This morning I ate cereal on same breakfast table where I used to do my homework. The Joy Trip has brought back to where it all began for me at my mom and dad’s house in South Central Los Angeles. After 27 years very little has changed. And even though my 86-year-old parents required the installation of handrails they also have wireless Internet.
I’ve been on the road traveling and writing my way between the 5Point and Mountainfilm Festivals. And in my exploring through a circumnavigation of the West I’m coming to realize some interesting things about myself. As one of the few African-Americans in the outdoor recreation industry I’ve struggled for years with my identity as an athlete, an artist, an activist and an adventurer. Isolated and alone so often I have felt lost, aimlessly wondering. But a swirl of random events has brought me back to very place where I first began to dream. I seem to have found myself standing firmly at the nexus of my own universe, smack in the middle of my point of origin.
Originally I believed my arrival home was just a happy coincidence. On my way between Yosemite and Joshua Tree National Parks LA was a perfect place to stop, get a new timing belt for the Jetta Joy Ride and do a load of laundry. I just happen to be here during Mother’s Day weekend. And for the first time in almost a decade all four of my brothers and sisters, two of each, and I will be in town at the same time!
As youngest of the five I am perhaps more sensitive to the psycho-social influence of sibling dynamics. Sitting here now it’s as if I’m 12 again. In this place surrounded by family I’ll always be a child, the baby. But with the wisdom of my 45 years and the rest of my life ahead of me I believe that I can move forward and make different choices as if from the very beginning.
I’ve devoted a good portion of my career as a writer to exploring issues of diversity in outdoor recreation. In recent weeks my efforts on that front have increased dramatically as our team of African-Americans climbers begins training for Expedition Denali in 2013. This weekend my interview on this topic with the Tavis Smiley Show is set to air on National Public Radio Stations nation-wide. And across the Internet there seems to be a growing interest in coming to understand some of the of the limitations that prevent people of color from exploring the natural world and engaging in the life affirming benefits of physical activity outdoors. There are a few very interesting conversations currently in progress online that are worth following:
- Issues of race, class and gender in the 2011 Reel Rock Film Tour :http://climbingnarc.com/2012/05/issues-of-race-class-and-gender-in-the-2011-reel-rock-film-tour/
- Ashima and Obe, should we see race, class, gender on the rock http://girlslikegiants.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/ashima-and-obe-should-we-see-raceclassgender-on-the-rock/#more-766
- An Ideological Mess or: How I Learned to Not Stop Worrying and Still Love Rock Climbing http://girlslikegiants.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/an-ideological-mess-or-how-i-learned-to-not-stop-worrying-and-still-love-rock-climbing/
- It’s an Illusion, Michael: Unexpected Vitriol and Privilege in the Climbing Community http://millionancientbees.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/1696/
As I revel in a few moments of clarity here at home I hope to engage a growing audience of seekers to look within themselves and discover some answers of their own. So here are a few questions:
- What is preventing you from enjoying a life that includes outdoor recreation?
- Do you think people of color in particular, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians etc should be encouraged to establish a relationship with the natural world? Tell me why.
These are complex issues but I believe we have come to a point when we can have thoughtful rational discussion. Please share your comments and let’s talk about it. Go Be Joyful!