Yep, that’s me below. You may be wondering how I got there. I was always fascinated by nature shows as a kid, especially those near on in the water. I watched many of Jacques Cousteau’s films in wonder, wishing I could visit the places he did. However, never having seen anyone who looked like me in those waters, I didn’t even fathom it was possible.
Fast forward to 2016. I was perusing excursions for a cruise with my (then) boyfriend. While I rattled off the list of possibilities, I absentmindedly read, “Scuba diving,” and his face lit up. My brain said, “Oh, hell.” My mouth said, “I don’t think the ocean should be the first place I try that.”
That was all the encouragement he needed. He grabbed the reins and found a local dive shop that conducted “try scuba” dives in the community pool. The instructor took one look at me and knew I was terrified. He assured me that he would not allow anything to happen. We began the lesson in the shallow end, which should have been easy for someone two inches shy of six feet. Even with the knowledge that I was a decent swimmer and could quickly stand if I had trouble, I struggled. I was awkward and felt way out of my depth in just four feet of water. I kept popping my head above the surface to breathe instead of using the regulator. Then, the light switch flipped on in my brain. I began to relax into breathing through an apparatus. By the end of the lesson, not only did I reach the bottom of the deep end, I had fallen in love.
In 2022, I’m still diving and working toward my fourth certification in the field. I’ve seen some of the creatures in person that I marveled at as a kid. A whole new world and new opportunities have come from my willingness to try something different. There’s a tribe of Black divers out there I knew nothing about, of which I am now a part.
For that reason, I want to highlight Black adventurers for Black History Month. Representation matters, and seeing someone who looks like you doing things you never imagined may inspire you to try something outside your comfort zone this year.
Kenneth Stewart — Scuba Diver
There are parts of our history that remain unknown at the bottom of the ocean. Kenneth Stewart, co-founder of Diving With a Purpose (DWP), trains divers to locate and map slave ship wreckage so that we may know more about who and what got lost at sea. Thanks to the efforts of DWP and an international network of researchers and institutions hosted by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, that history has been highlighted by many media outlets, including National Geographic and on the docuseries Enslaved, which aired on Epix. DWP has an arm dedicated solely to supporting youth in becoming divers so the legacy of searching our oceans for our ancestors may continue.
Stewart also co-founded Get Black Outside (GBO), a global platform designed to acknowledge, support, and unite Black-led grassroots organizations and facilitators who bring outdoor programming to Black audiences. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, both of Stewart’s organizations have a national reach, and you can visit their sites to find out opportunities available near you.
If you are afraid of the water or don’t know how to swim, swimming lessons are a great way to become more confident. Free or low-cost options are available at many public pools. Snorkeling, paddle boarding, free-diving, and surfing are just a few other water sports that are just as fun as scuba diving.
Syatt — Outdoor Aficionados
This mother-daughter trio, Marcia Hood, Ebony Hood, and Erika Hood — often referred to as Team Hood — founded Syatt. Syatt is a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting its community through culturally relevant programming in the natural and built environment where youth and adults experience relief leading to life-changing transformation. They brave the cold to ski and snowboard in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and offer youth instruction and school and community field trips. If you enjoy the cold and live in or near Cleveland, Ohio, you can schedule a “Syatt-Try-It” session designed to introduce people of all ages to these winter activities. Since Syatt is a member of Stewart’s GBO (see above), camping is another activity in which Syatt can school you. They can show you cost-effective ways to have fun outdoors safely.
If cold or camping aren’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other outdoor activities that may suit your fancy. Rollerblading, walking, and hiking are some great ways to incorporate natural Vitamin D back into your routine.
Shellita Boxie — Stunt Woman
Shellita Boxie wears many hats (actor, director, producer, and personal trainer). However, I’d like to focus on her work in Hollywood as a stunt performer. At an early age, Boxie knew she belonged on the television screen. She was determined to make it happen. With her mother’s fire and her father’s encouragement, she has worked her way into some of our favorite films and television shows. You’ve seen Boxie fly across the counter when someone slapped Sanaa Lathan’s character in The Family That Preys. You’ve seen her dangling from a zip line as Tiffany Haddish’s character sprays the crowd in Girls Trip. You’ve seen her thrown into the ceiling in Lovecraft Country, and she’s even been a zombie in The Walking Dead.
While you may not want to be on the screen, your local theater companies are sure to need more diverse voices both on stage or behind the scenes. Dust off those high school acting chops or those retired painting or building skills and share a few hours of your time with your community if you can.
Brooklyn Bell — Mountain Biker and Skier
Seeing Brooklyn Bell ride smoothly around a sharp turn or hop a steep jump makes me want to put some air in the deflated tires of my beach cruiser. Bell has found a way to marry her athleticism and passion for the outdoors with her artistic creativity. Since Bell didn’t see herself reflected in the communities of her chosen activities, she decided to create a character to which other women of color could relate. Bell understands the importance of diversity and representation in enjoying the outdoors and uses her voice to save space for others like her. Her unique blend of adventure and art has gained her partnerships with Patagonia, REI, and Subaru, to name a few.
You can have adventures no matter your age. It’s a mindset, and there are many different ways to experience it — even by reading a book. While some of these activities may be extreme or aren’t available where you live, there may be resources or organizations that can help you find an adventure that suits you in your community. You may end up with a good story to tell, a new passion, or new members of your tribe — or you may blaze a trail of your own.
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Celestial Holmes is passionate about the power of prose, and she uses it to uplift her people for various Afrocentric outlets. She is also a published author, writing under the pseudonym Mbinguni.