Published August 7th, 2020 at 6:00 AM
As an African American growing up in Oklahoma, Wayne Hubbard never questioned that minorities had a place in the outdoors.
He and his family lived close to the land. They fished, hunted, gardened and collected wild greens — and they put nature’s bounty on the dinner table.
Maybe that’s why he was so surprised when he heard, “Blacks don’t hunt or fish.”
“It’s like we were invisible,” said Hubbard, who lives in Kansas City. “We were out there enjoying the outdoors, but a lot of people looked the other way. It was like they didn’t see us.”
From that point on, Hubbard dedicated himself to preaching inclusion in the outdoors. One of the first people he convinced was the woman who later became his wife, Candice Price.
They worked together on a marketing project in Kansas City and hit it off. Hubbard’s idea of a first date was to go on a pheasant hunt together.
Candice balked at first.
“I told him I was a city girl,” she said. “I didn’t want to do all of that stuff.”
But she gave in and tagged along. And she immediately discovered the joys of the outdoor world.
“It was magical,” Candice said. “Watching the bird dogs point, seeing the birds flush, the fresh air — I loved it right from the start. And when Wayne cooked up the pheasants, it was delicious.”
That marked the start of a relationship based partly on a love of the outdoors. Hubbard and Price married in the early 2000s and they immediately joined forces to encourage other Blacks to become involved in fishing, hunting, camping and hiking.
The turning point came when they decided to start their own television show, “Urban American Outdoors,” to give people of color a look at what they could do in the outdoors.
It was one of the first outdoors shows in the nation owned and produced by a female African American, hosted by an African American and with content driven by African Americans.
“We looked at the outdoors shows that were on at the time and we didn’t see people of color,” Hubbard said. “The only time you would see a Black was if he was a sidekick or a professional athlete.”
Price added: “It was about representation. We wanted to change the narrative.”
So the couple came up with a series that not only featured Blacks in the outdoors, but also highlighted Black history with segments on the Buffalo Soldiers and many of the people of color who were frontiersmen, mountain men and cowboys who helped build our country, and cooking demonstrations by Hubbard.
They filmed a pilot and Price distributed it to some of the contacts she made while involved in television production work. Within a week, they had three offers for national distribution.
“Urban American Outdoors” began airing on the Urban Television Network, which was seen across the nation. Later, the show was featured on Channel 41 in Kansas City and Metro Sports on Time Warner Cable.
When it was shown locally in Kansas City, the response was overwhelming.
“The phone was ringing non-stop from people who wanted to know where they could fish, how they could get started, where they could take their kids,” Hubbard said.
That led Hubbard and Price to establish a kids fishing derby. They reserved space at the kids fishing pond at Wyandotte County Lake in Kansas City, Kansas, and expected 50 to 75 kids and their parents to show up. They got more than 300 kids, and they know they were onto something.
Today, their Urban Kids Fish program has gone national. They offer derbies in Atlanta, on the mall in Washington, D.C., Ferguson, Missouri, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon, in addition to Kansas City.
“We do the Field of Dreams thing,” Hubbard said. “Built it and they will come.
“We have our derbies in the inner core, and we get huge crowds everywhere we go. It shows us that a lot of these kids and their parents are interested in the outdoors if they are given the opportunity.”
Meanwhile, the television show is going stronger than ever. It has won more than 50 awards for broadcast excellence, including four Emmy nominations. Both Hubbard and Price have been named to prestigious federal advisory boards, many seeking their input on how to make the outdoors more inclusive.
Today, “Urban American Outdoors” is shown nationwide on Bounce TV, Spectrum, Comcast and other affiliates.
That isn’t to say there haven’t been obstacles, though. They still struggle to get sponsors from the outdoors world.
“I brought our idea to management of one channel and the guy I talked to just had a belly laugh,” Hubbard said. “He told me, ‘Blacks will never support something like that, and white people won’t watch either.’
“But today, that channel is gone and we’re still here. Like Candice and I always say, ‘Refuse to lose.’ “
Bringing diversity to the outdoors. That’s always been the goal.
“We want to show positive images of Blacks in the outdoors and show them that they have a place there,” Price said. “Nature doesn’t discriminate.”
Flatland contributor Brent Frazee is a Kansas City based outdoors writer.