As I plummeted 15,000 feet, I can honestly say my initial fear wasn’t of dying. The possibility of parachute failure or detaching from my tandem instructor didn’t cross my mind.
My only fear was that my friend Samantha would be right about my inability to skydive because I’m black. I could see her at my memorial service at the Eternal Flame proclaiming between sobs: “I told that (racial epithet) black people don’t skydive.”
But her deterrence only fueled my leap. It also compelled me to question why blacks consider certain activities, such as skydiving, unconventional behavior.
Students I spoke with on campus shared their sentiments of “black people don’ts.” Along with skydiving was skiing.
Well how could this be? Maybe blacks don’t do the cold. If that were the case, Matthew Henson would have never co-discovered the North Pole with Robert Peary in 1909.
Maybe it’s the notion black people wouldn’t risk their lives speeding down a mountain on parallel sticks.
Well, presently almost 20,000 blacks take ski trips with the National Brotherhood of Skiers every year. The organization’s Web site – www.nbs.org – shows that it has 84 ski clubs with three based in Florida: two in Miami and one in Tampa.
OK, then it must be ascending a mountain as opposed to sliding down one. Students named mountain climbing as another inactivity of blacks.
Elliott Boston III of Newport Beach, Calif. obviously didn’t get that memo, when he embarked to scale the tallest mountain on each continent in 2001, according to Ebony magazine.
Blacks are doing these things. If you search, you could probably find black river rafters, campers, hikers and bicyclists.
One of my professors rides his bike to campus daily. And ever since my plunge, aspiring black skydivers have bombarded me with questions.
I stumbled upon the idea after a friend told me she wanted to skydive. I researched the locations in Florida, the height of the jumps, rate of deaths, accidents and the prices.
I drove to the Skydive Space Center in Titusville, which has the highest jump in Florida of 18,000 feet, though I stuck with 15,000 feet.
The training took less than 10 minutes. In less than five minutes I was jumping out a plane screaming profanities.
The price of the jump was $155 for students with an additional $90 for photos and video. The experience was priceless.
And it all started with a conversation. It seems blacks stop themselves from taking the proverbial “first jump” because we don’t know others who’ve done “it.”
I didn’t know anyone who ever jumped. But the desire to try life-changing experiences is beneficial to human development, whether for blacks or other races.
Jumping out of a plane or climbing a mountain may not be your stepping-stone, but each of us has longed to do something, but didn’t, believing the stereotype of “black people don’t.”
So let’s work to erase this stigma by exploring different avenues.
Anthony Anamelechi is a senior newspaper journalism student from Washington, D.C. he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.