As a child, I remember Fridays being “fish day”, a household tradition in my family where we ate fish for dinner. Belmont Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn known as “Belmont” was the go-to spot for fresh fish. My mother and I would walk a few blocks to catch the B14 city bus for a 20–30-minute ride, we then walked a few more blocks to “Belmont”. No known address, we just knew where to go. There had to be at least 10 fish markets on this 2-3 block strip. These fish markets were always packed with people. After waiting in line to order, you had to wait again if you wanted your fish cleaned. It took about 3 hours for us to go to the market for fish and to get back home.
Growing up in the slums of Brooklyn (East New York), fishing was something I read about or watched on television. It never crossed my mind that we could go fishing and catch our own fish versus buying it from the fish market. After living in Virginia for several years, my husband and I purchased a travel trailer and began to visit campgrounds. In 2019, we fell in love with being outdoors and purchased a permanent seasonal waterfront site in Topping, Virginia on the Rappahannock River. It was there where I learned how to crab, and I began to share my journey on social media. My beloved nephew from Brooklyn, who passed away in 2020 from COVID-19, admired my journey and constantly expressed his desire to visit our waterfront site, so he could fish. After his passing, I sent for his 11-year-old daughter to spend the summer with us. I told her, “Let’s learn to fish! Your dad always talked about coming here to fish, so let’s learn to fish in his honor."
During Black History Month and beyond, I reflect on how fishing means everything to me and how it literally changed my life. Not only have I learned how to connect with nature, but I’ve also learned how to relieve stress and find peace while patiently awaiting a bite. I have a new hobby, I’ve met new friends, became an inspiration for my community, for Black people fishing, and a go-to person for new anglers and Black anglers too. Fishing inspires me to always be a student, continuing to learn and explore so that I can grow and teach others. I love saving money on groceries by having a stockpile of fish and crab meat in my freezer. I enjoy cooking fish for my family and friends. It’s so rewarding to watch them eat fish that I caught and cleaned myself. It’s also a blessing to support my community by giving away bags of fresh fish.
Lastly, fishing in memory of my nephew, and continuing my mother’s Friday “Fish Day” tradition is sentimental to me. When I think about the three-hour journey to the fish market as a child versus sitting on a pier, bank, or boat for three hours, I appreciate both experiences, but I would choose to sit on a pier, bank or boat any day. Teaching my daughter how to fish brings me joy knowing that she can pass the same tradition down to her family. I hope my story encourages you to explore fishing or inspires you to get back on the water if it’s been a while for you.