Posts Tagged ‘African-American’

Hello.

There are many introspective and oftentimes misguided discussions on social media about the recent suicides of seemingly happy and wealthy people, and conversations about mental illness and how so many of us think we understand it. I thought that I’d add my two pennies to the subject and hopefully make some points that resonate with my readers, and with me as well.

Chapter 1: I Hear You and I’m Here for You

A popular misconception is that depression is not understood. Depression is not a complex set of emotions that only those that suffer from it can understand. I mean, there are no Depression 101 classes that anyone can attend. Just like many self-diagnose themselves to be depressed, there are others that must take the same presumptive approach to understanding depression and how to love and support friends and family who suffer from it. There are ways that support can not be supportive, there are ways that what sounds good coming out of your mouth, sounds like nails on a chalkboard to someone who is going through depression. Many times, I’ve felt that I put together the most delicate, compassionate, understanding words of comfort, only to be told that I am so insensitive. Sometimes, saying nothing is more than enough.  Depending on how deep their depression is, there is absolutely, nothing you can possibly say that will make them feel any better. For many of us, that is hard to accept.

How do you help? You don’t need to be a mental health “professional” to help someone in your life that may be struggling but, the best way to start is to ask if they are okay. Once they start to share their feelings, let them talk, show them that you can be a good listener, for them, not to them. Sometimes, it may not be enough for them but, you give it your best shot to let them know you will be there if they need you.

Understanding depression doesn’t mean that you have had to suffer from it to understand it but, that you listen to those who are, and you try your best to support them. Criticizing someone because of how they are feeling, isn’t going to make them feel better. It’s the exact opposite; it makes it worse.

Chapter 2: Understand Me, and I’ll Understand You

Now, you may have felt that this was from a writer who is on the outside looking in talking about depression. You may have thought I’ve been using information from stories I have read or have heard. Both are correct but, there is also more source material based on my own depression.

Yes, I know I seem to be upbeat, pleasant, in control, stable or any other misnomers many who know me would like me to be but, I am also suffering from depression. I have situational and seasonal depression. My seasonal depression was the worst! I won’t say that it’s gone but, this past winter, I was so in control of it that I didn’t gain the usual 25-30lbs over the winter that I’ve become accustomed to. I became vegetarian in the middle of the “holiday” season and lost a few pounds while “enjoying” the winter. In past years, the weight gain, the cabin fever, the winter blues, all formed around me like ice forms over a plant that decides to go through the winter, rather than hide from it. Well, I didn’t hide from it, I waited until I found the inner strength and felt supported enough, that I knew that I was going to make it through and have a healthy, depression free winter.

I recently learned about situational depression from someone very close to me. (Hopefully, they are reading this blog.) After doing some reading and reacting I realized that it was describing me to a tee. I always wonder how much time it takes to come up with these diagnoses and definitions of things that are so on point and relevant to me, and they’ve never met me before. That goes to show just how well researched, and studied, depression is.

Situational depression is a short-term form of depression that can occur in the aftermath of various traumatic changes in your normal life, including divorce, retirement, loss of a job and the death of a relative or close friend. Doctors sometimes refer to the condition as adjustment disorder.

I have found at times that when my depression is getting better, I’ll see something sad or hear something terrible or find out that someone close to me may be dealing with something difficult, that will send me right back into the sinkhole and I’ll be there until I find a way out.

I guess, it’s the empath in me.

Situational Depression Basics
As we go through life, we all have experiences that stretch the limits of our normal ability to cope and continue our daily routines. In addition to the experiences listed above, situations that can potentially overwhelm your normal coping mechanisms include surviving a hurricane or other major disaster, surviving a serious accident, experiencing a major illness, and even marriage or the birth of a child. Situational depression occurs when you haven’t yet adapted to the changes brought about by these situations and incorporated them into your overall life experiences.

Most people with situational depression develop symptoms within roughly 90 days following the event that triggers the condition. Depending on the individual, these symptoms can include listlessness, feelings of hopelessness, sleeping difficulties, sadness, recurring bouts of crying, unfocused anxiety, unfocused worry, loss of concentration, withdrawal from normal work or leisure activities and withdrawal from friends and family. In addition, some people develop suicidal thoughts.

