would teach kiddos inside, because that’s how I was always taught you do it. And then my junior year in college, I just kind of stopped going to class. I was volunteering at an AIDS clinic, a clinic for folks who had AIDS and HIV. And I just stopped going to class, and just started volunteering there all the time, and almost didn’t graduate. But I remember a professor my junior year, he was like ‘yeah, you don’t come to my class, you should check out this program instead.’ It was the Student Conservation Association and they were doing spring break trips for college students in Joshua Tree. And so, I spent a spring break in Joshua Tree doing, like, removing invasive mustards and counting desert tortoises —

Mo: Whoa!

Grace: It was so awesome. I was like, “Oh, this is what my life could be like?

Mo: “This is an option?” [laughter]

Grace: And that was in Joshua Tree and it just —it just blew my mind. So, I graduated by the skin of my teeth — graduated, and then moved to North Dakota to teach environmental education. The day after I graduated from an all Black college.


Mo: Woww. Wow, Grace. Way to talk about transitions!


Grace: So, I was a ranger there and that’s how I got into it. I just wanted to be outside and wanted to figure out a way to sustain myself doing that, financially. And yeah, I do not come from a family with a lot of financial resources, and so, my mom—everyone was confused. Still is. Like, ‘how are you paying rent? How do you live?’ But that’s how I got into it. And I just love being outside. And I love how playful it is. And how serene it is, and how much it’s built me up in terms of the skills and confidence, and the community that I’ve built around it. But yeah, that was my start. How about you, Mo?


Mo: Hmm. I was thinking of when I was little in South Georgia, and my siblings and I—I have seven siblings so there’s never a shortage of people to play with [laughs]— We would play outside, and I just loved playing outside, as most little kids do. And I remember I used to love taking showers outside when it was raining. [laughs] And, you know, I come from a family of a lineage that includes farmers. Like, a pretty even split of farmers and those in education, which I would like to think I’m living that reality now. Those two worlds, as a camp director in the forest school. So maybe, hopefully my ancestors are like, ‘we see you.’


Emily: Yeah, that’s a farmer. You’re planting seeds in these kids’ minds.


Mo: Mhmm, mhmm. You see it right? Since I was little, I wanted to be, I called it “chocolate granola.”

Grace: Oh my gosh, yes.

Mo: Yes. I wanted to be that Black person with like, with locks, surfing and climbing, and was so cool.

Grace: Chocolate granola!

Mo: Chocolate granola! Like, I was set on it. And when I came to school in the Bay, I remember I bought my climbing shoes off Amazon. And I knew nothing of the technical gear of the elite; elitist outdoor culture that existed at Stanford. And it didn’t take long before it bogged me down when at Stanford.

I was like, ‘this isn’t actually for me. This like, granola dream? Mmmm, no thanks.’ I was getting — I had microaggressions in the outdoors. I was typically the only Black person. I heard comments about my hair. I was stressed about my hair because I wasn’t wearing my natural hair in that time. It just felt like it wasn’t a cultural fit. I couldn’t care about how I looked, because you weren’t supposed to care about how you looked when you were camping, or when you’re outside. I couldn’t take pictures, because — even though I had never done anything like this before, and my instinct was to take pictures and send to my parents, and take videos, because this was all so brand new. And having one of my first experiences of doing that be quickly shamed, and like ‘oh, you’re less outdoorsy, and you belong here less if you want to capture the experiences.’

And really, it wasn’t just that—it was all these ways I existed that didn’t fall within what it meant to be “outdoorsy,” which is, spoiler alert: white and elitist. So I was really discouraged for about two years in college. And then I went to PGM ONE. That’s what happened. I was like, ‘what happened?’ [laughs]


Emily: The People of the Global Majority Conference?

Mo: I went to the People of the Global Majority Conference, and it just renewed my vigor. And it just made me realize that the experience I had been having was one that, sadly, or unfortunately, is very universal for Black people, for Indigenous people, for darker skinned people and people of color, who were made to feel like they didn’t belong in the outdoors.



For our Black listeners, darker skinned listeners, people of color listeners, who hear about your relationship and communities that you have nurtured around you and in the outdoors — and for our listeners who wants to find community in the outdoors — do you have any tips for how they can do that?



Social media I think is a double-edged sword in a lot of ways. But that’s how I’ve been able to connect with more people of color who are outside — darker skinned people and Black people who are outside. Sometimes people are like, ‘oh, people of color ski?’ and I’m like, ‘wait, white people ski?’ [laughs] Because my Instagram is just like, all people of color. And I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, y’all are still climbing? White folks are climbing?’

And so, I think yeah, social media is a great way, because there’s so many groups that are sprouting up and using social media to share details their gatherings, and just what they’re up to. I think, yeah, I — not everyone’s comfortable doing this, but I love approaching people outside.

Mo: I was about to say.

Grace: Whenever I’m in the climbing gym and someone’s climbing and Black, I’m like, I will find myself in the route of their path.

[Grace and Mo laugh]


Mo: Oh, hello! Funny seeing you here!


