We literally laughed and cried speaking with Selema Mabena Masekela about racism in surfing; his journey building a career in a historically white, male and monied environment; and while swapping stories from childhoods in New England. It was a gift to hear about his legendary father, musician Hugh Ramapolo Masekela, and how his example helped Selema find his voice as an activist.
For more information about Faith, Addie and The Trail Ahead go to https://www.thislanddoc.com/thetrailahead.
Discussed on this episode:
Video from the 2020 Encinitas Paddle Out in response to the killing of George Floyd
Selema’s Podcast: What Shapes Us Pod
The Textured Waves Surf Community
Selema’s Band: Alekesam
Selema on Instagram
Faith E. Briggs: Welcome to The Trail Ahead, conversations at the intersection of race, environment, history, and culture. We are your co-hosts, Faith and Addie.
Addie Thompson: We bring on folks from all walks of life to have real, authentic, messy dialogue that can lead to tangible change.
Selema Mabena Masekela: I've always been relentlessly curious about people and different things, and I really enjoy telling stories. And the idea of just doing that in one space was never something that was me.
Addie Thompson: Our guest this week is Selema Mabena Masekela. He's a legendary commentator who has shared with the world some of the most incredible moments in sport, from the X Games, to the NBA, to the Olympics, and so much more.
Selema Mabena Masekela: The World Cup was amazing. Travis Pastrana's double backflip was amazing, in Staples Center. Being there for Kelly Slater's winning his 10th World Title in Puerto Rico, in the wake of Andy Iron's death was nuts. Shaun White's perfect run.
Faith E. Briggs: Rather than try to tie up an introduction neatly, or condense a whole history, we'll delve into the many facets of Selema together. Your name is Selema Mabena Masekela, and this year specifically, you began to, how shall we say, insist that you be called by that name, or reintroduce yourself to the world in the way that you wanted to be called. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Selema Mabena Masekela: Allow me to reintroduce myself. My name is Selema, pronounced with an "ema." My apologies to Jay-Z for picking such low-hanging fruit. Yeah, when I moved west especially, and I introduced myself as Selema, in Carlsbad, in the North County of San Diego, kids were like, "What's that?" Like literally, "What's that?" "My name." "I know, but what is that? Se-what?" And then, kids want to have fun with different versions of it. And then one day, I think it was 10 days in, a kid walked up to me in the hallway, he was just like, "Hey man, we figured it out. Sal, dude. You're Sal. We decided. You're Sal." And then, now I'm walking down the hallway, they'll be like, "Yeah, Sal. Yeah, Sal. What's up, Sal?" And I was like, "All right, I guess that'll work. I guess this means I'm accepted." And so, I went with it. And I also came to learn that taking on this nickname allowed people to sort of divorce themselves from the other things that made me me, because introducing yourself by Selema meant that people needed to ask questions, and in turn they were going to learn about who you were. Sal was just palatable and made me... They were able to see more of themselves in me, and frankly, I think avoid my Blackness. And I played into that as a kid. But the older I got, and I got in my 20s, the more I was like... especially after I went to South Africa for the first time, when I was 19. My father was a political exile of apartheid and had to flee South Africa when he was 19, and for 30 years, he couldn't go home. And so, once the apartheid regime, the racist, sinister, brilliantly designed racist regime of apartheid was beginning to crumble, one of the things that the government did to keep the Indigenous South African people from burning shit down, was bring back the expats, the heroes who had been off fighting to end the thing. And my dad, as soon as they said, "You can come home, and we won't put you in jail or kill you," he went home, and then a year later was like, "You're coming home. You're going to learn about the rest of who you are." And I got to meet my grandfather, who I was named after, who was Selema, and I got to learn so much more about what made me me. And moving forward, there was so much pride that I had in this knowledge of my South African-ness, and my ancestry, and what made me me, and I wanted to showcase that more and share that. I wanted people to know that I was more than their cool bro, or more, especially as a lot of kids would say to me, "You're so much more like us, because you do our stuff. You're not like the Black people on TV. That's rad, bro. You're more like us. You're not like a regular Black guy, you're more of a white guy," literally is what they would say to me, and want to pat you on the back for it. The older I got, the more I realized that this name, this nickname, while it was convenient, and cool, and