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Presidio To Yosemite Pilgrimage Will Honor Buffalo Soldiers' Legacy


June 7 & 8 2014 will mark a new era in the appreciation African-Americans demonstrate for their legacy in the National Park System and the Great American Outdoors, when scores of leaders from around the country board  buses at the Presidio of San Francisco and journey up to Yosemite National Park. "The Pilgrimage to Yosemite" honors the history of the Buffalo Soldiers who, as members of the US Military, protected Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks between 1896 and 1904.

"It's amazing how little of this history is known," says Teresa Baker, who is organizing the event. "I think it is important for us to recognize the role that our forbears played in protecting some of our country's most iconic national parks."

Baker's innate love for nature and the outdoors spurred her to create the first African American National Parks Weekend last year. Using social media, she encouraged people across the country to visit a national park one specific weekend. Thousands  - including many first-time visitors - responded to the call and sent her photos of their groups in national parks.

This year's pilgrimage will draw national attention to the Buffalo Soldiers who served our country nationally and internationally. In particular, the 24th Infantry and the 9 th Cavalry protected both Yosemite and Sequoia in 1899, 1903 and 1904.

"Even though the Buffalo Soldiers wore the uniform of the U.S. Army, their ethnicity combined with the racial prejudice of the time made the performance of their duties quite challenging," says the National Park Service. "In the early 1900s, African-Americans were routinely abused, or even killed, for the slightest perceived offense. They occupied one of the lowest rungs of the social ladder, a fact which served to undercut the authority of any Black man who served in any position of power. Yosemite and Sequoia's Buffalo Soldiers had to be simultaneously strong and diplomatic to fulfill the duties of their job but to avoid giving offense."

Last year President Obama designated the Col. Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument to honor them, and legislation is moving through Congress to designate a Buffalo Soldiers Trail.

Buses provided by the Presidio will pass through the historic Lombard Gates June 7, the same gates through which the Buffalo Soldiers rode to get to the parks. Enroute to Yosemite, the pilgrimage will stop at the City of Los Banos where the Buffalo Soldiers rested, and enjoy the hospitality of that City which is among the sponsors of this event. In Yosemite participants will camp out and enjoy a hike led by Robert Hanna, a direct descendant of John Muir. The highlight of the event will be a Sunday conversation with Park Ranger, Author and media star Shelton Johnson, who was instrumental in bringing the Buffalo Soldiers' story to light. The pilgrimage will return to the Presidio late Sunday night.

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