Grace: In Oakland, which Mo can talk about this more because you’ve attended events, there’s like the Black Climbers Collective that sprouted up. There’s a lot of queer spaces in Oakland for climbers and hikers. Yeah, I feel like, I think there’s a lot more representation right now, and spotlighting groups and people of color who are in the outdoors. I don’t think all of it’s, like, equity work or justice-oriented. I think there’s a lot of representation right now. And so, I think just searching Instagram, and like asking friends and approaching people. Like right now, there just seems to be more abundance of groups and people who are organizing outside. And then yeah, PGM ONE is a beautiful space to engage with other folks of color, who just work and like, play in connection with the land.

It took me a while to realize that it was less about the activities for me and more about the people. And so I think if there’s people in your life that you love, and just love to spend time with, invite them outside with you. Like, it is so much more about relationships for me. I learned how to climb from white men who were really into hard sport route. And I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I hate climbing!’ And then some people took me climbing who are really into like long trad routes, or long multipitch routes that were just about being together outside. And that was like, ‘oh, you all are my people.’ And then we eat yummy things afterwards. I think just inviting people you love to be outside with you is another way to build community with people you’re already in community with. Yeah.


Emily: That sounds like play!

Grace: Yeah.

Emily: Like, you’re going outside not to conquer, not to win — you’re going outside to play with the people you love.

Grace: Right! Yeah.

Mo: Mhmm. It’s another setting for it.

Grace: Totally. That’s — yeah, exactly.


Emily: I mean — it’s a universal playground.



Explore Redwoods is your portal into California’s magical coastal redwood and giant sequoia forest. Visit to learn what’s available in more than 100 Redwood parks and plan an unforgettable adventure. From hiking and biking trails, to camping, to swimming holes…. this web-based app will get you there. Visit


Mo: Finding your happy place outside doesn’t need to be a strenuous, hard thing to do.

Emily: A hardship.

Grace: Hardship. Exactly.


Grace: Which is why I think there’s fear around the outdoors and being outside because of that narrative of ‘oh, it has to be hard, and it’s going to be painful. It’s going to be cold.’

Mo: Yeah. Mhmm. “There’s gonna be discomfort.”

Grace: And like — oooh!

Mo: I hated that! When I first started camping, it was with non-Black people, it was mostly white people. And discomfort was glorified.

Grace: Right.

Mo: It’s like, ‘oh, you have to love that coldness. You have to love, when — ’ You know? [laughs]

Emily: Like the harder you suffer, the more outdoorsy you can call yourself.

Mo: Exactly! The food doesn’t taste good — [laughter]

Grace: You will love this unseasoned food! [laughter]

Mo: Wait a damn minute, wait a second! [laughter]

Grace: We can bring seasoning in the outdoors!


Mo: You know what? It doesn’t have to be for a long time either.

Grace: Right.

Mo: You don’t have to do a three-day solo trip, seven-day hiking expedition. It can be, it can be a short 20 minutes. It can be an hour, just napping under the sun. And then you’re done.

Grace: Yeah.

Mo: Then you’re done. I feel like, once we start to constrain it, when we say ‘this is what it means to be outside,’ that’s when we start going wrong. I spent so much energy trying to curate the perfect pro-Black, pro-everything-that-I-wish-I’d-had experience — I organized this Black Yosemite trip, tried to do everything right, and I still have people be like, “Yeah, I just didn’t like it.” I’m like ‘wait, what?’

Grace: Yeah.

Mo: And that’s okay.

[music interlude]



That’s all, folks. I want to thank each and every one of you for sharing this season with me and being part of the I’ll Go If You Go and Save the Redwoods League community. I sure learned a lot — about how mushrooms are grown, how to forest bathe, how to keep a nature journal. I also went skateboarding like a girl and glided down the Klamath River in oohl-we’-yoch, a Yurok redwood canoe. It’s not just the activities that made this season so meaningful, though — it’s the amazing people who have shared their stories with us on each episode — who I got to play in the outdoors with.

As I’ve learned through this season, play is an essential ingredient to building relationships. Play needs everyone to show up with trust and an open mind…and a willingness to be silly and get lost in the fun!

I am so grateful to all of our guests for welcoming us into their worlds, playing with us, and expanding all of our connections to nature.

If anything resonated with you this season, please, write a review of the podcast or get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.

I hope you join us next season for even more fun adventures exploring our connection to nature and building community in the outdoors. If you see me somewhere outside, come and say hey! I certainly hope to see you out there — I’ll go if you go!

I’ll Go If You Go, a Save the Redwoods League podcast.

Through conversations with Black, Indigenous, and people of color who explore and work in the outdoors, we’re building community and illuminating how Californians from all walks of life think about and experience nature and conservation, in the redwoods and beyond.

About the host of Season 2

Emily HarwitzEmily Harwitz (she/her) is a multimedia science writer and photographer whose work focuses on the environment and our connection to it. She tells stories that foster community, provoke curiosity, and inspire a sense of deeper connection with the natural world around us.

Check out more episodes

Be sure to follow our podcast in your preferred app to be notified when new episodes are posted!