allowed me to integrate in white spaces, it was really starting to make me feel constrained. And the first time I tried to shed it was in the beginning of my television career in the early 2000s, when I first started at the X Games. People would call me Sal on camera verbally, but my name was fonted as Selema, and I took great pride in that, because then people could ask questions, or at least know, his name is Selema. And I was introducing myself as Selema when I would speak into the mic, for a time. And then, one of the executives said to me, "Hey, yeah, so you know, it's just we're really excited about you, you've got a talent, you've got an ability to communicate this thing, this culture to the masses, and you're going to be a big part of this brand. But how are we going to get people in the Midwest that are looking at the screen, reading this, trying to figure out this name, and they hear people calling you Sal?" And he just kind of looks at me like, "You know, you get it?" And then he put his hands up in quotes, and just goes, "Sal Masekela. It just has a ring to it, man. Let's go. We want to make you a star." And it was only shortly before I'm supposed to go on camera. And I remember just throwing my hands up and being like, "Okay." And that ended that conquest. And I ran with it for another decade plus, but the older I got, the more that it hurt to introduce myself as Sal, and I felt like I was limiting myself whenever I did. And then, finally this year, after George Floyd's death, and Ahmaud Arbery, and everything that we've been in, I just woke up one morning and I was like, "If Black people are going to die just for being Black, continually at the hands of people who are supposed to protect and serve us, and this is just a normalcy in our country, and people still want to refuse to understand the sinister manner in which white supremacy dictates the rhythm of this country, then I'm not going to make myself palatable anymore, and I'm going to demand now that people see me for my entire and my whole self." And I just woke up one day, I changed everything on social media, I made a post that said, "This is me, Selema Mabena Masekela, and Sal is dead." And ever since then, I'm not kidding you, I feel taller, and I enjoy hearing my name. When people say my name, I respond. It's the frequency that I was missing for the rest of what this life is going to be for me.
Faith E. Briggs: I think not only have you tried, played, participated in so many different sports, but when we told a few people we were talking to you, they all had different points of reference, which was kind of fun, and it was like, "I remember that dude from Breaking2." "I remember him from X Games." "I remember him from World Cup." And it was so cool, and crazy, and it was all of these... The Olympics. All of these huge moments in sport and in athletic achievement that you were a part of, and also helped tell and share the story of, which is so cool.
Selema Mabena Masekela: It's very humbling to hear that that's how people see me, because that's what I want. That's what I always wanted. I never wanted to be blocked in a box. And I just knew that just being single dimensional was not for me. I'm always going to be curious kid, and if I feel like I have something to give in a space, then I'm going to figure out a way to go and play in there, and see what's popping.
Faith E. Briggs: On that note, also being someone who, I was this biracial kid, I didn't fit in when I was in the mainly Black schools, didn't fit in when I was in mainly white schools, came from an art school dad that listened to Pink Floyd and wore pink Converse, and my mom was kind of out there. Sometimes I just... But I ended up going to this prep school in Connecticut, and I remember feeling really free when I learned that other friends of mine were trying to fit a mold, and felt like they had to fit this mold, and then realized, I'm not even dealing with those pressures. There's some pressures for sure, because it's high school, but I always felt that I got to walk my own walk, because I didn't... I was so far outside of fitting in, that trying to fit in would have been this worthless endeavor, so I might as well just try to figure out how to shine in different ways.
Selema Mabena Masekela: For me in high school, I never had to worry about that shit either, because I was never trying to be in any clique. I think it came from my parents wholly, from my parents being so all over the place, and into wild shit. There was never any mandate, like, "This is who you need to be, and you better take these steps to figure out how to be this." I'm so grateful that they did not put that on me. And so in turn, I never had to try to be anything than where I was at, and go where the wind took me.
Addie Thompson: So on the note of your parents, I really would love to ask more about your father, who is an iconic musician, Hugh Masekela. Can you tell us more about him? He just seems like an amazing person. We'd love to hear more.
