GET TO KNOW
Sarah Shimazaki identifies as Japanese-Filipina-Chinese American. She hosts and produces Outside Voices Podcast, sharing stories about our relationships with nature and the outdoors. Outside Voices celebrates and amplifies Black, Indigenous and people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ folks and others who #RedefineOutdoorsy by reconnecting to ancestral knowledge and finding healing in relationship with nature. As a media creative and strategist at Resource Media, a nonprofit communications firm dedicated to social change, Sarah combines her passions for environmental justice, narrative change, and ethical storytelling. She believes deeply in centering radical self-love and community care in all our movements. Sarah lives on Chochenyo Ohlone lands, or Oakland, CA.
Follow her @sarahemilia on Instagram.
We asked her a few questions in honor of International Women’s Day:
What woman/identifying woman has made the biggest impact on you (friend, mentor, relative, historical figure, or anyone who has been influential to you)?
SARAH: Honestly, SO MANY SHEROES it’s hard to pick just one! Lea Salonga, for showing me at a very young age that Filipinas can become Disney princesses and stars on Broadway. Robin Wall Kimmerer, for stirring my soul with her animated stories in Braiding Sweetgrass. Ava DuVernay, for challenging the exploitative and tokenizing way stories about BIPOC often get told and truly embodying ethical and values-based storytelling. Yuri Kochiyama, for her sharp mind, fierce spirit, and for teaching me the necessity of multiracial organizing and solidarity. And of course, my mom, for always encouraging me to dream big and facilitating many of my favorite memories outside.
If you could give advice to the younger you, what would you say?
SARAH: You deserve to take up space and show up as your fullest self. Your voice is powerful and your perspective is deeply valued, needed and wanted. You don’t have to shrink yourself to please others. And at the same time, being strong and powerful doesn’t mean dismissing your own needs. You also deserve to ask for help. You are not a burden and it’s OK to rely on others, especially those who already rely on you.
Do you feel the outdoor experience (from local parks to the backcountry to anywhere in between) is different for identifying women than it is for those who identify as men?
SARAH: A few years ago, I had the opportunity to go backpacking in the Sierras with a group of three women. I usually backpack with my partner and I, plus occasionally friends of ours, so it was my first time backpacking with an all-women crew. We applied makeup and put on our favorite dangly earrings in the car at the trailhead. We collectively groaned when men we encountered offered unsolicited advice about the trail ahead. We shared our fears about the future and embraced each other’s vulnerable confessions. I’m not saying this is what all women experience in the outdoors, and frankly there’s enough rhetoric about the negative experiences women can have in nature, especially in male-dominated spaces. But I want to celebrate how liberating it felt to unabashedly just show up however we wanted, without anyone shaming us for being “the most” not a care for any preconceived ideas of how an “outdoorsy” person is supposed to look or act like.
What’s your favorite way to experience the simple power of being outside?
SARAH: I live near Lake Merritt in Oakland and it’s an absolute privilege to get to walk my dog in the area every day. I’ve always loved walking. Even though I grew up in the suburbs where driving is the norm, I preferred walking an entire hour to my city library when I could. I’m that friend who insists we walk instead of taking public transportation or a rideshare because, “it’s only 20 minutes!” As a kid, I dreamed of one day having a dog just so I could take them on walks everywhere so, you know, look who is living the dream!