Tag Archives: Africa

Moving into the travel curve….

10 Jul
passport stamps

passport stamps (Photo credit: jesse edwards)


As I continue to look for old journals that have entries from previous trips, I am taking the time to recall a woman I went to school with who made a comment a while ago that I just can’t seem to get out of my head.  We were going back and forth on twitter about this blog, Black Away from Home, and in sum, a concern arose for the small percentage of African Americans who actually make the effort to leave the “glorious” U. S. of A to explore the shores of another land.  I’m not just talking about taking a cruise (because you really only see the dirty port and a bunch of tourist-driven “artisan markets” of mass produced schotskies), or the obligatory girls (or guys) trip to some Caribbean island only within a 2 hours flight of US soil.

Time Zones

Time Zones (Photo credit: r.rosenberger)


I’m talking about crossing time zones by plane, to a location that has ALWAYS (not just since 9/11) required a passport stamp for admittance.  Those places where you may even have to change your watch to a time the day before you boarded the plane.  TRAVEL.  ON PURPOSE.  I wonder what is the psychology behind the lack of desire of African Americans to experience lands other than the United States.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m clear that there are plenty of things to do and see in the United States.  I also know that very few African Americans have explored this land either.

This is a photo of a public space in the cente...

This is a photo of a public space in the center of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on 27 December 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think about a sorority sister of mine who got the most awesome opportunity to teach in Abu Dhabi for 18 months.  For many of people in her circle, the instinctual reaction was “Why?” accompanied with a look of disgust or pity before her explanation.  Why does this seem to be our initial reaction to things unknown, particularly overseas travel?  I am extremely curious as to whether or not this is at all related to some sort sociocultural memory that we may have of “extended travel” that did not end too well for usn our past.

This is not a question in jest.  I seriously am wondering whether or not the memory of the Ma’afa (Middle Passage) is so ingrained into our genetic make-up that it takes a particular type of person to be able to overcome it and travel the world.  Has the treacherous voyage of our ancestors to this side of the world stymied some of us into ever traveling long distances again?  If that is an excuse that some of us would like to use, than how would we explain the movement during Jim Crow of many of our African-American artists who fled the US to live in Paris (James Baldwin, Josephine Baker) or during the post-soul movement those scholars and activists who fled to Africa and Cuba (albeit sometimes in exile) like Stokely Carmichael and Angerla Davis?

Photo by Rudolf Suroch of Josephine Baker. Hav...

Photo by Rudolf Suroch of Josephine Baker. Havana, Cuba. 1950 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What about Garvey, who encouraged African Americans in the early part of the 20th century to move back Africa, and the group who actually did and established Liberia?  It can’t just be that we are predisposed NOT to travel, there are so many examples of those of us who have.  When did we get to the point of complacency (or fear) that is seen as a novelty to travel overseas, or a representation of your personal wealth and status because you have traveled overseas (as someone who has only paid for 4 of the 18 overseas trips I’ve taken, MY monetary wealth is dismal at best).

I want to be one of the ones to encourage us to try it again.  This time, we are in control of where we go, how we will experience it and when we will leave.  We’re not fleeing oppressive conditions or circumstances (at least not too oppressive at this point, I may have a different response come January 2013 given the current move of US politics).

Another factor is money is always an issue.  Especially considering now in the Post-Bush economic debacle that pushed African Americans to the brunt end of economic woes and joblessness (No need to correct me.  I know who is president, but I also pride myself on being a literate citizen).  However, I also know that there are many travel agencies that specialize in “service travel,” or trips that cost little to nothing and allow you the opportunity to do service work (not necessarily mission work) overseas.

Travel Guides

Travel Guides (Photo credit: Vanessa (EY))

The opportunities are out there.  I encourage ANY African American who has dreamed of going somewhere (even if a fleeting thought), to research it and GO.  Pack your bag, get your travel guides and experience some place other than home.  It is time for us to collective step into the travel curve.  Let us become a growing number of African Americans who have an up-to-date passport with a stamp from another country less than six months old.  Allons-y! Vayamonos! Let’s go!


I encourage your thoughts on this topic!  Leave a comment.  This is still a ruminating thought in my head.  As you can tell from the post, I’m not real sure what to do with it. (Sorry for the eclectic mix of thoughts)



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?

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