Woodlums makes USC history as first Black student wellness club

Woodlums members posing in front of a mural at Edward Vincent Jr. Park in Inglewood, Calif., on Sept. 23, 2023.

The first of its kind, Woodlums stands as the only club at USC focused on making nature and mindfulness practices accessible to the Black student community. “The only clubs out here on campus that do [this] are predominantly white, like the university,” said Caleb Flenoury, a computer science major at USC and senior member of Woodlums.

Taylor-Corrine Benton, an undergraduate African American studies major at USC, co-founded the club in the academic year 2022-2023 with fellow student Nia McMillan, in hopes of changing the conversations surrounding mental health, nature, and the Black community.

According to Benton, the acting vice president of Woodlums, she “[started] to become aware of how often the adage of ‘that’s white people shit’ would finish a sentence” when Black children were asked to share their thoughts on hiking and getting out into nature.

Flenoury said that many Black people hold a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to nature, as it once had a hand in helping Black individuals escape enslavement, yet has also been associated with “Black people hanging from trees.”

“I just think that, especially when we take a look at how nature has been associated with Black people in the past, especially in America, I think it’s important for us to understand how to rebuild it and…release a lot of stigmas that we might still have around it,” Flenoury said.

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