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02 • 09 • 2021

Activist Spotlight: Briana Bard with the Los Angeles Chapter

By Ty Smith

This Black History Month we are celebrating our activists, friends, colleagues and like minded organization’s from within the Surfrider network. Throughout the month we will recognize people and organizations who inspire us and celebrate the achievements they've made to help protect our ocean, waves and beaches. 

Q: Please give us a brief introduction about yourself.

My name is Briana. I’m a novice surfer. It’s been a slow process but I just love being in the water when I can. I’ve been volunteering with the Surfrider Foundation since 2018.

Q: What is your current job or role in your local chapter?

I am a part of the JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) committee, and I volunteer with the LA Chapter.

Q: How has your unique experience as a Black American framed your perspective as an activist and as part of the Surfrider network?

As a Black activist in the outdoor recreational and nonprofit realm, my unique experience has made me aware and have a growing awareness of the shortcoming in the infrastructure. Recently, I’ve been taking more time to review the intention and impact of actions taken by organizations. I review how organizations react to racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, etc., and also whether organizations are only reactionary or if have they been proactive in their work.

It’s not lost on me that I also serve as representation. Activism needs people from all walks of life. If I can be a beacon for anyone who can relate to me so that they know this can be a safe space, and that they belong in it then I’ll feel accomplished.

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?

I first got involved with the Surfrider PDX Chapter in April of 2018. The first event I went to was a beach cleanup at Short Sands beach. One of my favorite beaches to date. The why is sometimes muddled. I shifted career paths from the sciences to the arts. I knew that I wanted to stay connected to nature. This may sound weird but I wrote down the elements (Earth, air, water, fire, and space). I thought about how the elements relate to one another and it dawned on me that water was central to the earthly elements. Space was a close runner-up but I wanted to keep my work closer to home. Rivers and lakes are cool but I was thinking bigger. And off I went to find an ocean conservation group. I also think It’s very important to make giving back a part of your normal routine. There is something grounding about giving back; especially to our planet that we take so much from.

Q: Do you have any experiences that you can elaborate on where the social justice and environmental movements have intersected?

For clarification to this next anecdote, I’m from the East Coast. I had never seen an oil pump. The first time I saw an oil field, I was terrified to see that some of the pumps are embedded in communities. Through Surfrider LA’s connection with Stand LA, an environmental justice coalition, I learned that this industry poses a risk to the land and more readily proposes a risk to the health of the people that live, work and go to school in these areas. These are predominantly communities of color. Stand LA, coalitions like it and the frontline communities are doing amazing work to keep its people safe. When they put out a call to action, I pull up. Partnerships like this are essential to environmental justice progress.

Q: What are some local issues that are affecting your ocean, waves and beaches?

Oil and gas extraction, as mentioned above. Racism. Plastics. Ill-concieved development. Beach access.

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?

In past years, I’ve coordinated some film screenings in Portland. My favorite was for a film about how (fast) fashion affects our waterways called River Blue. Numerous beach cleanups. I’ve participated in the last two Coastal Recreational Hill Days and look forward to participating in the virtual Hill Day this year. That said, the coronavirus pandemic changed the mechanism for activism. Gathering wasn’t and still isn’t safe at this time. So I’ve focused my efforts on independent and virtual group learning.

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?

Coastal Recreation Hill Day has certainly been a big highlight. The chapters join together in Washington, D.C. to speak with legislators about ocean conservation issues. It's much more conversational than an email or city council meeting. It’s also an opportunity to get to know people from different chapters and staff. We are a funky bunch. A galvanizing learning experience.

There was also the time Shaun Tomson did a talk for the Portland Chapter. And the time I was on the Q&A panel for the screening of White Washed. Too many good moments to choose from.

Q: What's been your experience being a surfer and/or ocean enthusiast as a Black American?

I’ve always been drawn to the ocean and outdoor recreation but my upbringing has told me that’s not where I belong. The marketing tells me it’s not where I belong. The price point tells me it’s not where I belong. I had to decide what parts of that are true. I don’t want to spoil anyone’s journey but none of that is true. These are common psychological and physical barriers that prevent people that are perceived as different from taking part.

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?

I usually tell people to check out whatever is going on. There’s always something interesting going on. Good people working on a good cause and having a fun time in the process.

Surfrider Foundation is a vibe.

Q: Anything else you'd like to share with our network about your journey?

Stay tuned. My journey has just begun.

This Black History Month we are celebrating our activists, friends, colleagues and like minded organization’s from within the Surfrider network. Throughout the month we will recognize people and organizations who inspire us and celebrate the achievements they've made to help protect our ocean, waves and beaches.