Rock climbing takes South Memphis adventurer to new heights

SOUTH MEMPHIS, Tenn. — At Memphis Rox, the community gets to experience a sport that many don’t get the opportunity to experience.

For one man, who grew up only two minutes down the street, climbing has taken him on an ice-climbing adventure that he never imagined.

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When a chance of a lifetime was presented to photojournalist Jonathan “Malik” Martin, he grabbed his camera, climbing tools, and a coat and headed to frigid Bozeman, Montana.

“A whole (other) world with mountains, scenery and a whole lot of things that I thought I would never do,” Martin said.

In early 2020, Martin and the Soulsville team partnered with three rock climbing legends who provided mentorship as the crew climbed the snow-topped mountains in the Hyalite Canyon.

“To be able to bring some of my peers who’ve never been from Memphis to the mountains so they can see the glory,” Martin explained. “To be able to see the stars naturally cascading across the sky without any light pollution is just a complete mind-shifting things that we were able to experience together.”

Martin and the Soulsville team were able to document their journey through a film, “Black Ice”.

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“Black Ice” documents their journey to the top of the mountains.

“The film cam underway because Conrad Anker, who’s a rock-climbing legend, reached out said he wanted to take us ice climbing,” Martin said. “It just started snowballing into this bigger thing and at the last minute, Real Rock came in and was like we should shoot a film about this moment.”

For Martin, the experience shocked his body.

“So for the first two days, I don’t really sleep, I don’t eat but you still have to hike to the spot, climb all day, hike back,” he explained. “So it’s like your body is in survival mode, at least for me. But you know, I’m from South Memphis. I can go into survival mode like the flip of the switch. It’s nothing big.”

Because of his connection with Memphis Rox, Martin is able to give back to the very community he grew up in.

“So this neighborhood is near and dear to my heart,” he said. “I saw it as an anchor that I could use to help spread my resources, knowledge and talents but also as a direct conduit to give back and mentor the youth.”

Martin now acts as a mentor to kids in his neighborhood.

“I wanted to bring back my talents and anything I could, resources, things I learned back to my neighborhood to give back.”

Martin promised that whatever he learns, he would continue to bring the knowledge back to Soulsville so they all can be fruitful.