In late January, Tracy Nguyen-Chung posted a easy picture on Instagram of an unidentified, puffy-clad angler perched on a snowy riverbank. Nearly a full 12 months later, the identical account—Brown People Fishing—is stocked with pictures. There are many fish, after all, from the toothy maw of a blue-tinted lingcod to a whiskered carp plucked from the Los Angeles River, however it’s the folks grinning alongside these catches that Nguyen-Chung actually desires you to see.
“We’re a neighborhood of anglers of colour. Our aim is to encourage extra folks of colour to discover and join with the outside via fishing,” begins the caption for Nguyen-Chung’s inaugural submit. She didn’t notice it on the time, however the Instagram account served as a stepping stone to what would turn out to be Brown People Fishing’s higher mission to not solely improve visibility and neighborhood for BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, Folks of Coloration) anglers, but in addition impact lasting structural change throughout the fishing trade whereas inspiring a brand new technology of conservationists.
Nguyen-Chung, a publicist, artistic director, photographer, and documentary producer, is the daughter of refugees who fled the Vietnam Warfare. Among the many issues her mother and father carried alongside to their new dwelling in Portland, Oregon, was an intrinsic connection to the outside. Nguyen-Chung recollects household campouts full with massive potluck meals, an inexpensive technique of recreation in lean occasions. However maybe much more so, she remembers studying the best way to fish from her father, who grew up doing the identical again in Vietnam.
“Getting extra numerous of us collectively and on the water can be a gateway to conservation,” she says. “All through all of our work with Brown People Fishing, every thing has a conservation element, as a result of it comes again to our survival.”
Whereas she caught her first fish, a sturdy rainbow trout, when she was about six years previous, Nguyen-Chung dropped the pursuit as a youngster. It wasn’t till she later moved to Los Angeles that she determined to revisit the game. “My buddies and I might simply go to the pier as a result of we may fish in California while not having to purchase a license,” she says. Nguyen-Chung is an advocate for licensing charges as a supply of conservation funding, however was strapped for money on the time having simply completed graduate college. “I used to be searching for a solution to not solely get outdoors, but in addition socialize and be with my buddies, and discover slightly little bit of that passion that I had loads of ardour for after I was younger.”
To outsiders, Los Angeles may appear an unlikely place for an angling passion to flourish, however fans of all stripes take a look at their mettle in native waters, so Nguyen-Chung was by no means quick on alternatives to indulge. As her fishing stoke grew, nevertheless, she finally longed to spend extra time outdoors, and differently than she had within the metropolis. Nguyen-Chung returned to Portland after six years in Southern California, arriving again dwelling with a brand new perspective on each fishing and life.
“I had achieved my graduate work in battle decision and restorative justice, and was knowledgeable by a deeper understanding of conservation and environmentalism and social justice,” says Nguyen-Chung. “I got here again right here and obtained again into fishing with a extremely intersectional lens of what that meant—and what that meant for me as a queer-presenting lady of colour fishing in Oregon.”
As Nguyen-Chung began exploring additional afield of Portland, she started to note that she and her buddies have been usually the one anglers of colour, one thing that sat opposite to her private expertise and information that there are various locations the place folks of colour really dominate native waterways. So she created channeled her power into creating Brown People Fishing. “I needed to kind of ship up a flare and see the place the opposite anglers of colour have been, and attempt to get collectively and fish,” she says. “After which the opposite piece was simply to create an area that very deliberately surfaced and centered the faces of anglers of colour, significantly black and Indigenous of us.”
Whereas the Instagram account is essentially the most seen of Brown People Fishing’s initiatives, Nguyen-Chung has steadily grown its affect past that medium. There’s now a non-public Fb web page that serves as an open, non-judgmental discussion board for questions and dialog amongst anglers of colour. Orvis has turn out to be a trusted companion after participating in dialogue with Nguyen-Chung when she detailed her expertise being on the receiving finish of unconscious bias from a gross sales rep at certainly one of their retail places. She has additionally grown a sturdy group of ambassadors, not simply to assist create academic, inspirational, and mission-driven content material, but in addition to conduct occasions, construct partnerships, create gear libraries, and mentor would-be anglers across the nation. And he or she’s elevating cash for a scholarship program that won’t solely assist new anglers afford essential gear and licenses, but in addition fund artistic tasks that can contemplate “the intersection of race, fishing, and the surroundings.”
Whereas all of those parts work to scale back limitations to entry, maybe the tougher activity is effecting deeper change to reimagine a fishing trade that may be a true reflection of the individuals who love the game. “I feel change has to start out internally, particularly with greater firms, boards, and govt suite officers selecting to do coursework in, for lack of a greater time period, cultural competency,” says Nguyen-Chung. “It has to start out on the prime and trickle out to all different elements of an organization, and it needs to be a dedication at that degree to ensure that issues to actually take root.”
Whereas such a change will be gradual, Nguyen-Chung believes that it’s, certainly, doable. She is a member of Diversify Outdoor, a coalition that harnesses the facility of social media to have interaction in advocacy and movement-building round problems with fairness and variety within the outdoor. As well as, impressed by the Out of doors Business CEO Variety Pledge created by African-American Nature and Parks Expertise founder Teresa Baker, Nguyen-Chung plans to launch what she’s calling the Angling for All Pledge. This may function a dedication by angling trade professionals—from impartial fishing guides to main manufacturers—to actively work on dismantling their very own unconscious biases whereas additionally addressing structural inequities throughout the trade to make sure the game is really welcoming and inclusive, from the banks of pristine brooks to the convention tables of powerhouse boardrooms. The hope is that signees would undertake each pledges.
Past offering a platform for storytelling, community-building, and change-making, Nguyen-Chung has a bigger aim in thoughts for Brown People Fishing. “Getting extra numerous of us collectively and on the water can be a gateway to conservation,” she says. “All through all of our work with Brown People Fishing, every thing has a conservation element, as a result of it comes again to our survival.”
Above all else, Nguyen-Chung is hopeful. “I do assume there’s a shift taking place. There are firms, guides, and different anglers who share these concepts and these beliefs,” she says. “There are co-conspirators on the market which were serving to us alongside the way in which and supporting our work. We’ve seen it and it exists.