By Nizhooni Hurd
First, a moment of silence for the lives lost in the Calabasas helicopter crash on Sunday, Jan. 26. Nine lives, including Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi Bryant, were on the way to a basketball game for Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Academy. All were notable athletes and contributors to the sports world. The event is a crippling beginning to this year’s Black History Month because we have lost one of the greats. We have all, at least once, thrown our paper towels, our inkless pens, and random pieces of rubbish into the trash, one hand in the air, saying “KOBE!” I think about my cousin who loved basketball so much that when he found a kitten stranded in a bush on a walk home after practice her name became Koba, for Kobe. He carried her and his basketball home that rainy afternoon. Koba became his fiery best friend. Kobe Bryant has inspired many young Black kids, like my cousin, to have passion and dedication for the game.
Tomorrow, Feb. 1, is the beginning of Black History Month. We begin the month still mourning the lives and cut-short legacies of “greats” like Nipsey Hustle and Kobe Bryant. Both inspiring that grind: to always be better, do better in life, and give back. Lest we forget those who have left us. There is much to mourn, but there is also so much to celebrate.
In consideration of an environmental and outdoor recreationist world, the beauty of Blackness and Black people has always been present for those who grew up watching Kobe and listening to Nipsey while also loving the outdoors.
Tomorrow is the first day of Black History Month, and I encourage all readers to do their research about the contributions of Black people to the active world both indoors and out. Do the research and learn about those who have carved pathways for others to reach peace, tranquility and health through the outdoors. There are those who have suffered generational trauma in the natural world and still choose to return because they know what the trees and the fresh air bring them. I encourage readers to think deeply about this world that we live in and whether we make space for others or simply write an essay about injustice and go outside and pretend as if injustice and anti-blackness is everywhere, even in our “pristine” climbing spots and favorite rocky hikes.
There are countless names, organizations and actions, but here are just a few of my favorites to kick-start your personal Black History Month research journey: Kai Lightner, James Mills, Outdoor Afro, Blackpackers, Tyrhee Moore, Danielle Williams (Melanin Base Camp), Justin Forrest Parks, Kaylé Barnes (The Great Outchea), Summer Winston (The Brown Ascenders), The Black Outdoors, Brothers of Climbing, and Charles Crenchaw. Ecoinclusive.org has also crafted a beautiful list called “Black Conservationist Lead the Way Locally and Nationally in Environmental Action.” This list should not and will not end. It is small in comparison to the vast contributions Black people have made to create a more equitable and truly lovable and peaceful outdoors.
Black History Month is important because we can celebrate and honor all the histories, legacies and contributions of Black people to our society. We can take that moment to remember Kobe and Gianna Bryant. We can delve into learning about the beauty of Blackness in conservation and outdoor spaces we often considered to be “white.” We can reflect, have all these conservations, and share knowledge during our natural world endeavors. We can mix it all in.