CINCINNATI — Since 2015, rain or shine, a group of men have met every Saturday in different neighborhoods for a walk.
They call themselves the Urban Hikers, and they’ve been trekking their way through all the neighborhoods in Cincinnati.
“This is probably the most committed I’ve been to indulging in something as an adult because it was so beneficial for me,” said Tyran Touré, a member of the Urban Hikers.
Each hike usually begins at a coffee shop in the neighborhood they’ve decided to explore. They caught the attention of an Ohio filmmaker, who is creating “Why We Walk,” a documentary about the Urban Hikers' mission that is expected to be released later this year: https://www.whywewalkfilm.com
The men are from different backgrounds. Abdi Cheik arrived in Ohio as a young refugee of Ethiopia's civil war, Vanny Mwamba immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Touré grew up in Cincinnati's Winton Terrace Project.
They all met by chance and initially started their group treks for the health benefits.
“For me personally it's therapeutic,” said Cheik. “Getting to know the city, that’s how you usually find places that are hidden. Then once we came as a group, it just became a conversation where we talked about events and what’s going on in our lives.”
All of them said walking has been the best medium to help them navigate difficult conversations surrounding the Black experience.
“We have a lot of traumas in our culture,” said Mwamba. “Especially for us that are Black. It's a constraint that does not allow a lot of us to explore. We need to get into the culture of doing things to get out of necessity. I think that is where true freedom comes from, for Black people to get out of the idea that we have to do things because we have to.”
Touré said walking has helped him cope with that trauma and other challenges in his life.
“Every day we are hit with something new,” he said. “I have found walking as a coping mechanism. It helps me get through a lot of things, especially when I get to walk with my brothers."
After three years of hiking through the city and surrounding areas, the group took their love for hiking on a journey that Ohio filmmaker Eric Bishop decided to document on camera.
“Why We Walk” chronicles the Urban Hikers' 61-mile trek from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to Washington, D.C.
"We really did go on a transformative journey," Bishop said. "Even within four days for a lot of our hikers it was their first time camping, and to do that together, learn how to survive together, to learn how to work together was super transformative for us.”
The Urban Hikers said they hope the film reminds the Black community that it is OK to walk for leisure.
“We want people to know you can hike within the city and also discover the city and different neighborhoods and businesses,” said Cheik. “You don’t have to go to an isolated place.”
“People can use the template to walk in their neighborhood,” said Mwamba. “Find people you vibe well with and start with them.”
You can follow their journey on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/officialurbanhikers/ and donate to the film's fundraiser through the Wave Pool art gallery. https://www.wavepoolgallery.org/why-we-walk