Selema Mabena Masekela: My father, Hugh Ramapolo Masekela, was a truly incredible man, who instilled the curiosity, and creativity, and playfulness in me that I have. My earliest memories with my father are being at the club with him, at five, six years old, literally being in jazz clubs with him until 3:00 in the morning on weekends when he had me, and him being like, "Make sure you don't tell your mother that I had you here, because she's going to give me a hard time and then. We cool. We hang out." My parents separated when I was two. And so I lived two very, very different lives. My mother and then my stepfather who she married, but we lived a very modest, struggle to middle-class existence, but my parents worked hard, but we were not balling in any way, shape or form. And then when I would go and spend time with my father, I would be on the hall of the Starship Enterprise. I'd be in jazz clubs with musicians and run into famous people and Dizzy Gillespie and Stevie Wonder were people who came into my purview before the age of 10. And I didn't understand the full context of my dad being a political exile, what that meant. I didn't understand him not being able to go home to South Africa and what that was doing to him. And that it was because of an unjust racist regime that was killing his countrymen and actual family members. I didn't know what any of that meant. I didn't understand the manner in which that drove him to try to numb the pain of what that was, of being a man without a home while also being suddenly experiencing all this fame. At a certain point, my father left when I was 10 years old and he just decided he had to be in Africa. And so I didn't see him for five years. And so yeah, it was crazy. And also my mother and stepfather were Jehovah's witnesses, so they couldn't be any more polar opposite. So I'd go to the club and hang out with my dad and see wild shit and then be out on a Saturday and knocking on people's doors, asking them if they wanted to live forever. That was a big part of my existence. But when I was 15, after not seeing my dad for five years, he comes back into the picture and he's on tour with Paul Simon on the Graceland album. And he says he wants to see me. And so my mother and myself, we take a train down to New York City from New England. They're playing Radio City Music Hall for three nights.
Addie Thompson: Selema was invited on tour with his father and Paul Simon and says his life was like the movie Almost Famous. These were incredible moments of bonding and reconnection with his dad. It was wonderful to be able to speak with him about his father who sadly lost his battle with cancer in 2018.
Selema Mabena Masekela: It's tough because once my dad got over his addictions and made some peace with himself after he got to go through some things and decide what he wanted his life to be, at around 57, 58, my dad actually launched into the best version of himself and the most productive musically and just the biggest joy. And I also was coming of age and starting to figure out my career and he was there to support me and be a homie and be like, "Yeah, I see what you're doing, chase your passion." And we just became father and son but like best friends. We just were having a blast. Unfortunately, a second round of prostate cancer took him down. I spent the last six months of his life pretty much by his side in South Africa. And I miss him dearly, but he was the coolest motherfucker that walked this earth.
Faith E. Briggs: I just remember a friend who had lost her father years earlier and it was the anniversary of his death and I asked her what was the hardest part. And she was like, "The hardest part is that no one asked me about him. No one asked me to tell stories. I don't get to go through those memories because it becomes this taboo that no one can ask about, and I just want to talk about my dad."
Selema Mabena Masekela: And we don't talk about grief. As a culture, we don't talk about grief. We pat people on the back for "bouncing back." "Oh my God, would you look at how Susie's doing? And you know her husband died, but she's back to work and she's doing great." "Have you asked her?" "No, I could just see it. I mean, she's at work." You know what I mean? That's our gauge of when someone's done with grief, as if you could ever be done grieving, is if they look like their life's back to normal, then we stop asking. And that's actually when people need you the most. We just need to do a better job of appreciating that grief is not something that you just all of a sudden stop doing. It just takes on different shape. It's odd and awkward for a while and then you learn how to make it fit ergonomically in a way that might be able to serve you.
Faith E. Briggs: Totally. Yeah. I think one of the strange realizations partway through the pandemic, I was like, "Oh, it's grief. Oh." And yes, I lost some folks. My family lost my grandfather to the pandemic and that felt like acceptable grief. But then I was reflecting, I'm like, "People didn't get to get married. They lost their jobs. They can't go outside. The hiking trail is closed. The restaurant, the bar, the bachelorette party that didn't get to happen. The christening that didn't get to happen. Being able to worship with folks in the same place." We are grieving all of these things and we felt like we weren't allowed to, those weren't acceptable things to grieve in the mess of a pandemic. Like you said, we're not supposed to grieve or it's a private endeavor or something. So I felt like people didn't know how to process what we were actually experiencing is this loss and this grief and that is paired with a still don't know what to call it, new reckoning, awakening? What the fuck happened with people being like, "Oh." We suddenly understand racism and police brutality, maybe, in the wake of January sixth and Black people were talking about how our white friends are being like, "Hey, are you okay?" As like, "I'm sorry, but did your Capital also get stormed or not? Why are you checking on me? Shouldn't you also feel furious, scared, outraged that there are white supremacists terrorists with Confederate flags that literally just attacked and broke into the Capitol. How are you checking on me right now?"