I have wondered about the impact of my death and how it would affect those around me but, I’ve never thought about taking my life. There are so many things that people who don’t make that choice are going through, that they can’t think of anything else and that is because they feel there is no other way. That is very serious, and we must find ways to help our family and friends to help them understand that there are other ways to get through.

Chapter 3: Anxiety, Depressions not-so-cute Cousin from Atlanta

All jokes aside, anxiety isn’t a joke. I recently had an unexpected anxiety attack during a very sad moment following the death of a family member. I couldn’t breathe, my head was tight, I was hot, I was cold, I was afraid, I was falling, I was crying, it was a brief panic attack that seemed to last forever. Luckily, I was comforted by a loved one who was able to tell me what was happening. I was shocked because I had never felt anything like that before but, they knew. Understanding that anxiety is a nervous disorder, helps me understand that it can’t be fixed with just words alone. It’s usually a long drawn out culmination of thoughts that cause excessive worry.

Anxiety (GAD)
The hallmark of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)—the broadest type of anxiety—is worrying too much about everyday things, large and small. In the case of GAD, it means having persistent anxious thoughts on most days of the week, for six months. Also, the anxiety must be so bad that it interferes with daily life and is accompanied by noticeable symptoms, such as fatigue. – www.health.com

Being able to talk away someone’s anxiety is nearly an impossible task. If words could have stopped my attack, I wouldn’t have had a story to share. We can try to use words but, we must listen, and we have to watch and learn and most importantly, we have to be present. Paying attention to the signs that they share with you, there may be some signs that we may have to pick up on our own. Encourage, but don’t recommend that they seek medical treatment, and don’t expect them to make themselves better.

Treatment of anxiety focuses on a two-pronged approach for most people, that focuses on using psychotherapy combined with occasional use of anti-anxiety medications on an as-needed basis. – https://psychcentral.com/disorders/anxiety/

Chapter: You [Looking after yourself]

If you are the main support person for someone going through depression or anxiety it can be rewarding, but it is challenging too. It could take a while for them to get through it, which is why it’s very important to look after yourself. – www.depression.org

It’s really important to be able to ask someone who is suffering from depression if they are okay. This opens a lot of air and opportunity to receive a lot of information about things that you may have never known or may not be prepared to hear. It’s important that if you are willing to be a part of the process to begin to help someone get through their depression, you must take care of yourself. Work on understanding yourself and know who you are, ask yourself tough questions, ask yourself, why do you care and if you can do this. If you can’t, you may make matters worse particularly if the person suffering looks to you as someone who can help them, you don’t want to let them down.

For years, many in the African American community have called each other crazy or have swept a family members “odd” behavior under a door, the same door they pass food to their so-called crazy uncle. I think it’s not healthy to ignore or avoid the subject of mental health when it comes to people we love or, just people in general. There are a lot of broken, men, women and children walking on our streets that have mental health issues and need help. Some more than others. What do we do? Are we going to keep our fear of mental issues, hidden behind doors or swept under rugs? How do we heal if we cannot deal with the work that it takes to be diagnosed and treated for illnesses both physical and mental that many of us can’t understand? Ask yourselves; am I alright, and are the people I love alright as well?

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you need to learn more about depression, anxiety, mental health and suicide prevention, contact the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255

CT

 

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Michael Jordan doesn’t care about Black People. Like Kanye West courageously shouted on national television, about how he felt then president George W. Bush felt about Black people during the Hurricane Katrina disaster and the screw up that followed.  I personally feel the same way about Mr. Jordan and other athletes but, this is about MJ. He is in a position, a well paid position; that allows an exploitative condition to be created for some of our less informed Brothers and Sisters to fall into. One of the highest paid and greatest athletes of ALL time, shackled by his surname to a product, an expensive brand that creates death and drama in poor Black communities.

Death. Violence. Capitalism.

How is MJ to be blamed? He knows exactly what’s going on outside of the sneaker stores – mothers and fathers fighting, kids dying, police being called in to control the ravenous crowds that come out in droves to purchase these shoes. The majority of these people can barely pay their rents, live check to check, neglect their children but, still find a way to spend over $300 on his sneakers. That’s not his fault but, his marketers control the euphoria that draws people to it.  On the flip-side, is it fair to completely blame him?

