The Adventure to Acceptance
Caziah Franklin’s Story
By Nicole Swickle
Athlete, musician, artist, adventurer, advocate. Those are just a few words to describe humble change-maker, Caziah Franklin. When it comes to his love for the outdoors, the Texas-native acknowledges, “there’s not a lot of people who look like me doing this.”
Son to Grammy-winning gospel artist, Kirk Franklin, Caziah is the youngest of four siblings. Music composed much of his upbringing, while recreational climbing and the outdoors rooted him in a sense of purpose that would later become bigger than any boulder. Caziah was introduced to the outdoors at a week-long summer camp in Texas. It was his first exposure to outdoor activities besides hiking or running. “My dad has never been fishing; he’s never done anything like that. But I’ve never needed anything like that from him,” he said. “This summer camp was like an invitation to recreation. It was very informal. An odd invitation to the outdoors.”
Caziah’s zest for the simplicity of the wind and feeling grounded in nature only grew with time. With that passion came an unintentional awareness that he was a minority among his newfound community. It was in the second grade that he could feel it, though he didn’t quite have the vernacular to express it. “When you’re that young, you don’t really pay attention to a lot of things,” he said. “I noticed as the years went by that I was the only Black kid at camp. It didn’t sink in at the time, but that’s when I saw the lack of equilibrium and asked, who’s doing these activities?” The sport of climbing seemingly found Caziah, where he participated in and won wall challenges at camp. “There was a weird shift in respect when I won,” he reflects. But in his heart, it was never about being the best. It was about being the best he could be. “My main goal is to be a representative. You can’t be an example if you’re not present in what you’re doing.”
While his appreciation for the camp never wavered, Caziah admits he continued to feel his Black presence among his peers in microaggressive ways. “I didn’t get to enjoy myself until the fourth day, and now I have two days left until my parents pick me up,” he reflected.
Despite his experiences, Caziah has not let it stop him from pursuing his love for adventure. Instead, he has built a lifestyle advocating for inclusivity, simply by showing up. His message of acceptance in the outdoors: “It’s not because we don’t want to. It’s just because we don’t know that we can, or we don’t feel invited.”
During the pandemic in 2020, Caziah delved into the history of outdoor recreation. His natural curiosity drove him to understand how historical segregation plays a role within the adventure community. Jim Crow laws in the 1960s made it difficult for Black people to enjoy recreational sites like lakes or the YMCA. “If inclusion and equality weren’t built into the fabric of our infrastructure, it’s really hard to tie it in. But it’s not impossible,” he said. He also encourages people of color to break down the narrative that they are not invited, despite how challenging it can feel.
Caziah’s passion spans far beyond the crags he climbs and the gavel beneath his bike tires. He’s currently a full-time student at Full Sail University, where he’s enrolled in their audio sound design program. He works part-time at Cumberland Transit, the oldest outdoor shop in Nashville specializing in bikes and adventure. In addition to his outdoor endeavors, Caziah writes, produces, mixes, and masters his own music.
As he reflects on his crafts and how they effortlessly blend to inspire one-another, Caziah shares that the mountains, the rivers and wilderness have deconstructed and reconstructed his approach to artistry. With gospel in his bones and his father’s rich legacy in mind, Caziah admits he’s had years where he’s tried to push down music and drown it out.
So much of my life, I’ve allowed others and myself to compare my talents and my gifts to my fathers,” he said. “I’ve allowed myself to burn out by striving to be different and striving to find my own sound, striving to figure out what makes me different. I noticed that when I did put music down for a season and pick up my love for the outdoors, the outdoors began to write new songs and new sounds.” Caziah’s risk to jump into a new love brought his other loves up to the same speed. Now, they’re working together in harmony.
I’m going to put 110% into everything I do,” said Caziah, whose focus remains on telling stories rather than topping Mount Everest. Advocacy was never the plan for the 22-year-old. It was a calling that continues to draw him in, pushing passion into purpose.
He reflects on his experience and continued efforts toward inclusivity. “I think it’s interesting how we refer to people by race before what we are as a person. I’m referenced as a Black climber, I’m a Black musician. I don’t find that offensive. I’m not sitting here trying to take off my skin color. I guess my question is, how many times do we have to tell that story?”
When it comes to Caziah’s story, he shares, “To me — I’m a creator who happens to be Black. I’m a climber who happens to be Black. I don’t like putting the Black in front. Cause I think whenever I do that, people automatically assume I’m going to share that story of oppression. I’m tired of doing that. You know, let me just share my story as an individual.”
Caziah says that he doesn’t need an invitation to show up, but he does need an invitation to feel welcome and comfortable. Everyone is waiting for someone else to invite them. That’s the simple work the that will bring acceptance into adventure.
Connect with Caziah on IG: @caziahfranklin