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London, March 12, 2010 (The last day)

2 Jul

 

A Bicycle in Oxford

Ahhh! The lovely Oxford.  First of all, I see why public transportation is so efficient–it is the money making machine for jolly ol’ England.  But once we got there, beautiful!  I visited Radcliffe Camera (a reading room) and the Bodleian Library.

The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, England as vie...

The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford, England as viewed from the tower of the Church of St Mary the Virgin. This is a 10 (2×5) segment panorama taken by myself with a Canon 5D and 70-200mm f/2.8L at 70mm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I almost immediately became envious of the wealth and breadth of knowledge there.  Imagine the research I could do!  gain, that green-eyed woman returns to take her place in the courtyard (1 of 3) of the Bodleian Library.  I do see once again the confidence of this country.  It is fascinating to witness how lackadaisical they are about what they have acquired, the strength and power.  My mind however goes back to the House of Commons.  Why the propaganda?  Why present an identity that is not true? What is it that causes us to so meticulously arrange how we desire to be seen?

The effort it takes to present a particular open self pane in Johari’s Window does nothing more but enlarge the other panes of the self.  I think about ways in which individuals painstakingly hide and close off parts of themselves for the sake of only showing what they want the world to see.  This usually ends in catastrophe riddled with either humiliation or hurt.  It has happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to others.  But what will be the consequence when it is an entire country? A country whose hard head could very well have led to a backside as soft as pudding but as fragile as crystal…a devastating combination (2012 aside: I swear I wrote this in 2010 any resemblance to current countries’ status is purely coincidental).

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London, March 11, 2010

28 Jun
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. (Photo credit: meg_williams)

I found Black London and it was at “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof!”  (2012 aside: This version starred Sanaa Lathan, Phylicia Rashad and James Earl Jones to name a few noteworthy Black actors) The play was phenomenal!  Aside from that, the London theater culture is a rhetorical space worth discussing.

Londoners have maintained the notion of theater as an event.  They meet up with friends and buy tickets walk-up.  There are pub style bars all throughout the theater and they still have ushers, true ushers who greet you at the door and point out your needs not just your seat.

Moving to the patrons, in this case majority Black patrons.  They flocked to see this play, not a fried chicken, Tyler Perry, B-list singer turned actor-starred nonsense that is filled with Black faces in the US.  It was refreshing.  I know this sentiment is elitist, but the thought that I am not an anamoly when it comes to cultural interests has cushioned my cultural comfort level.

Oddly enough, today I felt more at home than at home sometimes.

English: Glass art by Dale Chihuly at an exten...

English: Glass art by Dale Chihuly at an extensive exhibition in Kew Gardens, London, in 2005. The boat is in front of the Palm House, where there are two other glass sculptures. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kew Gardens was also beautiful today.  Victorian England exuding confidence in her wealth.  To imagine that there was someone tasked to collect plant species so that there could be one housed in the Royal Gardens.  It’s abusive in many respects.  But, that’s the power of England at the time.

English: London black cab (Hackney carriage) C...

English: London black cab (Hackney carriage) Camera: Canon Digital Ixus v2 Exposure: 1/20 sec. Focal Length: 11mm Aperture: F/4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am glad I was able to go to the play tonight.  I even got to ride in a black cab too.  Just a BLACK evening! lol

 

On Day 6, I feel Black, but not really American.  I feel like an outsider in America, feeling most comfortable with the Blacks I was “with” this evening.

What actually constitutes a sense of belonging?  Is it based on shared experiences or general cultural similarities?

 

London, March 10, 2010

28 Jun

Homogeneity is that elephant in the room that as a Black female scholar, I always address in terms of its negative impact on me.  Historically my view of homogeneity was framed around Whites who demanded a sense of entitlement in their interactions with those unlike them (and yes, I am clear I have othered here).

Students of Nan Hua High School gathering in t...

Students of Nan Hua High School gathering in the School Hall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Today however I witnessed another type of homogeneity.  A type that has isolated a group to a point where they don’t realize that in every other place but their home country, they are not the majority or privileged.  But their approach to all things different is just as elitist as the White “entitled.”

Electric Avenue 2

Electric Avenue 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

I am talking about the lack of interest my students have in the people of London.  The disdain on the faces of some of my students as they walked the neighborhoods, quite honestly embarrassed me at times.  I wonder how many of them have actually seen all of the nieghborhoods in Atlanta?

