Participating in GBO programming, is like being a part of a family. Our family aims to be a welcoming space for folks to engage in the outdoors with kindred spirts, in a way that recognizes and centers cultural traditions and ties.
Erika Hood was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and has over 15 years of experience in community organizing and advocacy. Ms. Hood believes that authentic engagement matters most when working with the community. As a co-founder of SYATT, she is able to transform the lives of youth and adults in Cleveland, by curating culturally tailored opportunities for community members to engage in nature and outdoor recreation. In spaces that are historically white, she understands how important Black and Brown representation in nature is and has committed to maintaining a level of expertise in all activities that she encourages her community members to try, most recently becoming a certified SCUBA diver. As a member of a community that suffers from toxic stress and chronic diseases, green space is an integral component of the physical and mental healing of her community. Erika recalls having supportive parents in her youth that gave her the opportunity to try new things. They exposed her to parks, informative landmarks, and the legacy of cultural contributions found across America. She has passed on this love of travel to her incredibly talented sons, Greg and Duke.
Ebony Hood is part of a mother-daughter trio that co-founded Syatt, a grassroots organization delivering
programs and services that are both life-changing and life-saving for black and brown communities. Syatt has been doing this service for over ten years and was featured for their efforts in USA Today addressing
the nature gap of diversity in green spaces. Ms. Hood graduated from Baldwin Wallace University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/Sustainability which drives her desire to advocate for
environmental justice and her passion to connect others to the natural world. She also holds a Master’s in Education for Science Curriculum and Instruction from Kent State University, which she uses to help
normalize seeing black people as experts in environmental and recreational spaces. Ebony loves one-tank trips just as much as traveling abroad where she is always looking for hidden gems that are far from the
beaten path. She loves picnics with family and friends, bike rides, and just hanging out.
Marcia Hood, Syatt-See You At The Top, grassroots community organization. Her inspiration and passion to start Syatt grew from a need to grow the diversity in skilled sporting activities such as Olympic Skiing. She applied for a small grant and brought skiing to a group of African-American youth that has never experienced this wintertime exclusive sport. It was important for her to bring a fun and recreational activity during an underused season for most. Over the years, Marcia has cultivated talent from never-ever skiers and snowboarders to Black Diamond earners.
When Marcia is not mentoring loved-ones. She is likely on the road because she has a passion for travel. As a National Park enthusiast, she has combined park visits with sightseeing and managed to explore all 50 states! Anyone who knows Marcia recognizes how hard she works and her affection to engage in new experiences and cultures.
Ken Stewart is from The Bronx, NY and has called North Nashville home for the last 30 years, where he is shaping the lives of Nashville youth through aquatics and maritime archaeology.
He established two organizations: the Tennessee Aquatics Project (TAP), crafted with a vision to help inner city and at-risk youth learn about themselves along with the environment around them and the community where they live through the use of aquatics and travel, and Diving With A Purpose (DWP), a non-profit organization connecting recreational scuba diving to the tenets of STEM.
His efforts are currently recognized and displayed in the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in D.C. for the work both DWP and Youth Diving with a Purpose did with the Slave Wreck Project.
Hillary Van Dyke has over a decade of experience as an educator, including a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. While teaching and learning is her first passion, the outdoors is a close second. In 2016, she became a volunteer leader for Outdoor Afro, allowing her to share this passion with others. Out of over 100 volunteer leaders across the country, Hillary won 2021’s Outdoor Afro Leader of The Year!
Hillary is Wilderness First Aid certified, has twice completed the 52 Hike Challenge, and is an avid traveler - centering many trips around hiking experiences. While hiking is her favorite outdoor activity, she also enjoys kayaking, cycling, hunting, and yoga. Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate in social sciences curriculum and instruction at the University of South Florida and considering how museum spaces can tell the stories of Black and brown people more inclusively, especially the stories of how they used outdoor spaces to live, work, and play. Hillary was with GBO since it was a mere thought in the minds of its founders and today she is such an asset to the team!
Ernie Began swimming and teaching at a young age, at the YMCA in Detroit Michigan. He started his competitive swimming career in middle school continuing through high school. He attended Tuskegee Institute on a swimming scholarship and graduated with a Bachelor of science degree in physical education with a minor in biology. After graduation and starting a family, Ernie moved to Washington DC where he got his open water SCUBA diving certification through the UnderWater Adventure Seekers, a dive club in DC founded in 1959.
Since then, Ernie has become a PADI Certified Open Water Scuba Instructor and a scientific diver.