Kansas City team brings conservation message to the big city
For Candice Price and Wayne Hubbard, organizing a family outing is similar to your average fishing trip. They round up the poles and tackle, and the pond they stock is a little closer to the city center than the back 40. The real difference is they’re expecting anywhere from 200 to 1,500 people.
“It’s about the community, because kids can’t make it without Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa — somebody in their family,” Candice says of the program, Urban Kids Fish. “People are connecting with it because they feel welcome. They feel included.”
For two decades, and across 36 states and five countries, sharing the fun of fishing has brought countless families together. Based on that success, it’s easy to assume putting on a fishing derby is a full-time job for the Kansas City-based business partners. In truth, it’s one branch of an ever-growing tree — the roots of which go back to Wayne’s childhood spent hunting and fishing with his family in Oklahoma.
“My grandmother was a Cherokee Freedmen,” Wayne recalls, “and she always talked about the spiritual side of the outdoors: ‘you can’t take and not give back.’ ”
The sprouts took off when Wayne, Candice and their crew began filming “Urban American Outdoors,” a reality sports adventure show. When it was nationally syndicated in 2003, the show immediately gained attention and a Sports Emmy Award nomination.
“It wasn’t just hunting and fishing, it was the experience, from beginning to the end,” Wayne says of initial reactions to the show. “A lot of shows are so focused on the harvest and the trophy. We focused more on how people connect to the land and what makes the work that we do in nature great.”
The show was a trailblazer, not only for African-American owned and produced TV, but also many trends associated with the industry. Candice says the cooking portion of the show was a direct reaction to food insecurities they knew existed in the urban core.
“A big component was the food; whatever Wayne harvested, we could bring it back and feed everybody,” Candice says. “Twenty years ago, nobody was catching and cooking from an urban and soul perspective on TV. We started that.”
Likewise, Wayne doesn’t consider representing diversity in the outdoors to be anything new. He points to the Buffalo Soldiers, all-Black U.S. Army regiments who served on the frontier of the American West during the late 19th century, as one of the most popular examples that the outdoors has always been open to everyone. In a 2018 Toyota “Road to Discovery” series, Wayne channeled one of the soldiers as a tour guide for an African-American family visiting the national parks, where the Buffalo Soldiers served as some of the nation’s first park rangers. Playing this introductory role for families to the outdoors is the cornerstone of UAOTV’s programs.
“When you go back and look in the history, we were there,” Wayne says. “So what happened — what’s the disconnect? What we found out was that people didn’t know it. Seeing us do this changed the narrative in urban communities.”
During the past 20 years, the show has been nominated for four Emmys and won more than 75 broadcast awards, but its biggest successes are the programs and initiatives that grew from the original show. Those include donating wild game to food pantries through Urban Sportsman Feeding The Hungry, conducting youth hunting and hunter safety workshops and organizing Urban Kids Fish. Wayne notes one event saw five generations of one family fishing together.
“The whole experience is about how do we take the barriers away and make that experience accessible?” Candice adds. “We help create that space, and as Wayne has said sometimes we recreate our community.
Candice and Wayne’s roles as ambassadors for the outdoors have earned them both appointments to federal advisory councils. Those seats at the table inspired them to host the Urban Outdoor Summit, an event which focused on the relationship between people of diverse backgrounds and the environment, conservation and health and wellness issues.
If more than two decades of reacquainting urban families with the outdoors and helping to shape government policy wasn’t enough, there’s another task for Candice and Wayne. It’s a project that will never truly be finished: growing the number of people of color employed in the outdoors and conservation-related industries.
“I love it when people say, ‘you make it comfortable for us to be outdoors,’ ” Wayne says. “We want to make sure they have representation, and that’s how we make advocates, stewards and people who look for these kinds of careers.”
For more information, visit www.uaotv.com or follow UAOTV on Facebook.