Archive | May, 2015

Madrid Day 1 – The absence of presence or “Really? Starting from the plane ride, huh?”

31 May

Call it divine coincidence, an instersection of fates, dumb luck or just plain misfortune (all in how you look at it, right?), but my flight to Madrid was shared with 90 (yes, 9-0) high school students and their Spanish teacher/chaperones on their way for a “Spain Immersion” (at least according to their t-shirts).

I love the idea of students going abroad, in fact, I encourage it with my own students and dream about it for my own children.  However, seeing as how this is “Black Away from Home,” this post is not entirely about the joy of seeing fresh faces about to embark on an overseas experience, but more about the absence of a particular type of face:  


Ninety students, eight teachers and 3 brown faces, none of which were adult chaperones. What is the gap between linking travel to experiential learning within our community?  Yes, we travel, there are several African American travel groups that have gained popularity in recent years.  Yes, we study diligently.  This graduation season has produced and will produce numerous (I dare say thousands) of brown faces donning honor chords or joined with some type of cum laude behind their names (“Thankya-lawdy” not included), yet very few of us can be found preparing for a summer study abroad experience..

Now, as a prodcut of one of the most prestigious HBCUs in the nation (big ups Spelman College),  

 I know that we do study abroad (did it myself in college some moons ago).  But with this “post-racial,” “can’t-we-all-just-get-along” mask to which we currently claim ownership, there is something to be said about the lack of diversity, the tiny number of students of color in this particular group–from Atlanta, where Black aristocracy claims to reign.  We are moving ourselves around the city and into specific neighborhoods so that we can put our children in the best schools, but we are not capitalizing on a critical aspect these schools have to offer, international education through study abroad.

The academician in me finds a particular response to this within international education literature and pedagogy…not a single brown-faced scholar stressing the benefit which thereby influences the brown-faced educator to inspire the the brown-faced students to “go and see the world.”  We seem to face-to-face with a concrete example of the educational disparities that continue to pervade our system.  This can be filled with simply sharing knowledge and information.  NBC said it best on Saturday mornings: “The more you know, the more you grow.”

Now if I am incorrect and there are noted scholars of color discussing the implications of international education for students of color, I stand corrected and humbly ask that you post their bibliographic information in the comments.  Until then, I’m getting my ‘bows ready to make room on this IE stage for me.

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Sharing the experiences of others – Roman Bolaji Johnson in Brazil

14 May

Check out this post from a grad student in Brazil reflecting on Afro-Brazilians http://sites.gsu.edu/brazil_2015_study_abroad/2015/05/14/oi-brasil-falo-how-black-brazil-is-changing-my-life/

Gearing up: Black Away to Spain

8 May

I am prepping for a faculty trip to Spain in the next couple of weeks, but my mind is plagued by the many events that are  happening both here and abroad to the disenfranchised and marginalized.  I am also critically assessing what will be my focus while I’m on this trip?  What do I hope to gain, what do I want to bring back?  All of these thoughts and questions are bringing me back to one image:

  What will be my purpose for the youth?  How will the knowledge and information I get in Spain empower our black babies in this world that is making it more and more clear that they are not a precious value?  
So some background is necessary before I provide an answer.  I am going to Spain to learn how to incorporate quality study away programs and intercultural competence for students at the university-level.  Traditionally, the study abroad program has been relegated for the more affluent and over the years, the critique has become that many of these programs have turned into “glorified vacations” for many students, not gleaning the experiential knowledge initially anticipated.  Scholars in international education as well as intercultural communication are calling for a paradigm shift in how students are able to learn from experiences while abroad so that the knowledge can be applied well after the US re-entry stamp has been received.

Paradigm shift…for me, my purpose is not only to contribute to the call from scholars above, but also to lend voice to underrepresentation of our black babies in this discussion.  How will I make sure they also benefit from this paradigm shift?  

Part of the planning for this trip includes scholarly readings, which the bookworm in me loves, but one of these readings made me stop for a second, because I realized that our babies have not tradiitonally been a part of international education discourse.  One scholar says about re-entry to the United States, “you have become what is called a marginal person, functioning more–and better–at the edges of society rather than at the center” (Storti, 2003).  This author goes on to say, “discovering your minrotity status can be unsettling, even frightening; you feel misunderstood, alienated, and alone in your country.” My apologies, but our black babies experience THIS feeling EVERY day!  

So my task and my focus for this trip to Spain–providing a voice for African American students, youth, children, families, whomever in this critical discussion about international education and experiences. I do not want to assume the absence of, but the seemingly matter-of-fact statement above tells me, it’s not loud enough.  That’s fine…here come the shouts!

More to come…Hasta pronto!

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