The next step

‘Rare Air Talks’ series debuts with Jamie Logan and Luis Benitez onstage

‘Rare Air Talks’ brings the outdoor community together through thought-proviking conversations.

guess I’ve become the diversity person,” Jamie Logan says from her home in North Boulder. “Everything feels really good in my life, so I thought my story would be a good story for all the other weird kids that feel like they don’t fit in.”

On one hand, her story starts in Yosemite Valley in the late 1960s. That was when she went by Jim, not Jamie, and slept under a tarp at Camp 4 with five other teenage dudes squished like sardines. Come dawn, they’d pool their climbing gear on the picnic table and decide who was going to climb what that day. Often it was Logan who climbed through the hardest sections, and it wasn’t long before his name reached climbing circles across the nation, eventually paired with adjectives like “pioneer” and “legend.”

“We were young, and we were so excited about all of it,” Logan recalls. “We would build campfires and sit around them, eulogizing all of the heroes of the time: Layton Kor, Royal Robbins, Chuck Pratt and Yvon Chouinard. … We didn’t understand we were the best climbers of anywhere in the country.”

On the other hand, her story starts in Boulder several decades later when, as an American Alpine Club board member, she opted to wear a dress to an annual club dinner. It was then, about six years ago, Jamie started transitioning to life as a woman.

“I was so afraid of [transitioning] my whole life,” she says, recalling as early as 12 the desire to wear women’s clothing. In Yosemite as a teenager, where only macho men and zero women populated the campsite, Logan hid her inclinations. She told Climbing Magazine, “It made me feel screwed up and weird, like there was something wrong with me.”

Which is why she’s going to share her story on stage at the first installation of Dispatch Radio’s “Rare Air Talks” series on May 17.

Russ Rizzo, co-founder of the Boulder-based Dispatch Radio, says bringing Logan on the show is the perfect opportunity to spark a discussion about inclusivity and diversity in the outdoor industry at large. “There are people out there really wanting to have that conversation,” he says. 

In 2016 Rizzo, Cory Feign and Kelly McConnell founded Dispatch Radio as an adventure-story podcasting platform. Since then they’ve published conversations with a medley of adventure athletes and outdoor industry figures, typically recorded while drinking beer and lounging on red couches that line an Airstream inside The Studio (Boulder)’s collaborative working space. 

Their new series, “Rare Air Talks,” will take the Airstream podcast recordings one step further, inviting speakers on a stage each month to address a theme and including audience members’ input as they ask questions and react to the discussions.

“We love getting people in person, feeling the magic in that,” Rizzo says.

“We also love the potential of getting it out there for everyone. When you get [all our speakers and partners] together in a room with fans and people who are excited about them and their ideas for the night, cool, magical things can happen.”

Luis Benitez, director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, will take the stage alongside Logan at the inaugural event where the theme is “Diversity and Inclusion.” As a six-time Mt. Everest summiteer and now Colorado’s political voice in outdoor recreation matters, Benitez doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations about the state of the outdoor industry.

“We never really accepted the responsibility that we should have as a pretty big economy and a pretty big ecosystem, that we have to drive these conversations because we are so big and we have to set a good example,” he says.

“I think for the longest time we’ve looked at the outdoor industry through a very ethnocentric lens,” Benitez continues. “It’s been much more of, ‘We don’t care who really recreates or what they do or what they look like, we’re just agnostic.’ … But when the community actually started to take a closer look at itself, we realized we weren’t being all that inclusive. On the contrary, we were being pretty exclusive.”

When Benitez watched this realization first dawn on the industry a few years ago, he says inclusion measures were “really focused on gender diversity and ethnic diversity. Now we’re getting to the place and time that’s really exciting, where we’re also going to start including the conversation around LGBTQ communities and how that’s a component of our industry as well.”

Logan, who has spoken at LGBTQ climbing events in recent years like HomoClimbtastic, a national queer climbing convention, believes the outdoor industry’s inclusivity movement “mirrors the transition happening in American culture.” 

Storytelling, Rizzo believes, “makes you think or makes you feel something.” He wants people to leave “Rare Air Talks” feeling like “they’ve plugged into a community and taken a breath of fresh air, like they’ve connected with someone on a new level.”

Other speakers on the first night include creator of Natives Outdoors Len Necefer, founder of No Man’s Land Film Festival Aisha Weinhold, Outdoor Afro representative Kriste Peoples, and OUT There Adventure executive director Elyse Rylander.

“The outdoor industry is truly the podcast platform,” Benitez says, alluding to a rich history of oral tradition that spans fireside story performances to philosophical mountaintop conversations. “I perceive us to be an emerging political voice; I think that’s tremendously important right now.”

For whomever attends the event or listens afterwards, Benitez says, “I want to see action provoked. If you come, come with questions. Come with an open mind and an open heart. Be willing to engage in the conversation and if you listen to it later, and something sparks your interest or gets you angry or makes you more passionate … now is not the time to sit back and think someone else is going to take care of these things. Now is the time for activation, involvement and engagement on every level.”

Logan says the message she hopes listeners leave with is uplifting. “I think that’s the main story: If you do what you need to do to take care of yourself and be happy and respect other people, then they’ll respect you. That’s my lived experience.”

On the Bill: ‘Rare Air Talks’ Speaker Series. 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 17, The Studio (Boulder), 3550 Frontier Ave., Suite A2.

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