For 30 Years, we have chosen to be enslaved to a product. Materialism has been likened to psychosis; this is a sickness of consumption…

I’ve always wondered, what is more important to African-Americans? Do we really NOT care about the future, about our lives, the lives of our children and the lives of others? Are we that broken, that we refuse to try to do the slightest things to fix the problems that plague us and our communities.  I think of the hair industry – Black women spend billions (b) of dollars a year on someone else’s hair.  I can only imagine, if MJ or MJB put their name on a wig it would sell like hot combs!  I’m also reminded of a quote, “Rich people stay rich by living like they are poor and poor people stay poor by living like they’re rich.” True right?

Our priorities are all jacked up and it adds to our Slave Narrative of 2014 and possibly beyond.

In light of the glorification of Slavery in dramatic and cinematic exhibition, I wanted to start a conversation about our current condition. Let’s talk about our current Slave status.  Not in a speculative sense; let’s literally discuss where we are when it comes to accepting the fact that we are mainstream Slaves.  Slaves to materialism and consumerism. We get caught up in the razzle-dazzle of “buying things” and line dance our way into the money-grubbing hands of capitalists that make you think you need to spend money that you don’t have on products you don’t need.

The amount of money we spend during holidays is sickening. Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day to name a few; on these days, the African-American dollar is looooong….However, we are the bottom of the list again, when it comes to charitable contributions and circulating money in our communities.

I feel this way about all Americans but, African Americans must do better. We have fewer resources but, expend up to 3 times as much as our European counterparts.

Now,  I’m not trying to be right or wrong; that will be decided by you, the readers but, this obsession over Jordans is crazy and it has to stop! Period. Point. Blank!

Michael Jordan and other “High Society”, Blacks do not care about the plights of poor Black people. They are somehow immune from issues that affect the “little people” due to their economic statuses.  These are people that are trying coming up from the bottomless pits, trying to get out of the same dark places that many of them came from.

We have to send them a message that they will not continue to profit from our suffering.

Stop feeding the machine. Stop buying Jordans!

 

CT

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OMG! You’re Brack?

I was recently told a story about an African-American male who’d been discriminated against but, not really.

Let me explain.

One of his customers whom he’d only had phone relationships with said Merry Christmas to him last month, in which he replied that he doesn’t really get into Christmas, because he celebrates Kwanzaa.  Then she said, “Kwanzaa is for the Black people, wait, you’re Black?”  Yes, was his reply and from there she went on and on about how she didn’t know that and that she was amazed that he spoke so well.  Now oddly, she is Chinese and from what I was told her “Engrish” wasn’t all that up to par.  However, her amazement stemmed from the fact that she’d only been exposed to “difficult” Blacks that frequent her store and constantly gave her a hard time.  Every time that they talk now, she continues to listen in amazement as he speaks and conducts his business, always complimenting him at the end of the phone calls for being the professional that he always was before she knew what color he was.

How does that make you feel?  I know it makes me feel good and bad at the same time.  Good to know that this young man is well spoken, polite and handles his business, the bad/unfortunate part is that her expectation of all Blacks is likely in the negative.  It doesn’t take anyone outside of our race to define us.  Not by how we speak, dress or wear our hair, her prejudice and dim-witted thinking is the modus operandi of lots of Americans.  Guilty until proven innocent and it’s not until it’s been proven that we are safe enough to be included in certain professional and educational circles, that we get a proverbial pass.

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Yeah, what you thinking?

If you are too Black too Strong, you will have a mark on you other than the skin you are in.  You’re labeled, categorized, placed into a funnel that continuously sucks you down.  Why?  Isn’t being who you are a part of what we were taught as children; your individualism is what makes you special right?  Now, as adults many of us or “you” have to conform to someone else’s standards to fit in.  How many stories have we heard about people of color being turned away from jobs that they were worthy and well qualified for?  Only to be passed over by an equally or under qualified white person.  This happens in every aspect of life; from business to the arts, if you Black you have a strike against you and it’s not a matter of fairness, it just is.

A man or woman can’t be who they want to be when they’re being something or someone else that they are not.  We put on masks at work or out on the streets, come home and we are different people.  Conformity is not normal.  It’s a quick fix to the problem of you being you and they love it.  Is that success?

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. ~ Booker T. Washington

A lot of us like to blame the “Man” for our failures.  Blaming whites for keeping the Black man down, is a poor excuse that is used to distract others from our own individual failures. Pathetic self-lies that we tell ourselves to talk ourselves out of reaching for our dreams.  “Oh, I can’t do this.  I can’t do that.  No one is going to do anything for me.”  Then do for self, is what I say.

