At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.

Hike series to feature discussions about racism, diversity

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash will lead a series of small-group hikes through the park with the dual purpose of enjoying the great outdoors and facilitating open conversations about diversity and racism. 

“National parks have long provided a place of healing, and I believe the setting of this mountain sanctuary is a powerful space to bring us together to engage in crucial conversations,” said Cash. “This year has brought a lot of uncertainty and fear that tends to draw people to their corners. Through this opportunity, I’m inviting everyone to step out and have real conversations about the history of racism locally and globally. In learning about our past, we open the doors to our future.”

The series, called Smokies Hikes for Healing, will allow up to 10 people to join in for each of the eight hikes planned in locations across the park from August through December. During the hikes, a facilitator will lead each group in a thought-provoking discussion about race by first establishing an environment that is trusting and safe for individuals to recognize the long-standing ills associated with racism and how these have carried over into today’s society. Facilitators will equip participants with tools and ideas about how to identify biases through a deeper level of self-awareness and reflection so that participants can become intentional in addressing racism and race relations. 

Groups will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing and wearing face covering when appropriate distance cannot be maintained. To apply for the hikes, visit www.smokieshikesforhealing.org. A set of starter guidelines and questions will be available on the website for those interested in leading their own conversations about racism along Smokies trails with friends, strangers or colleagues. Everyone is invited to join the conversation virtually through a digital platform on the site where hike participants can share their stories, realizations and commitments.

The Great Smoky Mountains Association assisted with creative development of the program and website, and Friends of the Smokies provided additional financial support. 

Receive our FREE SMN Xtra newsletter

Back Then with George Ellison

Subscribe to Our Email Newsletters

  • Rumble: An empowering weekly newsletter created by women, for women
  • The SMN Xtra: Updates from the Smoky Mountain News throughout the week

Previously in Outdoors

Go to top