Looking at the naturalistic paradigm it is clear that selective perception is born in experience.  The social constructions of our realities frame how we interpret all situations.  When you are socially constructed to all but romanticize all things Western, you choose not to see those aspects less than romantic.

My concern is when this social construction of reality inserts prejudice.  I cannot say “racist” because my students do not have the power they may have had in China.  That was taken away from them as soon as they left.  But prejudice for sure.  This is where my embarrassment enters.  My embarrassment comes from my own social construction of reality.  Having seen more experiences around socioeconomic status and pride, nationalism and identity, my understanding and perception is different.

 

Am I being elitist by judging the perspective of my students?

 

London, March 9, 2010

26 Jun
English: House of Parliament from the London Eye

English: House of Parliament from the London Eye (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is amazing to see the albatross of a building that makes up hundreds and hundreds of years of decision making power that determined the fate of the world.  Again looking at the rhetorical space, the vastness and ornate guilded spaces of the House of Parliament is telling of the level of influence this country wanted over the world.  Sadly, the vastness of negative space in the House of Commons is also telling of its current state of influence.

Going up the steps to the Public Gallery you see sketch upon sketch of a full House of Commons debating in true form.  The geek in me billoughs with excitement at the possibility of witnessing this event.  We finally get to the top…here it is …the moment of Western government in action…I am escorted to the gallery and my excitement fizzles out like a balloon.

The House of Commons at Westminster: This engr...

The House of Commons at Westminster: This engraving was published as Plate 21 of Microcosm of London (1808) (see File:Microcosm of London Plate 021 – House of Commons.jpg). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

House of Commons Chamber

House of Commons Chamber (Photo credit: UK Parliament)

Ten people for the governing side and 15 for the opposition?!  Are you kidding me?!  This is British government hard at work?  I’m barely listening to something about pay rates rather than HFCS.  Instead my mind wanders to the “Height of British Colonialism” imagining a full house determining the fate of the “New World” unseen.

For a moment, I longed for a discussion similar….only for a moment.  As I leave the gallery, the question on my mind is: Do the politicians no longer identify or associate themselves with the power they spent centuries trying to maintain?

Day 4, I feel like the identity biographer I am.  Reviewing the words and phrases provided by the rhetoric of British government through time and adding this rhetorical scene to the book…the chapter has changed.

Day 3, London, March 8, 2010

25 Jun
English: Piccadilly Circus, London

English: Piccadilly Circus, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Picadilly Circus, the theaters were fabulous!  The shopping made me a bit envious longing for a time when I can walk into a store and purchase what I want.  Not overboard, that’s insane.  Just see an item and buy it without worrying about what will be affected, will I be able to pay for necessities later, it’s all really ECK to me.The morning of Day 3, I feel like a green-eyed woman sitting closer to “have not” than “have” but ashamed that this thought has even crossed my mind.

Lunch in Chinatown with my students (2012 aside:  I should let you know I traveled to London with 13 students, only one of which was NOT a Chinese citizen)…if anyone ever thought that the Chinese were quiet, docile people they would have been in for a serious shock at lunch with MY students today!  The bositerous, over-talking chatterboxes who quarreled and asserted a high degree of personal agency are so polar opposite from the timid, non-participative students they represent in my classroom.

At lunch I feel like a foreigner amongst my students.  I now see how my classes may feel to them.  Jokes they don’t understand, customs they just go along with, just waiting for a moment of cultural comfort.

English: The Entrance to the british museum in...

English: The Entrance to the british museum in London, England (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Pillage Factory (a.k.a The British Museum)!  The quantity of artifacts is astounding.  I paid 8 pounds (approx. $16) to experience an African exhibit of Benin/Nigerian art.  The authoritative speculation of the functionality of the pieces, the carefree use of borderline heteronormative bigoted assumptions, down to the obligatory Black Londoner manning the gift shop the exhibit emptied out to once again showed the Imperial power of the Isle.

The Egyptian exhibit (followed later by 4 commercials advertising holdiays there on the BBC) made me uncomfortable.  Huge pieces of walls and statues standing at least 6 ft in height AND width standing prominently (and unprotected) in a mere hallway of the museum.  The audacityof this rhetorical space was boastful and unashamed.  Adding fuel to my heat, the way the White patrons would laugh at it, a novelty, Venus Hottentot as stone artifacts…but still mesmerizing in its splendor.  To be so close to the history of Africa to reach out and touch (or at least imagine touching) art a millenia in age…awe is not justifiable to what I felt.

