Reclaiming Joy in Unprecedented Times
By producing events that truly welcome everyone, Chevon Powell combines her love of nature and event planning to bring people together and create a powerful community.
by Crystal Gartner
On her way to her first solo backpacking trip in Vermont, Chevon Powell was confronted by a white police officer who questioned why she was in the area. He said her story of going backpacking was unbelievable and then called for backup. Chevon was finally released and she did take her backpacking trip. But that harrowing incident stuck with her and it was part of her motivation to shift the mission of her company, Golden Bricks Events, toward making the outdoors safer for people of color. By producing events that truly welcome everyone, Chevon combines her love of nature and event planning to bring people together and create a powerful community.
Washington State Parks took notice of Chevon’s almost two decades of event planning experience and asked her to create a concert last year and again for this summer. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and a nationwide reckoning over systemic racism and police violence followed. Chevon pivoted once again and turned the concert idea, Sundae Sermon: A Celebration of Black Folks, into an online event with six installments. Each “sermon” features a different state park as the backdrop for musical performances and outdoor tips, and showcases local art, businesses and community leaders.
Chevon has already presented four successful Sundae Sermons, and folks still have a chance to catch the next two which celebrate themes of activism and food. On Sept. 20, join in to hear emcee Mikayla Weary, who helped organize the Black Lives Matter march and rally in Shoreline. There will be a roundtable of youth talking about activism, singer/songwriter Elisha who will be doing a musical performance, and a conversation with mental health professional Jennifer Elve.
The final Sundae Sermon on Oct. 4, emceed by Marlon Brown, will have poet Kamari Bright demonstrating how to cook hot water cornbread, a dish from the South with a history around enslaved people in this country.
“We’ll also have an artist doing a live piece while the show is going on. There’s such a wide breadth of Black experiences here in the Northwest and Black folks doing amazing, different things,” Chevon said.
Highlights from past Sundae Sermons include a virtual walk through Federation Forest with GirlTrek offering trail tips, and a live streamed performance from pianist Joe Williams, who shared about the history of Black women in classical music.
“Nature is the center of everything that I do,” Chevon said. “Success is when Black folks feel comfortable getting outside, you know that people that look like you have been outside, have been doing really cool stuff right here in Washington state, and that we can have fun and recreate responsibly, because we’re still in a pandemic. You get to come [to Sundae Sermon] and learn about new things and the people doing them, regardless of who you are.”
Another Golden Bricks event, Refuge Outdoor Festival, an annual multi-day camping experience geared toward people of color, has converted its usual outdoor setting to the virtual realm as well. This year, everyone is invited to gather online with this amazing community, Sept. 18-20, for a weekend full of entertainment, activities and workshops including herbs for self-care, exploring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, backpacking basics, a DJ battle and other fun activities.
“The outdoors hasn’t always been that welcoming for people of color, for Black folks,” Chevon said. “We know the national parks used to be segregated. We know that there are trees that hung people that are still in prominent American parks. I’m trying to make events that are a safe space for us so if you don’t have any other opportunity to be safe outdoors you can be safer in this moment.”
“For me there was this urgency to make sure that this still happened. There are folks that just need a weekend reprieve from the stuff that happens in everyday regular society, which is what I always hope Refuge is.”
As an event sponsor, WTA hopes you’ll join us in attending or supporting Sundae Sermon and Refuge. Here’s how you can help:
- Share the word that Sundae Sermon and Refuge are happening.
- Donate to Golden Bricks Events and the payment speakers will receive for their emotional labor.
- Donate directly to any of the nonprofits brought forward by the event’s emcees, including