Camp Yoshi Wants to Reclaim the Outdoors for Black and Brown Folks
Shequeita Frazier grew up near South Carolina’s coast, in the Lowcounty, where her father was a fisherman. While others spent time on the water in speed boats and jet skis, being outdoors for her father—and for her family—meant finding food and resources. But when her father wasn’t working, he’d unwind in the Tidal Creeks.
“I knew earlier on that my dad found solace in just being out on his boat, just being out in the river. He'd be by himself, on his boat, a lot of times for hours,” Shequieta says. “That was his rest, and that was his moment of relaxation.”
Being able to unwind now seems more important—and more challenging—than ever, which is why she, her husband Rashad, and his brother Ron founded the Portland-based Camp Yoshi, a collective that designs guided outdoor multi-day adventures for Black and Brown folks and their allies.
The group was founded in the midst of the turmoil of 2020. Unsure of how to make sense of the racial violence and foreboding news of a spreading epidemic, Shequeita, Rashad, and Ron, all with their children, met up in Montana’s Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park. It was a chance to process, to heal, to be with family and experience nature together. It was there that the seeds for what would become Camp Yoshi were planted.
“That trip was really healing, and also it gave us a great sense of perspective,” Ron says. “I think it helped us cut through the noise from an individual, a family, and a community sense. We got to figure out, ‘what do want to do, what’s really important here, where do we focus our energy as we go back to our respective places?’”
They decided to focus their energy on getting Black and brown people outside, to reclaim some of the spaces that they know belong to everyone but that never felt that way for Rashad and Ron. Still, if there anything the trip in Montana had solidified, it’s the healing power of nature.
“There’s a lot of trauma for us around nature, and I think that was part of our goal, to sort of show that this has been a healing experience for us. Let's show people that this can do that for them as well,” Ron says.
Of course, 2020 was also marred with historic wildfires, which lent the project a sense of urgency. “I thought we were also having a race against time," Rashad says. "Some of these things might not exist next summer."
“It may not be there,” Shequieta adds, “and it's also important for us to educate people on how to get outside and the proper way to protect these locations, so that we can extend them into the future so that future generations can enjoy them and that they will be here.”
A trip with Camp Yoshi—the crew is already taking reservation for its 2022 season which includes four times more trips than their 2021 season—costs $3,250 for which you're promised an immersive, off-the-grid experience built for anyone from the novice camper to a seasoned pro. Previous trips have stayed mostly in the West and Southwest, with trips to Utah’s Canyon County, California’s Mohave Desert, Flagstaff, Arizona, the Oregon outback, and the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.
The Camp Yoshi crew has also partnered with local staples like Snow Peak, Westward Whiskey, and others to offer full gourmet meals—think caramel braised short ribs with heirloom grifts, served with craft cocktails—prepared by Rashad. The menu also borrows from what’s locally available. If a trip is by the coast, the crew might venture to a local fish market to see what’s in season.
“I think historically the adventure industry this always dropped the ball when it comes to food. You're either promoting granola, military meals, or other things,” Rashad says. “I think cooking is the ultimate approach to making folks feel extremely comfortable, making them thrive outside. There’s nothing like having a hot meal with fresh ingredients to keep people excited.”
While Camp Yoshi’s adventures are deliberate about seeking Black and brown participants, Ron says the trips are for everybody. And that sense of allyship and adventure, of helping historically marginalized communities experience places that should be theirs, too, is what keep Camp Yoshi growing.
“As a Black woman, I would have never [gone camping] by myself. I'm the person that Camp Yoshi is catering to in terms the need to get outside,” Shequita says. “For me, that allyship means that you're supportive via action. You're supportive and understanding that there is a need for Camp Yoshi to exist, and that doesn't take away from you, and that doesn't take away from your ability to get outside.”