The young man recently received an email from his boss saying that his customer service was great and that the “customers” really enjoy working with him.  It was the same company and the same lady that took her story of the “Amazing Brack Man” to the very top and is now throwing all kinds of praise and rewards at his feet because he’s an “exceptional nigger.”  Where have we heard that term before?  I think it was in 12 Years a Slave, how Solomon Northup, the free man turned slave was somewhat special.  He could read, he could play music and was a carpenter; is this a fair analogy of the young man? I don’t know but, it wasn’t until his race became a highlight, that he received “exceptional” attention that wasn’t necessarily the attention that he wanted or was working for.

He never questioned his Asian colleague about her culture or why her accent was so bad, he just did his job.  Her ethnicity was never under review, he knew who she was and that was it, a colleague, now he’s the Black colleague that speaks very well.

Until the colour of a man's skin Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes -

Until the color of a man’s skin
Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes –

How does this play in the rest of our society?  There are millions of us that speak articulately, work like professionals and are dedicated-educated, is it possible that America doesn’t know that we exist or does America fail to believe that good Blacks can still exist in this torn up culture of ours?  Where images of our men are bordered by white chalk lines or saggin jeans and our women are naked, single, pregnant and poor?  That’s how Chinese media views African-Americans in this country.  Asian media is ripe with caricatures and sambo-esque pictures that mock and belittle the existence of Black people all over the globe.  Just like newspapers and comics in the US a little more than a century ago, other countries have taken up the art of showing us to their part of the world in a racist negative light.

Chinese racism

Dis is some bull….

Now as far south into the realm of negativity this could go, as a blogger I’m supposed to be subjective but, this time I’ll remain on the objective side of the scale and try to end this blog peacefully. (*@&%$#)

In order to change the perception of the world and America (yes, it’s in its own little world) we as African-Americans need to stop giving these people excuses and material to use against us.  We are the ones that are holding ourselves back from competing with everyone else for jobs, education, home-ownership and the realization of the American Dream, which isn’t really bad if you think about it.

I don’t think the color of your skin disqualifies you instantly from success; it may also hinge on your individual definition of success.  Personally, I’m successful does that mean that I drive fancy cars and live high up on the hog? No, but it means to me that I’ve reached a certain level where I feel I’ve achieved a sense of accomplishment, doing the work that I love to do.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The implication that your skin color impedes success can affect you if you want to conform and assimilate.  If you are an against the grain person, you’ll likely have less stress and less heartache and pain when you are not accepted to certain circles, clubs or corporations.  Nevertheless, we do deserve a fair share.  We do deserve to be heard and not just seen.  Perception is the epicenter of our innermost thinking.  We conceive and conceptualize our realities through our eyes and ears and are sometimes fooled terribly by them.

I wonder what kind of revolution it would take to free these close-minded people from the realities they’ve created for themselves.  A revolution of the mind comes to mind and it won’t be televised or digitized, it will be an awaking of the masses to fight against the prejudiced precursors that lead to institutionalized racism and its ugly way of blocking Black success.

In the end, success shouldn’t be pre-determined by social or racial allusions, it should be a reflection of your indomitable spirit that works hard for the rewards that you receive.  Success is more than a euphoric feeling of accomplishment; it’s a way of life that was once guaranteed in our pledges of allegiance, where liberty and justice for all, paved the way for everyone to be successful.

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CT

A few years ago…

I was in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for a business trip.  As we spent some free time around the town, I took it upon myself to walk into a Confederate Novelty store.  The store was laden with Confederate Flags and other memorabilia of the Deep South.  As I perused around, confident and fearless, it became clear as I delved deeper into the dark corners of the store, that the painted faces of the tiny soldiers, scowling in caricatured war grimaces, were staring at me as if I was Gulliver, traveling into a hate-filled forbidden land…Okay, so I let my imagination get to me sometimes…Anyway, I felt uneasy and wanted to go.

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When I entered the store, I passed by a Black Woman; an older woman in her sixties or younger but, she was clearly my elder.  I passed her by as if she was just another curious person of color that challenged the system and ran head first into the store like a “Boss”, the same way that I did.  When I came from the rear of the store with my “Gettysburg” refrigerator magnets, I realized that the woman I had passed, was behind the register.  Now, this caught me by huge surprise as I certainly didn’t think a Black Woman would be the caretaker of a Confederacy Store but, lo and behold she was.

