At state-run public parks and privately-managed resorts across America, the popularity of outdoor recreation in the wild has swelled over many decades. Whether the partakers are thrill-seeking enthusiasts who do it just for fun or seasoned expeditionists who engage in organized competition, the growing number of participants has granted the genre commercial success.
In 2018, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis released its first-ever report, which broke down the aggregate success of the outdoor recreation industry in terms of dollars and cents. The federal government’s economic report said that over $427 billion dollars were generated by the outdoor recreation industry as a whole in 2017.
For years, the consumer base’s multi-cultural makeup, which drove this robust industrial segment of the U.S. economy was not depicted on television programs that marketed the industry. It was not until 1999 that a black man and woman would embark on a mission to show America that the outdoor adventure sports industry was not a white-only phenomenon.
Wayne Hubbard (pictured) is the host and producer of “Urban American Outdoors,” a reality television show that first became syndicated in 2003. Along with the show’s executive producer Candace Price, Hubbard brought the first-ever black-created outdoor recreation show to television. The show has won a Telly Award and has also been Emmy-nominated several times.
However, the road toward bringing Hubbard and Price’s creative vision to television screens across America was anything but easy.
In 2020, Hubbard’s life, business background, and personal legacy were chronicled by a Kansas City, Kansas-based filmmaker named Roger M. Suggs. In association with Toyota North America, the GTM Media Firm, and the T.R.U.T.H Apparel clothing line, Suggs produced and directed the film Urban American Outdoors: The Wayne Hubbard Story.
Hubbard’s episode is one of the segments in a 10-part “mini-mentary” series Suggs organized for the purpose of honoring the unsung trailblazers in his city; a duty he is very passionate about. In the film, Hubbard shares the ups and downs he has experienced throughout his career in television as a pioneer who broke the color barrier in his arena.
“People always see the positive things that we’ve done. The problem that we’ve had is that they don’t see all the difficulties that we went through,” Hubbard told Suggs during the film in an on-camera interview.
Hubbard talked in a serious tone when he described how racist and incendiary insults were hurled at him, such as “n*gga outdoors.” He described the obstacles of meeting time and time again with television executives; only to be told that his projection of imagery as a black outdoorsman did not fit the demeaning, stereotypical mold that white decision-makers in the business preferred.
But things get very amazing when Hubbard discusses America’s history and how black people have always been a part of the nation’s outdoor recreation experience. He even discloses a fact about his own ancestral family background link to a legion of black men who were the epitome of what honorable was in early U.S. history.
“Growing up, I had family that was a part of the Buffalo Soldiers. Now realize that the Buffalo Soldiers are really unique. They were part of an African-American regiment that was responsible for the branding and making of the West,” Hubbard said.
“When we hear about ‘how the West was won,’ a large part of that was because of the Buffalo Soldiers,” he continued.