GATLINBURG, TN –Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash invites the public to participate in a new initiative he developed called Smokies Hikes for Healing.
Up to 10 people can join the superintendent on eight hikes led by facilitators who will provide an opportunity for an open conversation about diversity and racism while enjoying one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. The public can also participate by coordinating their own experiences using Smokies Hikes for Healing materials.
The park provides an ideal backdrop for sharing, understanding, and healing. The goal of this initiative is to provide a safe space for individuals of all backgrounds and ethnicities to begin difficult conversations that can lead to change.
The eight guided hikes will be held August through December in different locations across the park in Tennessee and North Carolina. During the hikes, a facilitator will lead each group in a thought-provoking discussion around race by first establishing an environment that is trusting and safe for individuals to recognize the long-standing ills associated with racism and how these have carried over into today’s society. Facilitators will equip participants with tools and ideas about how to identify biases through a deeper level of self-awareness and reflection so that participants can become intentional in addressing racism and race relations.
Space is limited to up to 10 participants for each hike. Groups will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing and wearing of facial coverings when the appropriate distance cannot be maintained.
A set of starter guidelines and questions will be available on the website for those interested in leading their own conversations about racism along Smokies trails with friends, strangers, or colleagues. Everyone is invited to join the conversation virtually through this digital platform where hike participants can share their stories, realizations, and commitments.
Longtime park partner, Great Smoky Mountains Association assisted in the creative development of the program and website, along with additional financial support from park partner Friends of the Smokies.
For more information, visit smokieshikesforhealing.org.