At first, I was a bit uneasy to ask why she worked there, but I built up the nerve to ask, “Do you feel comfortable around all these Confederate flags, knowing the history of them?” I asked.  She said, “Yes! This is my store and it’s my history too.  I was born and raised here; my Mother and Father were raised and died here.  This is just as much a part of my history as it is theirs.  I’m very comfortable with it.”

Being from the North, where the Racism is disguised as Liberalism and Gentrification jogs by your house at six every morning, I was surprised at the tolerance it must take to deal with the energy behind the symbolism and how it wasn’t enough to deter her from accepting her place as a part of it.

I realize that it’s a proud symbol of southern heritage;  while some see it as a painful reminder of slavery and segregation.  The “Southern Cross” is just an emblem, a token of ideas, materialized in the same Red, White & Blue that graces Old Glory.  People are so upset because the Ku Klux Klan and White Hate groups use the flag as their symbol of power and separatism, while others see it as a bold reminder of who they are and where they come from.

united-states-flagI was very grateful and honored to meet someone who was proud of who she was and proud of where she lived.  We can’t be honest with ourselves and say that the United States of America has been kind to African Americans and we can’t say that it would have been better under the Confederate States either.  What we can say is that we are the products of history: North vs. South, Freedom vs. Slavery and Black vs. White; we are here because we fought and died on both sides to have the choice to raise whatever flag we want to.

Kanye West, who claims Chicago as his home, was born in Atlanta GA in 1977 so, I’m sure that he’s seen his share of Confederate Flags. It was not until 2001, that the State Flag of Georgia, which contained the Southern Cross, was changed to suit businesses, white liberals and the NAACP.  I haven’t done much research or really paid any attention to Kanye and his reasons for embracing the Confederate Flag, but I understand and I do think it’s his right to wear it, rock it, sport it or flaunt it anyway that he sees fit.  It’s a part of his heritage; it’s a part of all of our heritage in this country whether we like it or not.  So, no matter where you stand, if it’s with the Union or the Confederacy and no matter what flag you’re waving, both of them are drenched in our blood.

Take your pick!

– CT

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On a recent trip to the grocery store, I was confronted by an illicit practice that had me in a pensive frame of mind.  It was blatant, hurtful and downright wrong!  The Grove Hall Mecca, in Dorchester, MA, the checkpoint between Roxbury and Dorchester, where Warren Street meets Blue Hill Avenue, is where the injustice took place.  In Grove Hall, there are several businesses; one of them is Stop & Shop.

This landmark of a national food store is inthe proverbial core, the “Mecca” for African-Americans, sitting on the convergence of the two aforementioned towns.  I entered through the slow-opening automatic doors, with two babies sitting in the carriage, I went in, in search of quality “organic” fruits to feed my children and was utterly shocked and disappointed to learn that this location does not carry organic products.  “What!?”  I asked the Grocery Manager, Peter.  He gave me a poor prejudicial excuse saying that “people don’t spend the extra money on organic in this part of town and it goes to waste, so they’d rather not carry it.”  I understand about the waste part but, to say that people in this part of town don’t buy organic is just unacceptable.  I’m a part of this part of town and I’m a part of these people.  If I didn’t feel that I could go to the Grove Hall Stop & Shop, for my convenience and expect the same quality of produce and products that I could get elsewhere, I surely wouldn’t have been there.  It was painfully clear that I was basically told that Blacks don’t by organic!

NOT TRUE!  I know several people from my diaspora that exclusively buy organic.  They do it because of the several health benefits, the taste is superior, the way it treats your insides is a lot better than non-organic foods.  The issue is cost.  Organic foods are 70 cents to $1 more than conventional foods.  The higher rates also includes meats, vegetables and grains.  Organic = Hands On, so it’s more personal labor and not machine so it costs more to produce it and more for us to buy it.

After looking around in the store under a faded-spell of hope, I packed the boys back in the truck and drove about two miles to South Bay Stop & Shop.  As soon as I walked in I was greeted with a big sign “Organic Blueberries” then I saw another sign, “Organic Strawberries”, these were exactly what I was looking for.  I usually go to the South Bay store anyway because its closer but, I said let me go to Grove Hall since I was in the area, not anymore.

