Mountainfilm Festival to Feature National Parks Conservation Association’s Inspiring Film about the Lack of Diversity in National Parks

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   May 22, 2012
Contact:   Perry Wheeler, NPCA Senior Media Relations Coordinator, P: 301-675-8766
Amy Marquis, NPCA National Parks Magazine Associate Editor, P: 303.335.7933
For interview requests with Shelton Johnson: Kari Cobb, Yosemite Public Affairs Officer, 209-372-0529


Mountainfilm Festival to Feature National Parks Conservation Association’s Inspiring Film about the Lack of Diversity in National Parks

‘The Way Home’ looks to spark dialogue with outdoor community on national park diversity issues

Telluride, CO – This Memorial Day weekend, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) will showcase its highly-acclaimed film, The Way Home, as part of the 2012 Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride. The film, directed by National Parks Magazine’s Associate Editor Amy Marquis, brings to light the lack of diversity in America’s national parks, featuring Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson, who starred in Ken Burns’s The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

“I’m thrilled to be able to have this conversation at an event like Mountainfilm, which draws people from all over the world who care deeply about the human connection to nature,” says Marquis. “It’s the right time and the right place to figure out how we can help ensure that all Americans are engaged in our national parks—especially as the National Park Service approaches its second century in 2016.”

The Way Home places the important conversation of engaging minorities in the outdoors front and center at the festival. While Americans continue to visit our country’s national parks in record numbers, people of color remain largely absent. Only 1 percent of Yosemite’s current annual visitors are African American. Through the film, NPCA looks to ignite a larger conversation about the lack of diversity in our national parks, and what more can be done to bridge that gap.

The film offers a moving look at the difficult history, lack of access, and emotional disconnect with nature that too often creates a barrier between African Americans and their national parks. It also provides an inspiring alternative to that story, as Marquis follows the “Amazing Grace 50+ Club” of seniors—some of whom are experiencing Yosemite for the first time. In the film, Yosemite Ranger Shelton Johnson offers a powerful Buffalo Soldier performance, taking the group on a spiritual journey that sparks a lasting connection to the park. Buffalo Soldiers were enlisted African-American cavalrymen in the U.S. Army in the 1860s who served, among other roles, as Yosemite’s first park rangers. Many of the Amazing Grace members are moved to tears, taken by the majestic beauty of Yosemite and the deep history that shines through Johnson’s performance. 

“African Americans are the group least likely to have a wilderness experience,” says Johnson. “They don’t necessarily feel a cultural connection to the land. The Buffalo Soldier story provides that bridge back to the earth—back to America.”

NPCA is also currently supporting legislation introduced by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, The Buffalo Soldiers in the National Parks Study Act, which would determine how the Buffalo Soldier’s story should be represented within the National Park System.

The Way Home will air at Mountainfilm in Telluride on Saturday, May 26, and Sunday, May 27. Both screenings will be followed by a Q&A session featuring Shelton Johnson. On Monday, May 28, Marquis, Johnson, writer/producer Dayton Duncan, and eco-philanthropist David Rockefeller Jr. will discuss how to both preserve and maximize our national parks for visitors. The panel discussion will take place at 8:00 am at Hotel Madeline. For the full schedule and other details, visit www.mountainfilm.org/festival/schedule.

The Way Home also appeared at the Langston Hughes African-American Film Festival in Seattle last April. To watch the film or learn more, visit http://www.npca.org/news/magazine/all-issues/2012/the-way-home.html.

Since 1919, NPCA has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its more than 600,000 members and supporters, and many partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come. For more information, please visit: www.npca.org.

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