Selema Mabena Masekela: I've talked about this. Many people have talked about this before. There are this time, because it's what happened. George Floyd. Because of COVID, it was a culmination point. And then people didn't have any place to be able to run and hide. Everyone was forced to pay attention and pay attention in a way where all groups had to have some level of reckoning or discussion within their spaces. And the outdoors in general has always thought that they get to get past because it's a place that's so steeped in freeness and "We're just outliving the best of our lives and the environment, et cetera. We can't possibly be co-conspirators or aiders in the betters of any of this bullshit when it comes to race." It's for everyone. And if you look into surfing, it was like, "Yeah, bro, we don't see color. It's just the ocean. It's for everyone. Don't bring that shit here." And I was just like, "No. Fuck that." COVID really brought out the depth of the right-wing conservatism that exists in the surfing industry. The lead anti maskers and the people who were protesting the loudest in our community were Orange county surfers. And I was like, "Oh my God, I know some of those people." And then when George Floyd happened, some of the loudest voices that I was hearing were people within the surf community. And I was like, "This motherfucker." You all say that there's no room for this and it's all kumbaya, but we're talking about Black lives and you all want to aggressively scream all lives? No, not today. And I ain't going to sit on the sidelines anymore. So I started speaking and speaking on a regular basis. And also just from a grieving standpoint, from a catharsis, I didn't have any choice. The only way I could deal with what I was feeling was to speak on it and I was not going to care about making white people comfortable. That's what I just felt like I had to do. And again, being the son of... watching what my father did in the manner that he spoke out relentlessly against the apartheid and against just injustice in general for any disenfranchised peoples, I didn't have a choice.
Addie Thompson: Okay, Faith, what is the Merrell Hydro Moc? I've started to see them popping up all over Instagram.
Faith E. Briggs: I could try to answer that question, but I think it makes more sense to ask one of the coolest people I know, a staple of the New York City run community, Jeb Helado. So I got the scoop from him.
Jeb Helado: Oh, Hydro Moc, love them. In the summertime, in the woods a lot. I go camping. I hang out at the lake and they just seemed like the perfect shoes because they're ventilated and they're waterproof. I just did that 50K, probably the last 10 miles, I was like, "Oh, I just can't wait to get these shoes back on there just to let them breathe and recover."
Faith E. Briggs: You heard it from the source, an NYC sneakerhead, marathoner, ultra runner, and one of the most stylish people I know. Thanks Jeb. The Merrell Hydro Moc. Walk, don't run to get you a pair.
Faith E. Briggs: If we're honest, I first got the Patagonia Houdini jacket out of pure jealousy because you always had one and it just seemed like the most helpful layer.
Addie Thompson: That's so crazy. I genuinely had no idea that's why you got yours. Yeah. Mine's been through sleet in Chamonix, wind in the White Mountains, heat in the desert, basically everywhere.
Faith E. Briggs: To say it's a staple for both of us is an understatement. It's super light, folds into a pocket. It's a layer that doesn't feel like a commitment, for you commitment phobes. And I usually just wedge it in the back of my sports bra half the time.
Addie Thompson: I've been running with a Houdini for over five years now, the same Houdini. It fits right in your vest or your pocket or your hand.
Faith E. Briggs: The Patagonia Houdini jacket, transform your world.
Addie Thompson: Oh, here we go again.
Faith E. Briggs: I wanted to ask about Stoked, which is a word that came into my vocabulary probably about four years ago and now it's constantly coming out of my mouth, having moved to the west coast. And I'm just like, "Where did this come from?" And yet it feels so right. So when they ask me about Stoked Mentoring, not the word, but feel free.