There are reports from universities and hospitals about studies done on the affects of foods in Urban versus Suburban communities.  The findings are disturbing but, not surprising.  In Urban areas you have fast food and liquor stores next to each other, in the Suburbs not so much.  So not only do African-Americans not have access to healthier Organic foods, we’re exposed to being abundantly overfed and inebriated at an easier rate than our well-to-do friends.  There are ways to get these institutions out of the hood; it’s called “Don’t shop there anymore!”  When they can’t afford to stay where they are, they leave and go elsewhere or out of business altogether.  We must demand better for ourselves and our children.  Although, urban development initiatives shelter the fast food and liquor stores in our communities with “certain” monies to keep them afloat, it’s still up to us to not let them keep us unhealthy and drunk at discounted rates.

Maybe with all of the re-zoning and re-redistricting going on in Boston, we can get some organic produce in the hood?  Hey they’re taking our votes so why not have something beneficial in exchange?

So, my conclusion is that in order to eat healthy, you have to shop outside of urban areas and shop where the potential for white-consumerism is higher.  I’m going to start up a ‘protest-for-produce’ campaign, who’s with me?

I think I’ll write a letter and sign it….

Sincerely,
Berry Disappointed

CT

Hiking While Black

This is meant to be taken in jest, just like the notion of black people hiking is taken.  This isn’t any one particular response or reaction to how I’ve actually been treated as a Black man that runs a hiking and outdoor sports organization, but it is.  I don’t want to come off as angry, because I’m not; I think it’s funny and sad.  Funny that certain groups of people see us out there and we become the talk of the forest.  Sad because some black people see us in a different light.  They see us as a “selling out” of sorts.  I would never think that going out into the woods, the forests, a reservation or a national park, would be considered less Black  than say: Going to a club, the corner or the liquor store but, it is!

It seems like there is a movement to discredit anything different from alcohol indulgence, partying, dancing, drug use and violent music?  Peace and quiet, nature, singing birds, babbling brooks and buzzing bugs are just too much for today’s “institutionalized African American.”

Historically, Black Americans have been inextricably tied to the outdoors, to the woods as many say.  We’ve had to hunt for our food, survive and foremost, to escape slavery.

Maybe there is an underlying fear of the woods ingrained in the D.N.A of some Black people that keeps them out of the woods.  Maybe it’s something else? Could it be laziness or an unwillingness to try something new, something different, something liberating?


Outdoor stuff is for White People

Sorry, I didn’t get that memo!  I’ve run an outdoor organization for the last few years and have spent countless hours outdoors, with black people hiking, biking etc. etc. and doing fun and new things.  Introducing our people to the outdoors, to the woods and to Nature in all of its beauty is essential to our programs.  Adult hikes, family hikes and teen hikes, our goal is to make people comfortable with the outdoors no matter what activity they partake in.  We’ve hiked for miles; we’ve climbed mountains, zip-lined, archery, rode our bikes, rowed boats and in the winter did some ice-skating and some snow hiking too.  If that is too White for you, then I’m sorry.  Just call me Tom…no offense to any Toms out there!


A Black Hiker?

Yes! I’m a Black Hiker and there are lots more with me.  Through organizations like Hike4Life (www.hike4life.org) and Outdoor Afro (www.outdoorafro.com) we are sharing our love of the outdoors with people that look like us.  The Natural World is here for all of us to enjoy, not just one specific race or group of people, it’s for all people.  All colors, all religions and races, no one should be exempt from enjoying the beauty and wonders of the world.

Countless, numbers of African American outdoor enthusiast are able to “unplug” from society and get away from it all; disappearing in the woods and losing sight of all other forms of so called civilization is enlightening and spiritually empowering.  If you’re a spiritual person, what better way to connect to the Creator, to walk, to see and to breathe in fresh air.

In our group, we’ve taken over 200 Black/Latino “Hike4Lifers” out of the hoods and into the woods and have heard some grumbles but mostly praises for our efforts.

“Poor Blair Underwood just wants to go for a walk in the woods, but the white folks treat him like he’s Big Foot!”

 

Yes, this is true!

On one occasion, we were ascending a trail and there was a much smaller group of White hikers; being the group leader I kept my eyes on them ahead of the trail, a look of awe, shock and wonder came across their faces.  I laughed to myself because I could only imagine what they were thinking.  Was it the size of the group or was it that we were all Black?

