Love is King: Operation ROAM

Published 2021-11-08

Love is King aims to eliminate fear and establish safety for Black, Indigenous, and all people of color in the outdoors. L.I.K. is committed to creating a reimagined outdoor environment focused on participation, representation, and inspiration.

Historically, BIPOC voices have not always been invited to government spaces, especially where decisions are made about land, wildlife, and indigenous policies. The mission of L.I.K. Operation R.O.A.M (Rapid Ongoing Advance Missions) provides an opportunity for BIPOC individuals to step into the realm of public land and freshwater conservation. L.I.K. R.O.A.M magnifies the voices of BIPOC leaders and builds representation where it counts.

Meet some of the faces from the first LIK Operation R.O.A.M:

Mariah Butler

Going to the Arctic with Love is King Operation R.O.A.M was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I will remember it for the rest of my life. So much of what I learned from this experience I've been able to bring back to my everyday life. I was able to see the effects of climate change firsthand. Working with Forest Park Conservancy, it became even more evident how urgent and necessary the conservation work we do in the lower 48 is. My passion is restoration work, and I know that with each acre of the forest I help restore, I'm doing my part to care for this Earth.

Mic Crensaw

Visiting the Arctic Refuge with Love is King Operation R.O.A.M was a life-changing experience for me.

I was able to experience a profound connection between the Earth and the heavens with my body and awareness as an antenna. In that regard, it was like a scientific and spiritual awakening that happened in my body and mind.

My day-to-day in the lower 48 consists of commuting and staring at a computer screen all day, making it hard to unwind. But for the ten days I was in the Arctic, the sun was overhead for 24-hours, we camped in the most pristine wilderness. It was an ongoing download that I usually am not available.

Each living being is a product of the relationship between the sun and celestial bodies, the planet Earth and the complex web of interdependent life and systems that support life. Human beings are one part of a web that supports biodiversity too rich to account for by each species' name. Yet, within a few generations, we have created the means to destroy hundreds of millions of years of evolution.

The information I received was not new, and my interpretation of it is not unique. The awareness of the information in my consciousness is nonetheless remarkable and unforgettable.

What are we going to do about ourselves to stop imagining that we exist superior and separate from all life we share existence with?

Chie Togo

The trip to the Arctic shook my view of the world, nature, and my stance as a human being. I was extremely fortunate to be 1 percent of people on the Earth who can explore the Arctic Circle environment. The scenery was incredible, and upon my return, I was having a tough time explaining to my friends/coworkers how beautiful the space was. Still, no words can describe precisely nature can be so majestic.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about how ignorant I was before this trip and didn't acknowledge the severity of climate change in the area until I landed there. I observed and heard what was happening there and how it is impacting people's lives. There's an overwhelming feeling of wanting to share this experience with the people in the lower 48 and make sure the action will be taken. The communal effort of change needs to happen very soon. The sustainable work needs to be continued to the next generations and make sure we take care of the beautiful and precious space for decades.

Matt McLean

Being, living, and learning in the Arctic environment was a natural watershed moment in my life. Being able to visit this region and be welcomed to live and stay on the Gwich'in traditional lands (as well as the Iñupiaq to the north) was an incredible honor. One of the things that stood out to me the most is how familiar certain Gwich'in beadwork is to my tribe (Mi'kmaq), how we use the same type of canoes, etc. The land is a very warm and inviting place, and the people even more so. Listening to a wide variety of voices; and leaders working and living and thriving in these traditional, sacred areas was an incredible experience.

Although for me, on our journey, it was the land that spoke last and the loudest, I am grateful and humbled to have seen this unique ecosystem, even as it changes in my lifetime. The things happening on the tundra are windows into what is coming for the rest of the planet, and these are not things to be ignored. We have a collective responsibility to take care of this mother, this land, this Earth that gives us all the blessing of life itself. There are no alternatives, and it's a responsibility to take care of we might have something to leave to our descendants. This journey has given me a lot of teachings, a lot of contexts for the things that we collectively have to work to address, and an insurmountable amount of inspiration about the possibilities for the future. I am very grateful for all the people who also went on this journey, and it has been incredibly uplifting, Wela'lin. (Thank you).

Solamon Ibe

Alaska, Arctic, Tundra, Yukon, Eskimo... hearing these words growing up always sparked intrigue and inspired adventure. Reading a book like "The Call of the Wild" made me feel like going out for a dog sled was accessible. Watching truckers travel the ice roads or fishermen braving the Bering Sea on T.V. gave the illusion of accessibility, even while portraying nature's harsh and unforgiving realities. I often heard Alaska as just another state in the union, feeling no further off than any other we hear of might be. But as I grew older, I became more aware of the realities of great distances, expenses and opportunity costs. The thought of Alaska as a travel destination becomes less likely, and the idea of living out an adventure becomes less appealing.

However, when the opportunity with Love is King Operation R.O.A.M presented itself, I jumped at the chance. I am blessed to have breathed the Arctic air, navigated the tussocks while walked the tundra, and even taken a plunge in the Arctic Ocean! I was selected to join the second expedition, and I was so excited my mind couldn't stop racing, wandering and imagining what adventures await.

What impacted me was learning about the complexity and importance of the ecosystem. Millions of birds from all 50 states and across the globe spend their summers in the Yukon Flats. The sprint of life that occurs during the few months of unrelenting sunshine, the incessant swarm of mosquitoes that makes you appreciate the presence of a nice steady breeze that will keep them at bay.

A big takeaway for me was the feeling of embarrassment over the realization that the native peoples of this land are not a monolith. There are multiple tribes, and they have varying interests regarding the preservation or development of the land. Meeting with tribal leaders and hearing their experiences and desires for their land and people was such an honor and so eye-opening.

I am proud to have been a part of this trip and plan to continue supporting these efforts so that those who may have never imagined themselves in a place like that might get the chance to breathe that same air, know it's a precious rarity and be moved to speak up for its preservation.

Nasir Osman

Breathtaking. The land has a way to speak to you. It's mesmerizing being one of the BIPOC leaders chosen for this mission. The 24-hour sun puts you in a daze, and I felt weirdly vulnerable as we backpacked across the lands. The oil pipeline above our head bears a mark of a society we have left behind. Clouds are parting, crashing into the mountains above us. This doesn't feel real. How am I here? The uneven terrain became my home for the next ten days. They say words can't describe Alaska. It feels so familiar but so foreign, a feeling you can't shake, a feeling you won't forget. Along the way, we learned a lot about ourselves and mother nature. I feel honored to have been a part of something this powerful. It's genuinely humbling being out in that space and land that so few of us ever get to experience.

Arctic refuge commentary

Earthbound, poem performed on Arctic Refuge:

Learn more about Love is King and how you can get involved here.