Brown Girl Surf exists not only to uplift and support ocean joy for our local communities, but to advocate for equitable access to the ocean and wave-riding for all.
During the first week of June 2023, our Executive Director, Adriana, attended Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) in Washington, DC on behalf of Brown Girl Surf.
“Capitol Hill Ocean Week is an annual conference attended by scientists, policymakers, scholars, businesses, and members of the public to address pressing science, conservation, and management issues. Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2023: “Ocean x Climate” will underscore the relationship between climate change and the world’s ocean, addressing the importance of understanding how climate change is negatively impacting the health of ocean ecosystems and the coastal communities that rely on them.”
Brown Girl Surf’s presence within this sphere of scientists, policymakers, non-profits, tribes, and community organizers is of the utmost importance in ensuring equitable access to ocean spaces beyond conservation and preservation. BGS is often, if not the only, organization within these conversations that is actively supporting individuals in getting in the water – and our communities’ perspectives bring invaluable insight to the table. Brown Girl Surf spoke on barriers our community faces in regularly accessing ocean recreation and the responsibility of the federal government to protect our rights to natural ocean spaces.
In addition to attending the CHOW conference, BGS was invited to attend the inaugural Ocean Justice Roundtable hosted by the White House. The Ocean Justice Roundtable was intended to
“highlight the Biden-Harris Administration’s policy progress and historic investments to advance ocean conservation and climate action.” And give attendees the space to “discuss opportunities to integrate environmental justice into ocean-based climate solutions to pave an equitable path towards climate-resilient systems, resources, communities, and infrastructure.”
What are the barriers to realizing ocean justice?
What elements, activities, and components should an Ocean Justice Strategy include?
What injustices related to the ocean could the Federal government better address?
The above are some of the questions we addressed during the roundtable. Within these conversations Brown Girl Surf believes it’s imperative that ocean justice includes, and centers, increasing access to the ocean for communities who have been historically removed and/or excluded from the coasts. In California we are lucky to be protected by the California Coastal Act, a law that guarantees that beaches are public spaces for all. However, as we have seen in instances of mismanagement and privatization, this is not always the case. The CCC have thousands of backlogged instances of violations of the California Coastal Act, but are insufficiently funded to address them all.
Brown Girl Surf believes that it is the federal government’s responsibility to fund and back state bodies like the California Coastal Commission (CCC) who protect the California Coastal Act and fight for coastal access.
California is only one of three states that have dedicated statewide equity funds, and our funding sources are victim to the volatile economy. A national equity fund, like that being promoted by Nuesta Tierra and the Outdoor FUTURES project, would go a long way to ensure that our communities have continued access to nature.
Within the Biden administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, we see several commitments to “blue spaces” through conservation and marine protected areas – however, we see very few commitments that ensure equitable access to these spaces. As we know, access to ocean recreation and ocean spaces for people of color, especially Black and Indigenous people, can bring immeasurable health benefits and provide a place for healing and joy. Brown Girl Surf will continue to advocate for federal support of equitable ocean access and hold government administrations to their word.
While in DC, Brown Girl Surf was also invited to join Upwell: A Wave of Ocean Justice, hosted by Azul, Center for American Progress, and Urban Ocean Lab. The Upwell forum was an event meant to center the voices of those historically excluded from ocean justice conversations, namely Black, Indigenous, and voices of color. These equity focused symposiums give BGS the opportunity to connect with, learn from, and ideate with like-minded organizations across the sea of ocean justice centered entities.
It’s also important to Brown Girl Surf that we continue to hear from our community directly. If you have not already shared some of your insights into community needs, barriers to access, and personal hopes for Brown Girl Surf, we invite you to take our survey! This survey will help inform how we show up to future conferences, advocacy discussions, and more and guarantee that community voices are always at the forefront of our work.
Brown Girl Surf continues to have high hopes for our future in a joyful, abundant, and inclusive surf culture and this work is intertwined with the work of so many other amazing ocean equity organizations.