While taking no offense to the forced smiles and tentative waves, we kept it moving and headed up the trail.  Now, jokingly I cautioned my troop that we would possibly come across a Deer or a Beaver but, I also told them to not feel any kind of way if we are looked upon as if we were wildlife and sure enough.

There’s no problem with the strange looks or the extra Earthy hellos, the problem is that we need to get out more.  If we were out there more, it wouldn’t feel so alien to us.  We segregate ourselves from those environments and can’t blame anyone but, ourselves.

Healthy Trails

Hiking is great exercise, no matter what the naysayers say!  Period.  Point. Blank.  You want Cardio?  You want sweat?  You want to burn??? Then get out there and trek the Earth.   On a good day, a 3 to 4 hour hike will burn tons of calories, strengthen your muscles, tighten your butt and get your heart racing.

High Blood Pressure (hypertension) and Diabetes are rampant in our communities! We wanted to see what we could do to make a difference in the lives of people that look like us.  We aren’t exclusively Black but, our people suffer from these at times fatal ailments at alarming rates.  Obesity is another reason we started our organization.  Our children alone in less than 8 years will make up 67% of the obese stricken population in the United States.  This is not okay!  We try to engage with parents who may be obese and try to get them out with us to experience the outdoors and to see that they are slowly dying.  I myself benefit from the exercise I get from hiking but I know I need to step it up.  I know that I need to do this for my health in order to be here for my children.  Sadly, not enough parents think that way or are willing to forego the club on Friday to hike with us on Saturday morning.

Eating right helps, exercise, living right, taking care of our families keeps us healthy.  If we were good at being a person trainer, or a fitness instructor, I’m sure we could or would do that but, we are outside, we truly “workOUT “while so many work-INdoors.

So, what do we do?  How can we get more people to listen to us, to drop the negative thinking and get up and get out with us?

We’re on Facebook; we are on the World Wide Web, Twitter.  Word of mouth works great for us but what more can we do to free your minds so your butts will follow? Do we need a hip hop superstar to accompany us out in the woods (yeah, we thought of it)?  Do we need to pay our people to adopt a healthy lifestyle?

We want you!  You give yourselves to Uncle Sam, give yourselves to your better self and get moving!


History

One of the most moving and motivating historical pieces of information that inspires me to do what I do is about Harriet Tubman.  Thanks to Rue Mapp of Outdoor Afro, who got the wheels turning in my head to do some research on our Great Sister!

Tubman had to travel by night, guided by the North Star, and trying to avoid slave catchers, eager to collect rewards for fugitive slaves. The “conductors” in the Underground Railroad used a variety of deceptions for protection. At one of the earliest stops, the lady of the house ordered Tubman to sweep the yard to make it appear as though she worked for the family. When night fell, the family hid her in a cart and took her to the next friendly house. Given her familiarity with the woods and marshes of the region, it is likely that Tubman hid in these locales during the day. Because the routes she followed were used by other fugitive slaves, Tubman did not speak about them until later in her life.

Particulars of her first journey remain shrouded in secrecy. She crossed into Pennsylvania with a feeling of relief and awe, and recalled the experience years later:

“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”

This feeling is common to when we reach a goal or when we reach the top.  I always tell those I hike with that “The reward is at the top.”  Whether its rest or the scenery, something more is waiting for us at the top.  Harriet Tubman, travelled for thousands of miles in the woods, to help free some of our people and as the quote earlier in this blog stated, many more could have been free if only they were aware of what they were.  Today, we are not slaves, we are not fugitives escaping for our freedom but, we are in ways still unaware of the ailments that plague us and the sicknesses we live with.  By increasing our activity, by leaving behind a sedentary lifestyle, getting outdoors and connecting with the Earth, we can increase our years…Harriet lived to be 93!

The Future

African Americans, Black Americans, Latino Americans, we can take back our place in the outdoors.  We can reestablish the connection that was severed years ago.  We can turn off the televisions and radios, turn off the cell phones, pack some food and disappear into the trees.  There is more there than any gym can give you and there is more life than any party or club you may go to.  Life is too short to worry about whom hiking is for and who it isn’t for.  It’s for you.  It’s for all of us.

