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Portland filmmaker’s latest work opens up the outdoors to Black communities

Kenny X Hamlett’s “Black People Don’t Do That” tries to break down barriers between BIPOC communities, the outdoors and discussions of mental health

PORTLAND, Oregon — In this week's Let's Get Out There, we highlight the work of a Portland filmmaker who is sharing his love of the outdoors by giving others a path to find their own comfort zone outside.

Kenny X Hamlett sings a familiar song on what could be considered the soundtrack of Oregon and Washington’s outdoor recreation.

“Anything the Pacific Northwest has to offer. I'm doing it,” he said. “I do everything in the outdoors. I surf, I mountain bike. I hike very little, but I do hike,” Hamlett said with a smile.

Hamlett is a filmmaker and outdoor enthusiast, and the tune he sings is catchy to many in the area, but not everyone.

Credit: Kenny X Hamlett

“Growing up, I had this phrase that anytime anyone introduced something to me that wasn't traditionally Black, I would say, ‘black people don't do that.’ It was like always this thing. And then when I got to college, I was introduced to camping. And then I was like…this is dope.”

Hamlett, a Black man, is sharing his love of the outdoors and the lessons he’s learned along the way through his latest film series “Black People Don’t Do That.” It’s a nod to the phrase he used as a kid, but now he using it to start a conversation. Things like mental health and making a space in outdoor recreation for the Black community.

“If you can't see you can't be it…and I'm a firm believer in that.,” said Hamlett. “That's something that's been a part of me since I was a kid, and now I understand it even more as an adult and I'm still learning what that means.”

Credit: Kenny X Hamlett

Hamlett stars in the film alongside friends Adam Edwards and Elijah Burton. The three have an honest conversation about their journey of discovery with outdoor sports and recreation as a backdrop to the raw emotion of being Black men and changing society’s perception when it comes to how Black men are viewed.

“I just wanted to make something that mattered and could change conversations and we could see us out there and doing the thing and it's not just about our experience of being Black and doing these things, but it's about other experiences,” said Hamlett. “As humans, we just happen to be Black, and we just happen to love to do things in the outdoors.”

Credit: Jon Goodwin, KGW

His film premiered to three sold out showings on Feb. 28 at Living Room Theaters on Southwest 10th Avenue in Portland. Hamlett is using his voice to bring a new harmony to the same old song.

“Introducing people that look like me into the sports and being able to see themselves and like truly see themselves where it's not just a Black dude that's doing the thing, but culturally, you hear the music, that's us, you see us act like us in these spaces.”

Let's Get Out there airs once a week on KGW's 4 p.m. newscast and The Good Stuff, which airs Monday-Thursday at 7 p.m. We're including viewer photos for this series. You can text your photos to 503-226-5088 or post them on the KGW Facebook page.


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