It’s February and it’s my favorite month of the year for a couple of reasons. 1. It’s the month of Laurentine’s Day (the official holiday of my birthday) 2. It’s the month of love and I’m a sap. 3. It’s the month set aside in America as Black History month to recognize, acknowledge, and educate everyone on the contributions and achievements of people of African descent. So it’s only fitting that this week’s post I take a little time to spotlight Black History in the realm of Outdoor Sports! I must say, my research has been both enlightening and inspiring.
My knowledge and outdoor experiences are just beginning, but reading about what has been accomplished by these individuals has made me really want to step up my game. It was also a reassurance that starting this blog was a great decision that won’t stop at just being a blog. My motive for sharing my blunders and adventures was to inspire all people, but specifically people of color, to expand their horizons and try something new. Getting close to nature and participating in outdoor hobbies and past times wasn’t my normal upbringing. Growing up in South Dallas in a single parent family, we didn’t go camping, kayaking, canoeing, or for nature hikes. I wasn’t exposed to any of those kinds of things until I was 15 years old, living in Florida, and our church took the teens to a camp up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina….Camp Windy Gap. It really was a life changing experience for me. I rode a horse everyday for a week, hiked a mountain, rode mountain bikes, zip-lined over a lake and was completely immersed with God and nature. I complained as any urbanized teenager would but I absolutely loved every minute of it (minus the bugs). I didn’t get an opportunity to experience those things again until I was an adult.
Even as a young adult there were many things I didn’t try because my circle of friends weren’t into activities like camping and hiking waterfalls. However, my circle has expanded and through new relationships I was able to fulfill many of my outdoor yearnings. I’m finding a growing interest in adventure and international travel and outdoor sports now among my African American peers. Just last week a friend said , “Hey the next time you go kayaking I’d really like to go with you. I’ve always wanted to try it but I was afraid and I just didn’t know how to do it or where to go.” Just a few years ago I was saying the exact same thing! That made it all worth it. That is why I do this. That’s why I started the Adventure Is A Lifestyle Facebook group. That is why I decided to share what I learn along the way. Anybody can do these things. There is so much more to our world than just staying within our concrete jungles. I also think it’s important to expose young black kids at an earlier age to the outdoors and all that it has to offer which is why I’ve made a concerted effort to do these things with my son. He in turn, influences his peers. It’s a beautiful cycle. The world is just too beautiful not to see as much of it as we can!!!
So here is just a sample of black athletes who have made it into the upper echelons of their respective outdoor sports. I thank them for their tenacity, dedication, focus, and determination. It’s not always easy to be “the only one.” (speaking from personal experience) They have achieved some really great things and are still in the process of shattering the stereotypes and untruths that excellence in certain activities or sports are reserved for a certain race of people. I look forward to the day when they are recognized purely for being great competitors and not because they are one of the only blacks to compete.
Outdoorsy Diva Black History Month Spotlight
Sophia Danenburg – in 2006 became the first African American (both men and women) to reach the summit of Mount Everest , the tallest peak in the world. (Wikipedia)
Denali Expedition Team – In 2013 became first all black expedition team to summit Mount McKinley, highest point in north america (Expedition Denali)
Kirsten Venetta Brown – Competed from 1989-1996; world-class whitewater kayaker and first African American member of the U.S. National Canoe and Kayak Team. (Washington Post)
Sibusiso Vilane – In 2003 became the first black African in the world to summit Mount Everest, highest peak in the world. He is from South Africa and he is an adventurer, marathon runner, mountaineer and expedition leader. (Wikipedia)
Alfred Williams – 1976 became the first African American male pro Angler. Also first black angler to qualify and fish the Bassmasters Classic (Fishing for HipHop)
Sabrina Thompson – In 2011 began her career fishing the Bas Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open making her the first African American female pro Angler. (BassFishingSource.com)
Andre Horton – In 2001 became the first African American to make the US Alpine Ski Team (Boston Globe)
Uneku Atawodi – Nigerian female professional polo player and the only black female competing professionally in the world. She has competed in numerous countries, including Argentina, Great Britain, and the United States. (Madame Noire)
Cowtown – Work to Ride Team – In 2011 became the first all African American polo team to win a national title. (Pennsylvania Equestrian)
Gabbey Maiden– first black female competitive snowboarder (LA Sentinel)
Do you know of any other black athletes doing great things in the realm of outdoor sports that I missed? Let me know in the comments!
Lauren G. , Outdoorsy Diva™
“It’s only the great outdoors…what are you afraid of?”