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Local pro climbers raise awareness of racism and violence

Tosh Sherkat bouldering near Pass Creek, BC. Photo by Liam Barnes

Bouldering, a popular form of rock climbing, is trending in the West Kootenays like never before, partly thanks to the release of the area’s first Bouldering Guidebook.

Rossland-born and raised filmmaker Liam Barnes films Nelson rock climbers Tosh and Tula Sherkat as they navigate the area’s biggest and most difficult climbs, including several historic first ascents, but the ten-minute film isn’t available to just anybody – first, Barnes and the Sherkats are directing attention to urgent social issues brought to light by recent and current news.

“We are creating content about local climbing, but we don’t want it to take the spotlight off more important causes,” Tula Sherkat explained. “Viewers will receive our video after they take action on behalf of whatever anti-discrimination movement they choose.”

In recent months, the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor (in addition to many other earlier killings) have resulted in mainstream media coverage of more examples of our systemic racism, and of ongoing protests against racism and police brutality.

Black Lives Matter has been supported by gatherings around the world, including local Kootenay communities, protesting against anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, and racism generally.

Inclusive representation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) communities in the outdoors has also received a much-needed spotlight.  Rock climbing, a sport dominated by whites, is seeing more engagement by organizations such as Brown Girls Climb, Color the Crag, and Indigenous Womxn Climb.

Want to see the film?  It’s easy -- support anti-racism. The process is simple and honour-based:

1.      Select an organization or cause against violence and discrimination.

2.     Make a contribution to it – a donation, a petition, a donation of volunteer time and energy)

3.     Email or text the name of the cause you have supported to:  boulderingaction@gmail.com  (or if you can’t email or text, phone 250-921-5513) and

4.     Receive a link to the video.

Barnes points out that one-time gestures are a step in the right direction, but – as Lanisha Renee Blount says in her  Anti-Racism Resources for Climbers” article in Climbing magazine – “a concern is that people believe a one-time donation will suffice. If this is where allyship begins and ends, diversity will only exist on our social media feeds.”

Barnes adds, “Through this project, we hope to learn more about what people out there are supporting, so we can better understand our next steps as allies and climbers.”