Hike MTL hosts 2nd edition of BLK Winterfest

"We don't tend to think of the BIPOC community doing outdoor leadership," says Jamillah Jean, founder of Hike MTL. She hopes her 2nd edition of BLK Winter Fest will get even more people of colour doing activities outdoors. Anastasia Dextrene reports.

In celebration of Black History Month, Hike MTL is bringing the community outdoors with their second edition of BLK Winterfest.

Activities until February 24 include skating, snowboarding and ice climbing, as founder Jamillah Jean encourages all to get out and battle the winter blues.

During “winter months, the Black community’s risk of depression and winter blues is quite elevated,” says Jean, whose background is in education and social work.

While working with youth, she found those in placement “typically had a lot of issues with mental health, depression, anxiety. There was a gamut of different issues and we used outdoors as a therapeutic outlet,” Jean says.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 15% of Canadians experience the winter blues. On top of being an outlet, Jean is proud that BLK Winterfest is also encouraging leadership and friendship in the community.

“We don’t tend to think of BIPOC community doing outdoor leadership, so what we wanted to do differently this year was really make sure that all of our instructors are typically BIPOC, but also certified instructors,” Jean told CityNews.

“Launching the BLK Winterfest just made a lot of sense – and using that as a way to introduce winter sports – like very beginner friendly lessons,” she added.

The founder’s efforts are resonating with Montrealers.

“If you had asked me to do this on my own, it would have never happened,” says first-time climber, Kara Denis, adding “it was a smaller group so it felt like we’re united, because usually you don’t see Black people partake in sports like this.”

First-time ice climber Khalid Hussein shared “Conquering fears, I think is the word I’ll use right now. Because I’ve never gone on ice, and this is a great winter experience.”

Tickets for BLK Winterfest are available at hikemtl.com.

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