Meet the JEDI Advocates Behind Climb the Hill

As climbers descend on Washington, DC today for the fourth annual Climb the Hill event, co-hosted by Access Fund and the American Alpine Club to advocate for public lands, they bring with them a new justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) lens—thanks to the dedicated work of a group of advocates known as the JEDI Taskforce.

JEDI Taskforce members clockwise from left to right: Shelma Jun, Pete Ward, Bethany Lebewitz, Kareemah Batts, Taimur Ahmad, Mikhail Martin, Maricela Rosales, Len Necefer

The Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) Taskforce was created to add a JEDI lens to the advocacy agenda of Climb the Hill and to provide training and resources to attendees—enabling them to speak about climbing access and public lands in a way that acknowledges the experiences and challenges felt by many underrepresented groups in our community.

“It’s been really amazing to have JEDI principles incorporated throughout the many aspects of Climb The Hill, be it the trainings, our meetings with members of Congress, and the panel at the Senate Reception. While we have by no means finished this work, we have been able to begin the process forward, and that’s very exciting,” says JEDI Taskforce Co-Chair and Access Fund Board Director Shelma Jun.

A Letter from the JEDI Taskforce

We believe that climbing and access to the outdoors can provide opportunities for personal growth, spur social change, and make our community strong. But many—including people of color, indigenous communities, LGBTQ+ folks, and people with disabilities—experience disparities in access to climbing and to conversations about climbing policy. As a result, they are not equitable recipients of those benefits. Our JEDI Taskforce is committed to ensuring that the voices of all our community members are represented at this event.

To serve our community, we must know the community in its entirety. It is important for each of us to recognize and appreciate the values and experiences of the broad spectrum of individuals who make up our constituency, and to be (critically) aware when we can’t fully relate. To address and enhance that understanding is a crucial goal of the Task Force when it comes to decision-making, policy, and JEDI initiatives.

The taskforce is comprised of JEDI leaders in our outdoor community who have volunteered their time to create change to this event in a meaningful and intentional way. In its first year, the goal of the Taskforce is two-fold:

  1. To incorporate JEDI-related issues and language into policy asks that climbers are bringing to members of Congress.
  2. To educate and train Climb the Hill advocates on why JEDI is important to climbing access and conservation; how to recognize language, stereotypes, and assumptions that can exclude or minimize an individual’s experience, as well as alternative narratives that are more inclusive; and provide tips and tools on how to speak for and represent our diverse community to congressional members and the public at large.

Tackling the issues of equity and inclusion requires commitment, respect, patience, determination, and flexibility. It also requires knowledge, and it is the goal of the JEDI Taskforce to share information and resources with those who will be representing our community this week. A work in progress, we hope that adjustments this year will serve as a first step in the many changes we need to see in the conservation and stewardship conversation.

Special Thanks

We're incredibly grateful to the diligent work of these JEDI Taskforce members for helping to make this year's Climb the Hill event better represent the diverse tapestry of the climbing community.

Shelma Jun ( co-chair) — Access Fund Board Member & Flash Foxy Founder
Pete Ward (co-chair) — American Alpine Club Board Member
Bethany Lebewitz — Brown Girls Climb
Kareemah Batts — Adaptive Climbing Group
Len Necefer — Natives Outdoors
Maricela Rosales — Latino Outdoors
Mikhail Martin — Brothers of Climbing
Taimur Ahmad — Access Fund Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Fellow

JUSTICE: The condition of being morally correct or fair.

EQUITY: Removing the predictability of success or failure that currently correlates with any social or cultural factors (such as race), examining biases, and creating inclusive environments.

DIVERSITY: Having different types of people from a wide range of identities with different perspectives, experiences, etc.

INCLUSION: Putting diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection—where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create value.

Our nation's capitol in Washington, DC is located on the ancestral lands of the Manahoac.