Selema Mabena Masekela: Stoked. Stoked came about because I've gotten to a certain point where I started at X games in 1999 and next thing you know by 2005, I went from going to the X games and seeing what it's going to be to becoming the host of the X games and having a television career. And then within six years, finding great professional success and yet at the same time, out of all the X games, Summer and Winter, only encountering two or three Black athletes out of the literally thousands that I encountered. And there was also this thing of like, people would always be like, "Well how do you know the tricks and stuff?" And "did ESPN send you to a special school to learn all this stuff because it's just amazing." And "I mean of course you don't do these sports do you?" And that part would be like "What, really?" Believe it or not people still ask me that question to this day. And there was also this thing, of people then would be asking questions about why there weren't more people who look like me and that were within this culture, especially since you were the guy. And I was like, "Well, opportunity, racism, all of the things." And they would be shocked. And then it was always, "Well, what are you going to do about it? Well, you should do something about it." Black guy who's got success in this space now. You. you should do something about it outside of just doing your job and entertaining people. You should do something about it." And I did actually want to use my platform. I wanted to figure. I wanted to reach out and connect with other unicorns, other onlys, as I like to call them. But I met a guy reached out to me by the name of Steven Larosiliere called my agency at CAA and was like, "I'm Steve. I would love to talk to Selema Masekela." And he ended up being a Haitian kid from New York like myself. He had fallen in love with snowboarding and mentorship was his space. And he was like, "I want to start this thing called Stoked." And we started talking about the principles of snowboarding and what it had done for us in our lives. And we started talking about falling down and getting back up and what that means in life. Having to negotiate a new environment and how to negotiate that environment safely in a way where you're able to thrive, even though it's dangerous. Having to learn how to adapt and socialize with people in these spaces and have exchange and build camaraderie and community. And then we realized all this shit that's within skateboarding, snowboarding, and surfing, and a bunch of other activities. But for us within this, the sideway stance trifecta ... Whereas it's the basic elements of life and navigating a hard-ass world. And what if we could put something together to use the sports as a way to teach, to get kids to learn about these principles in a way that maybe helps them to choose who they want to be as human beings, despite the limitations that have been put upon them by a society that they're supposed to be limited to, within their four block radius or whatever. And that's how Stoked was born. Steve was the mentorship brains. I had the industry relationships and we talked for like five hours that first night and he flew out the next day, stayed on my couch. And I started picking up the phone and calling everybody in the industry that I knew, that I had done shit for over the past decade and be like, "Yo, I'm doing this thing, and we need your help." And people said, "Yeah, where do I sign up?" But long story short, that was 15 years ago. And we've since helped, through mentorship, over 6,000 kids in New York and Los Angeles as well as Chicago. And it's just been a beautiful thing to be able to be a part of.
Faith E. Briggs: In addition to introducing so many people to board sports through Stoked, Selema has been connecting with newer folks in the surf, skate and snowboarding spaces via social media. I personally feel like Instagram specifically has broken down a lot of walls that make people feel inaccessible to each other. I love being able to see Selema's raw responses to what's happening in the world through his videos. In 2020 Selema was invited to be part of a paddle out in memory of George Floyd, hosted by the women from a surf collective called Textured Waves.
Selema Mabena Masekela: I discovered Textured Waves in, I think it was November or so, 2020. My heart just sung. I was like, "Wait, there's a group of Black women that have decided to build their own platform and make content to showcase themselves not just occupying the space, but thriving in this space, and making it look a whole different type of beautiful than people could ever comprehend. Like what?" I was like, "Yo, this is amazing." I was speechless. I became a straight up fan boy and then got to know some of them online and learn their stories. I hadn't gotten to see Black women this way, and surely A, not taking up the space. And then B, being like, "We're going to show you an end of surf culture that you didn't know existed. You probably weren't ready for, and we're going to give it to you in all this fabulousness, like just draped in Blackness." And so when Danielle reached out to me and said, "We're doing this thing, and we want you to be a part of it." I was like, "Well, I can't say no." And they were like, "We're doing it in Encinitas. We're doing it where you're from." And I was like, "Ooh, wow. I wonder what that'll be." And I thought maybe there'd be like a couple hundred people that would show up or something, you know? And we were also nervous