Corvallis Climbers of Color

My experience as a grassroots community organizer and social justice activist is deeply embedded into the research I pursue. Creating a supportive and joyful community for Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian and multi-racial folks is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had the opportunity to do. It is also incredibly complex and hard. I view creating safer spaces for BIPOC as necessary in a society that upholds systems of oppression, and I see organizing as a huge honor and privilege. I have witnessed firsthand that climbing, especially when centered around BIPOC identity, joy, and well-being, is transformative and healing. Through community organizing, I developed valuable skills in community development, coalition building, grant writing and program development, community event planning, mutual aid, public relations and marketing, and finances. My community organizing experience is a unique and fundamental part of how I view and plan to change long standing conventions in engineering design theory and methodology, education, and practice.    

The short version of how CCOC got started: In 2020, during the height of the pandemic and Black Lives Matter Movement, I founded Corvallis Climbers of Color (CCOC), which is an organization rooted in creating community and access to climbing and the outdoors for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Since the organization’s founding, CCOC has created tremendous impact on Oregon’s climbing community. Between hosting our highly attended BIPOC climb nights at the local climbing gym, Valley Rock Gym, and instructing outdoor BIPOC affinity climbing clinics, I have introduced more than 400 people (and counting) to climbing. More than 1000 people follow CCOC’s multiple social media platforms where I regularly write about the complex intersections of race, queerness, identity, and climbing that invites readers to critically think about systemic inequities and oppression in the outdoors. I recognized the necessity of building collective solidarity early on and formed invaluable partnerships with Valley Rock Gym, Oregon State University, local Corvallis businesses, and community organizations such as Casa Latinos Unidos. I coordinate with BIPOC-affinity climbing organizations such as Everybody Climbs and Climbers of Color across Washington and Oregon to create educational opportunities and share best practices. The saying, we climb higher together, could not be truer for both climbing and organizing.

Applying Systems Engineering to CCOC: For a systems innovation class project, I tested my community building model, Corvallis Climbers of Color, and its impact on diversifying the racial demographics at the Valley Rock Gym (VRG). Through my research, I identified four key factors that lowered socioeconomic barriers to climbing while building sustainable community: 1) Allyship and financial support from climbing gym management, 2) Reduced cost of an entry pass from $20 to $5, 3) Biweekly scheduled BIPOC climb nights at the gym, 4) Provide affinity-based educational climbing clinics. I documented an interesting finding: climbing gym demographics on BIPOC climb nights compared to regular nights were flipped, meaning there were more climbers of color than white climbers in the gym. Based on this model and with VRG’s support, I later helped launch two more affinity climb nights: women’s and queer climb nights. The success of these affinity-based climb nights was not without its obstacles, but throughout I realized that I loved using community organizing approaches with systems engineering to build affinity spaces to address equity and access barriers.

Grant Writing: In addition, I have been awarded multiple nationally competitive grants from the American Alpine Club and Arc’teryx for my work in increasing accessibility and equity in climbing and have used the funds to run outdoor climbing clinics and provide educational and gear scholarships through our LEVEL UP program. Many of my climbing students and CCOC members have continued advancing their technical skills, won climbing grants, and hosted BIPOC climb nights. 

Media & Press

  • — “Building Community with Samantha Kang” (2021)
  • The People of Colour, LLC — “The Colour Reimagined Podcast” (2021)
  • Gazette Times — “Corvallis group hopes to diversify climbing” (2021)
  • KPTV Portland — “Climbing community rallies around OSU graduate student” (2022)
  • Trailblazers documentary (2023) premiered at the Whiteside Theater, Corvallis, OR. June 11, 2023. Trailblazers, a film documentary by Skyler Humphrey-Davis shows three Pacific Northwest based BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) community leaders– Chelsea Murphy, Luis Gil, and Sam Kang– creating cultural inclusive spaces through programmatic, organizational, and personal endeavors that allow BIPOC community members to experience, with confidence and a sense of security, outdoor wilderness spaces and exploration activities. This film will highlight curators of outdoor experiences tailored specifically to the BIPOC communities in order to facilitate the reclaiming of their right to outdoor wilderness spaces and adventure activities.


Email: corvallisclimbersofcolor at gmail dot com

Instagram: @corvallisclimbersofcolor

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