You know when I first became infatuated with the whole skoolie idea I did a hardcore internet search to see exactly what i was getting into. Passing through images of beautifully executed skoolies and inspiring stories I absorbed fuel to invest in this determined idea. I noticed a common thread throughout every image and story. There was not one skoolie owned by a person of color. It’s as though people whose skin had been kissed by the sun had been removed from this particular American path.
It would be ridiculous to even suggest that there isn’t a segment of people of color living nomadically on the highways and byways of America. There are Mexican migrants, Gypsies, displaced Blacks living out of cars and scores of the homeless living a transitory life. Most of them have adopted this life not out of choice yet necessity. The notion that a Black man or family could and would leave the “established” sedentary lifestyle (whether rural or urban) is left out of the current discourse of skoolie life/rv living. So dammit, looks like I gotta be a trailblazer!
Yet I have to be clear that I am not the first Black man who has decided to “hit the road.” Blacks have always been at the forefront of exploration. We can go back to those who led the first forays out of the continent of Africa via land and sea. You can become familiar with Black explorers of the New World such as Matthew Henson, Juan Garrido, Jean Baptist Point DuSable, James Pierson Beckwourth and Pedro Alonzo Niño. There is almost a genetic imperative in the Black man to learn through expansive exploring.
I wrote about why I chose the name Old Skoolie 1863 in a previous blog post. In summary part of the choice for the name is to honor the migration history of post-Civil War African-Americans. Along with this reclaiming of the migratory history of African-Americans is reclaiming the outdoors. After WWII there was a big boost in White America to show camping, hiking and the great outdoors as part of their life style. The presentation of this lifestyle was as white washed as television in the 40’s and 50’s. There is a currently many who are showing that people of color have always had a place in the great outdoors and are working to get this message out. Two great articles are Hiking while Black: The untold story and This land is ours: African Americans should claim their place in the great outdoors. A great organization that is bring all of this together is Outdoor Afro.
There are also a couple of books which discuss why there is a current disconnect of Black people from the great outdoors such as “The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South” and “Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors.”
As this year comes to a close it does so with a bang. The pairing of the high profile deaths of several people of color by police paired with protests that have been likened to a new Civil Rights era creates an environment that no one can ignore. It is forcing many to step outside of their comfort zone. Old Skoolie 1863 is about me stepping outside of my comfort zone. Pairing the HoodHealth movement along with the Legacy Project is about me stepping outside of my comfort zone. Summoning up the avatar of freedom to embrace restructuring my time and movement is stepping outside of my comfort zone. Yeah, come along for the ride. You don’t want to miss this.