Sad news this week. Joi “SJ” Harris died while filming as a stunt double for Dead Pool 2. Joi was from Brooklyn, and was hailed as the “first licensed African American women in the U.S. to actively compete in sanction motorcycle road racing events”. Joi was doubling for actress Zadie Beetz on set when she lost control of her bike during a stunt. She then jumped a curb and was thrown through a plate glass window at Shaw Tower in Vancouver. She wasn’t wearing a helmet during the stunt, and police have reported that she died on the scene.
What makes this story even more sad was that witnesses told local reporters that Joi did the stunt perfectly four times, but on the fifth try, something went wrong. Ryan Reynolds gave the following statement: “Today, we tragically lost a member of the crew while filming Deadpool. We’re heartbroken, devastated…but recognize nothing can come close to the grief and inexplicable pain her family and loved ones must feel in this moment. My heart pours out to them — along with each and every person she touched in this world.”
According to an article in Black Girls Ride magazine, Joi stated “I am everything people never saw in this sport. Sisters on the track are few and far in between. I want to show them that there’s more for them to be exposed to. I want to get kids interested through experience”. Which makes me wonder if, culturally, we limit ourselves from certain activities. Or that we’re drawn into others because of our race or upbringing? Which is a topic that I find very interesting. I realize that there are certain factors that can influence the kinds of interests you develop. Such as geography. But is there more to it? And specifically from a racial perspective.
Perhaps this idea doesn’t come from race specifically, but more from discrimination. Whether that is because of race or something else – like socioeconomic background. Joi, for example, got into something that most girls of colour don’t. And she wants people to know that there are other things out there that they can be interested in. There are other things out there for you. And that doesn’t mean that you can’t, or shouldn’t because of your colour. Which is an extremely positive message, in my opinion. Because honestly, what does the colour of your skin have to do with what your profession is?
In addition to her death being a tragedy. I also think it’s a tragedy that more people didn’t know about her when she was alive. Specifically for that reason mentioned above. It’s that “you can do anything” adage, but with a bit of a twist. Race aside, she was doing something that is traditionally considered a man’s job. I hate to phrase it that way, but that’s how we view it. So not only is she breaking down racial barriers, she’s also being inspirational to all women, in that you can do anything. Sure, there are always going to be limitations around the “you can do anything” idea. Limitations exist. But race shouldn’t be the reason that you can’t.