Advocate Spotlight: Donald Grant

Categories: Advocate Spotlight

It would be hard to overstate the effort and work Donald “DJ” Grant has put into fostering a more equitable and inclusive climbing community across the Northeast. His volunteer work has had a positive impact on those around him and a ripple effect throughout the region. DJ helped bring equitable climbing to students at Pittsburgh City School, and he helped form the first JEDI committee at the New River Alliance of Climbers, among many other projects, initiatives, and roles.

DJ bouldering in Powerlinez, New York. Ancestral lands of Munsee Lenape. © Nick Fargo.

In his new home of New York City, DJ works with the NYC Climbers Coalition (NYCCC) and the Gear Fund Collective to redistribute outdoor gear to those who need it most. Beyond his work with NYCCC, DJ promotes equitable access for BIPOC climbers by organizing, fundraising, and promoting in his community, including founding the new Amy Stone Foundation nonprofit.

Five Questions for DJ

What’s your favorite cause in climbing advocacy right now?
Introducing BIPOC/underserved children to climbing and making them feel welcome.

What does it mean to you to be a climbing advocate?
Being the example that I wish I had seen when I started climbing. I wanted to see people who looked like me on the wall doing things I didn’t think were possible. I wanted someone who looked like me to come up and have a conversation with me. I wanted to not feel like I was the only cloud in the sky. I wanted to feel like I was part of a community, so I try to create community around me and be the person I wish I had.

What’s your advice to new advocates?
Be the example you want to see and make the change you want to happen. Be patient and empathetic, and always persevere. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it is hard fought. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable allows people to empathize, and with this understanding they can be willing to help facilitate change. This alone won't always be sufficient, there will be times when vulnerability isn’t enough. As climbers, we all know we have to get back up and try until our fingers bleed.

What surprised you the most about getting into the advocacy world?
I was surprised by the willful ignorance of the larger climbing community not understanding what outlying groups feel.

Who is another climbing advocate whose work is really inspiring you right now?
There are many organizations doing amazing work right now. Organizations like Brown Girls Climb and The Gear Fund Collective have helped expand the community to a wider demographic.

Climbing Advocate Resources

What does it mean to be a climbing advocate? Lots of different things. Here are a few resources to explore.

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