Overall, on Day 3, I feel like a foreigner, neither American no Black, just not in a culturally comfortable place.  Is cultural discomfort the peak or rise of identity culture shock?

London, March 7, 2010

20 Jun
Deutsch: Das "Jewel-House" im Tower ...

“Jewel-House” in Tower of London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today we visited the Tower of London.  The usual tourist pomp and cirumstance.  The knights, the kings, the wars, the weapons, Tudors, Elizabethan, House of Gloucester, blah, blah, blah.  Don’t get me wrong, it was fascinating history: the period clothing, actors, London does it BIG!  Then I went to see the Crown Jewels……

My heart wrenched as I walked through the long lines with video of the “precious” Crown Jewels.  The stones were absolutely beautiful, yes, but when the parade, or corral, of tourists began at the Hall of Maces, I realized I was looking at millions of dollars of pillaged resources.  I counted 8 maces until I couldn’t take it anymore dating to the 1600s.  Solid gold and….IDENTICAL.  Did each monarch REALLY need his/her own mace?  Doesn’t it fit more with tradition to use the same one each coronation?

By the time I actually got to the jewels, visions of a raped Africa clouded my appeciation for the grandeur of royalty.  The pure golden christening basins made to drop dribbles of water on a baby’s head (who doesn’t know the difference) who happens to be royalty?  THOUSANDS of MY ancestors were raped, tricked and enslaved (I add in 2012 often by their own) so that the Prince of Wales could have his christening oil land on gold?!  Foolishness as my mentee would say.

Imperial Great Britain showed her face early today.  Today on Day 2, I feel unmistakably AFRICAN.

I found that after that ordeal, my conversations drifted back to either the glory of African peoples or the atrocities they or I have faced being Black.  Was it subconscious or purposeful?  Most likely, a bit of both.  Trying to assert a particular type of identity for myself in order not to let it wander back to the anger of the vaulted jewels stolen from my land in order to perpetuate the violently asserted power of the monarchs here.

Yup…unmistakenly AFRICAN today, “no hyphen, no hype!”  If I could remember the name of the sister I heard say that in a poem, she’d get a high five AND dap right now.  Tomorrow, I am going to the British Museum…tomorrow may not be much different from today…

Will my unapologetic African womanness keep me from appreciating art?

London, March 6, 2010

19 Jun
English: The City of London skyline as viewed ...

English: The City of London skyline as viewed toward the north-west from the top floor viewing platform of London City Hall on the southern side of the Thames. In the foreground: Dixie Queen and Millennium Time at Tower Millennium Pier. This is a 5 segment panoramic image taken by myself with a Canon 5D and 24-105mm f/4L IS lens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

So, although my trip to Brazil has since ended, my travel blogging has not.  As I await my next adventure, I figured I’d bring you up to speed of some of my “pre-blog” thoughts with my travel to London.

London- Day 1(1/2) March 6, 2010

Note to self: seasons are exactly the same as the US.  It is cold!  There was a brief moment of “good” weather complete with sunshine.  That did not last very long.

I went to the bar across from the hotel to observe.  A Manchester United game was on.  There weren’t many women in the bar unaccompanied, so that felt a bit awkward.  I saw a total of 3 Black men.  However I did not have my usual rush of comfort as I do in other foreign cities. It was mere novelty than anything else.  My “that’s cool” moment when I see something intriguing but not quite interesting enough to warrant further analysis and reflection.  It could be travel delirium and all will be well and normal tomorrow.

The one thing I see almost immediately in regards to ethnicity is the shear number of groups that travel in “formula packs” but not necessarily for the sake of tokenism.  Surviving my first day on the Tube and the National Rail today, I witnessed that many of the groups were diverse to their own level of comfort, but no member appeared outwardly out of place.

I recall how in the US when you see a group of White youth with the lone friend of a different ethnicity, be it Black, Asian or Latino (or even the reverse), that lone friend can often stick out like a sore thumb raising critical questions in my mind that go so far as to speculate the intended desires of his/her parents that may have resulted in the group of “friends.”

I find here in London though that rationale does not cross my mind when I see an ethnically diverse group.  Have I put qualifiers to bracket this bias just because I know I am in another country?

Day 1, I feel more AMERICAN than anything else.  However the trip has only just begun……..

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