because we were hearing online that Proud Boy groups and various types of disruptors were literally on trend. They were saying how they were jumping on the freeway or jumping on the Amtrak to come out and disrupt. And the sheriffs were there and shit. I was like, "Are we going to being seeing some weird conflict today?" You know? And I thought maybe a couple hundred people would show up, but then people just started showing up in the hundreds and then the thousand, and then another thousand. And it was white people for the most part. And they were with their kids and they had made signs and they had turned their surfboards into art and they came stoic and with resolve and reverence for what the moment was. And they were there to listen and learn, and they were there to say that they wanted to participate. And watching it happen in real time, where your expectations are maybe a couple of hundred people show and then there's thousands. And then someone hands you a megaphone and you look out over the beach and all you could see is people in those sand and they've got their fists up. It was the most hopeful moment. It was like a giant lifeboat in the midst of this whole time. It gave me buoyancy in a way that has helped me navigate the rest of all this thing. It was a pivotal time of real buoyancy to the soul. I was weeping and I felt my dad on my shoulder. And you know, I felt compelled to ... I had seen some regional Black Lives Matter movements, and I saw this woman that week, this young girl who had carried on with a moment of silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds, and it was mostly Black people who were there. And I didn't plan on it, but in the midst of my talk I said, "And now we're going to sit and be silent for these eight minutes and 46 seconds." And on that beach, all you could hear were the waves and this mostly white crowd on their knees, many people weeping and feeling that energy. And it was the most powerful collective thing that I've ever been a part of. It was powerful and it began not just dialogue, but really began a thing where I'm seeing the industry really want to take action. Not all. There are those who are vehemently opposed to this idea of expanding the landscape and making room for others, because they feel like shit's being taken away from them, but you know what? Fuck 'em. Fuck 'em. We are done placating your feelings, for feeling like you're losing abundance of space that someone can made you confused into thinking you had ownership of. And that it only had to look like y'all. So respectfully, and with love, fuck 'em. This is the change, and the tide will turn when it comes to the totality of what the outdoors means to people in this country. The outdoors is going to be a safe space and a place where people go to define themselves and shape themselves and grow and heal and rinse, for everyone. But I don't know, there are some people who are so ... I couldn't imagine what the security blanket of whiteness must feel like, and not being able to let that go, so you can fucking grow with the rest of us. Especially since we're all here for such a short time, like you died with your blanket, essentially. Like you got old with your blanket. Carrying around you, this blanket and your thumb in your mouth is to me, like the idea of holding onto whiteness. It's just being like, "No, absolutely no." So yeah, that's one that only the future will tell us.
Addie Thompson: So interesting. When you said, Selema, the piece about the outdoors, I mean, you honestly summarized ... We both looked at each other, because you summarize the entire kind of mission statement of why we're having these conversations. Because "Oh, the outdoors and the environment. It's so free, it's so natural, and the space is for everyone. Everyone's welcome." Well, I'm white. And I think that what I started to see was, this summer happened and a lot of white folks in the outdoors industry, in the outdoor spaces came and said, "We're starting to ask these questions. Like we want to do something." And I do genuinely believe that a lot of folks do actually want to do something. But I also think that the blanket that you're describing is so unfortunately easy and comfortable and there. And why would we go out of our way to take it off, to really do the work, to actually dismantle, to take this off and to dig in. So we saw this conversation starting to arise around the outdoors and said, "How can we dive in deeper and actually have these conversations?" And what I'm hoping to do also is, as a white person, come in and start to just listen, just have these conversations and be extremely privileged and in an amazingly lucky position to even be a part of these conversations, just like this one. My sense of this, from being in years of conversations with people like Faith, my very good friend, Faith, and others being like, "Addie, you've always driven up to a trail head and seen people that look like you." And that took me years to figure out. And then I did and realized that's not everyone's experience. And this is the most basic obvious summary of a white person realizing like, "Oh man, the outdoors isn't for everyone? That's crazy." And yet, that is what is happening around the world right now. And it is crazy that it hasn't happened yet or that it is happening right now, in 2021. I don't even know what year it is anymore. And yet there's hope. Right? So there's all these things being juggled at once. I don't even know. But yeah, it's ... Yeah. I'll stop there.
