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RapidChat: Adam Quiring on being an African American boomerang in West Michigan

Within GR city limits, being an avid outdoorsman who works in the medical field is a likely existence — at least if you're of the caucasian race. As an African American, these numbers quickly begin to diminish. But Grand Rapids transplant Adam Quiring, challenges this status quo by being all of the above — if not more.
Adam Quiring

Within GR city limits, being an avid outdoorsman who works in the medical field is a likely existence — at least if you're of the caucasian race. As an African American, these numbers quickly begin to diminish. But Grand Rapids transplant Adam Quiring, challenges this status quo by being all of the above — if not more.
Rapid Growth: What originally brought you and your wife to Grand Rapids?

Adam Quiring: When I was in college I worked at a bookstore and I read a book by a pastor. I thought it was interesting, so I thought I would check out his church. I then started going to church in Grand Rapids regularly. I then got a part time job working here at a hospital. Subsequently, I got a job up here after graduating from college with my nursing degree. 

RG: Are you currently working within the medical field?

AQ: Right now I am a family nurse practitioner. I am a primary care provider for people of all ages; but I mostly treat adults. I spent my first year trying to learn everything I absolutely could. Being in practice quickly teaches you that you cannot know absolutely everything. 

RG: You lived in Seattle and Phoenix while your wife was working as a travel nurse. What was that like?

AQ: We lived in the suburbs of both Seattle and Phoenix for short amounts of time while I was in grad school and my wife was working. Living in the suburbs of Seattle was a really good experience. We built community there — almost oddly rapidly. It was really friendly and the scenery was constantly jaw-droppingly beautiful. It was a great way to spend the beginning of our marriage. 

RG: What about Phoenix? 

AQ: In Phoenix we were a bit more outside the center of the city. It was a little bit more difficult to build a community, there. We spent a lot of time hiking - we lived by a mountain! Compared to Grand Rapids, it was a little more difficult to find restaurants and places we wanted to be “regulars” at — the scene is really different. It’s harder to find family-owned, local businesses there. It’s a sea of chains. 

RG: You’re an African-American living in West Michigan — what has your experience been like, and how does it compare to Seattle or Phoenix?

AQ: My experience here has been relatively uneventful, but I’ve been socioeconomically isolated from many of the struggles that often accompany being African American. Seattle felt a lot like Grand Rapids, which was somewhat surprising, because I was warned that Seattle is a very segregated city. But I found it to be very diverse socioeconomically and culturally. Phoenix was also relatively diverse. However, it lent itself to a more private culture.

When we were looking at taking travel jobs we had to consider that we are an interracial couple. What it would be to move through that space on a daily basis, for example. We have moved through spaces where we became very aware of our situation, but in Grand Rapids we barely need to think about it. Besides the occasional cultural difference, people don't often recognize their biases until they are challenged; that’s what I often experience more than anything. I find myself having to explain a lot of things.

RG: What common biases do you typically run into?

AQ: The biases and comments surrounding them usually are from individuals who have a set of assumptions and expectations about what they think African Americans and our culture represents. When their interactions don’t align with these assumptions often rude or offensive comments are made. When pressed I find they are often out of ignorance or lack of experience with those that they perceive to differ from themselves.  

RG: Back in 2015 Grand Rapids was named the second worst city for African Americans to live in — why do you think that is?

AQ: The data point towards low populations numbers, a history of systematic racism, subsequent hyper-segregation and lack of economic opportunity for African Americans. I have not lived here long enough or done enough research to be any sort of authority on the topic, however the data does line up with the little I have observed. The question will be what will we do to improve upon these things. 

RG: You climb in your free time. What got you into that? 

AQ: My college roommate worked at a climbing gym and he convinced me to join him a few times. The rest is history! It’s like Pringles, once you pop you don’t stop! 

My wife and I work on practicing all the climbing disciplines — with the exception of aid climbing. I’m primarily a sport climber, classical mountaineering, bouldering, learning trad (traditional climbing), and I am dabbling in ice climbing. 

RG: Do you find that there is a lack of diversity within the climbing community?

AQ: There is a marked lack of diversity in the American climbing and outdoor community when it comes to ethnic minorities. There are many contributing factors. Lack of access, means, and lack of exposure seem to the more straightforward one in my limited experience, but I would be interested to see more in-depth data concerning the issue. The North Face at one point attempted to spread more awareness via an all African American Denali expedition. There is also an organization known as the BOC (brothers of climbing) who have been working with voices in the outdoor industry to spread awareness and try to address the disparity.

RG: You went to France on a bouldering trip, what was that like?

AQ: The food in France is amazing. Everything is whipped in heavy cream. I didn’t know potatoes could taste like that. I took a bite out of a potato and I said, “How is this a potato? This doesn’t taste like a potato.” The bouldering there is world-class — but I preferred sport climbing because that’s what I excel at.

Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.
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