Join Hike4Life in our efforts to Get Up. Get Out. Go Hiking!  Join Outdoor Afro where Black people and Nature Meet.  Join us in our efforts to connect and reintroduce our people to the world outside.  You can start you own outdoors organization.  Get people together, explore your local natural areas.  Check with your local parks and recreation department to learn about trails and any safety issues that may come up.  Start a Meet-Up group for hiking or look for one to join.  There are many ways to get up, to get out and to get hiking!

Cerebellum Tellum

I love food, just as much as any other over nourished American but, when it comes to compiling recipes and extreme taste-testing, I figured I’d place a proverbial “couch-in-the-kitchen” and get a little comfort food while being; Comfortable.

From Soul to Thai, my tastes for fine cuisines have kept me up late at night conjuring up dishes on my own or sitting in front of the TV gawking at Food Network and it’s bevy of Master Chefs.

These late nights helped shape me into the home-chef that I am today. Armed with custom cookware, an Iron Chef apron and a desire to satisfy hunger, I am the man! Whether it’s serving up my own craft or improved copies of famous dishes from popular restaurants, I’ve always enjoyed the process of seasoning, cooking, serving and eventually eating great food.

Although my palate for food is long, I have to stop short at a delicacy that is loved by many and a dearly departed treat for yours truly…

Lobster, Crab & Shrimp!

You know the old saying: You don’t know what you’re missing, well, in this case I do. At one time in my life I was able to enjoy these tasty sea creatures but, in my adult years I have developed a literally nauseating allergy to ocean bottom-dwellers.

I can still prepare them if I choose to do so, if there is a calling for my Parmesan Shrimp Alfredo that would certainly be worthy of a return to that side of the kitchen. I’ve even teased the kitchen gods with a lobster chowder recipe that never came to be, due to my allergy. (Yeah that rhymed)

Anyway, enough of water-roaches let me dive deeper into the mindset of a “Foodie.” In my opinion we are complex yet simple lovers of great food.  Some of us can burn in the kitchen, some of us make magic on the grill and some of us just like to eat and don’t have time for preparation, cooking and cleaning. Foodies EAT, plain and simple.

Did I mention my couch-in-the-kitchen comes with pull out trays and cup holders?

Our tastes vary, our menus inexplicably different, yet our common obsession unites us. My Foodie-ism covers all aspects, I like to prep, cook and eat, just about everything that is mouth-worthy, I also like to serve, and that’s where the couch-in-the-kitchen comes in.  Staying planted in the kitchen, nose buried in various cookbooks, I‘ve learned the art of variety and flash when it comes to cooking; seasoning and flavoring I learned from my mother and on my own.

Salt and Pepper and…

Seasoning isn’t really covered in culinary books so, growing up on salty, savory Soul food, combined with bold experimentation, I became the Spice master of my kitchen. Who wants to eat bland food anyways? We eat to enjoy, not be annoyed. I think the second-best to African-American cooking in terms of well-seasoned food are the Italians, followed behind closely by East Indian cuisine.

I keep a stock load of Italian seasoning which consists of: Basil, Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme and Marjoram.  Simple yet powerful, when combined with sea salt and cracked pepper, it adds a great Mediterranean flair to any meal, even a traditionally simply salted and peppered American dish like meatloaf or baked chicken, can become a “mangia-mangia” meal.

Home on the Range Oven

Growing up in a single parent home with my mother, some days instead of running around the block or playing basketball, I would pull up a chair to watch her cook. I watched her make miracles every Thanksgiving, flip flawless pancakes, scale fish and dry rub slabs of beef ribs.  I learned to work in the kitchen in a particular order; a clean order and an organized order. I have no shame in being domesticated and picking up her habits; in fact it’s a bonus. It ensures my survival as a Foodie and guarantees I’ll never go hungry and can feed others; if I’m willing to share.

For years, the kitchen was a classroom and home was the school, my mother the teacher and I the student, learning the tricks and taking in the aroma of good food.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner was deliciously served how we liked it, family never went away unsatisfied, legendary dishes still bring back memories of holidays past,  now it’s my duty to continue the same celebrated fare and traditions with my kids.  My journey in the kitchen started early and I’m still going strong thirty some odd years later so it’s never too early or too late to, “Learn to Burn.”

So, to my Foodies out there, eat well and prosper and when life gives you lemons….

Squeeze it on your fish! [Krown]

CT