Selema Mabena Masekela: Well first of all, thank you for choosing to listen. It is a big choice and the fact that you're choosing to listen calls you to action, you have far more leverage and ability to, quote, unquote, speak the language to the people who don't get it than Faith, myself, and 500 others can. I tell people all the time, "Yeah, I might have a biggest platform, but you can speak the language." I can give textual experience. And like some people, they can choose to be like, "I can't hear you. I can't hear you." But they can't not hear you. So thank you. And don't diminish the power of what it is that you have to give in this situation. And when I see the various ways ... It's funny. There's a young woman in Colorado, she has an IG page called the Unpopular Black. And it's totally 100% dedicated to the outdoors and adventuring. And it's all about myths of the outdoors and getting people of color into the outdoors and telling experiences of what it's like to be a person who shows up into spaces where they are the only person who looks like them. And the instant uncomfortability that is for other people and for the white people who are there and how they, in turn, go out of their way to make you feel uncomfortable, either at a micro-aggressive manner or an outwardly aggressive manner. So when I see this woman who runs the Unpopular Back, when I see all of these various platforms that it's bringing up, the people of color, Black and brown kids, LGBTQ plus kids, people, are just saying like, "Look, we are out here. And we are taking this space that you don't want to give us. And we're going to start story telling our own shit about what this means to us. We are going to redefine this culture with or without you. And if you don't fuck with us, your businesses probably aren't going to last very long, because you're looking at the future." I tell people all the time this is lifelong work. And if you really want to do it with joy, then you need to figure out how to grow and enhance you as a person and make this a lifestyle. This is a lifestyle. Getting the adjustment for the new lens of how you see the world, that shit takes time. And there's going to be some tears involved. And I'd much rather, see you do it that way. But if for some, it has to start from a place of them being scared, at this point, I'll take it.
Faith E. Briggs: Yeah. I mean, when you started part of that, I was like, "Yeah, I'll take it. It's not ideal, but I'll take it." And yeah, the Unpopular Black and so many others have been using the social media space to really upset and expand.
Selema Mabena Masekela: Right. I love it. All Mountain Brothers. I mean, there's so many. Every time I see a new I'm just like, "Yes. Yes. We love it." And the other one, Black Equestrians. I was like, "Yes. Let's go. All of it. All of it. All of it. All of it. All of it."
Faith E. Briggs: I want to say, I believe in giving people their flowers while they're here. And the space that you've made for so many other people, myself included, cannot be ... I don't have the words to express how much it means. And I know that is a sentiment that I share with so many people, so many people who could go on and on and on about so much more of the details of what they know and what they want to ask you about. So I feel really honored to be able to ask some of those questions and to share this time and space with you, and to just hear about what you're thinking about now, and what's bringing you joy and buoyancy. So thank you.
Selema Mabena Masekela: That really, really, really means a lot. I want all those people to know, when I see this next generation and the manner in which that everyone's just flexing themselves out there, it just makes me so joyful. It just makes me so joyful. And it just lets me know this is just the beginning. And I look forward to being that old man who sees all of our hues dancing in all of the spaces and the places. And I will aid and abet and be a conspirator for all that I can with what I have to give in the spaces that I occupy for as long as I'm here. So thank you. Thank you very, very, very much. That means a lot.
Addie Thompson: Selema, thank you so much for sharing hours of your time and so many amazing stories with us. Your words are filled with profound insights that are lessons for folks navigating outdoor spaces without seeing others that look like them, as well as for folks who are looking to step it up as allies when it comes to equity and access.
Faith E. Briggs: To learn more about Selema Mabena Masekela you can visit our website, thislanddoc.com/thetrailahead. We'll be sharing links to the many components of his work in the show notes. You can follow him online on Instagram and Twitter at Selema. The music throughout this episode is from Selema's band, Alekesam.
Addie Thompson: The Trail Ahead is created and hosted by us, Faith E. Briggs and Addie Thompson. It's produced by Lantigua Williams & Co. Jen Chien is our editor. Sound design and theme music by Cedric Wilson.
Faith E. Briggs: Our podcast art is by Shar Tuiasoa. Check them out on Instagram, @punkyaloha. Special thanks to our amazing teams from Merrill, Adam Kepper, Lauren King, Will Pray, and, from Patagonia, Bianca Bata, Sasha Tenety, Claire Gallagher, and Whitney Clacker.
Selema Mabena Masekela: Big thanks also to Trail Butter and Outdoorsy. And thanks to our team on the visual side, Tyler Wilkinson Ray, Fred Gorris and Monica Medellin. Thank you for listening and for spreading the word. Follow the Trail Ahead on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. See you next episode.