Tag Archives: African Americans

St. Lucia and the Black Briton Holiday

16 May

Victor Provost, Steel Drum musician at the St. Lucia Jazz Festival

I was fortunate to have my family contribute to a much needed Mother’s Day vacation.  Our destination…St. Lucia for the Jazz Festival.  Now when I say that my family contributed, this is in every aspect of the word.  From getting us here, to staying and watching our FOUR children for SEVEN days, the undertaking was huge.

I was really, REALLY trying to make this trip all about relaxing with my husband, experiencing lots of live music and basking a bit in the Caribbean sun.  However, as you should know by now, my trips are never just “leisure.” My eyes are always open to trends, nuances and the next research project.  My husband and I did have an agreement, that I would do only “dreaming” and no “working” while on this trip, but my mind always goes to the trends.

It may be because I just got back from London with my students, it may be that I am just always keenly observant of people of color traveling, whatevs, but I did notice something that was worth talking about here.

Island view from a sunset cruise in the Caribbean Sea

There were a lot, I mean A LOT of Black Britons (Black folks from London) on the island this week.  Now granted, there was a big London-based promotion company hosting a good deal of the Jazz Fest events, but I had to take a minute to think this all the way through.  

My rough estimation, if it took us 4 hours to fly here from our big little Southern city, then, it must have taken at minimum 8 hours for this contingent to fly from the UK to St. Lucia, right? This is where I finally get to the point:

That’s a whole lot of intentionality to take a “holiday.” A good deal of Londoners, stay in Europe: South of France, Spain, Italy, Greece, etc.  For a large group of Black folks to decide to “hop on a plane” for 8 hours to go to the Caribbean, justifies a lot of the rationale I have for having this blog in the first place (that is, at least what I am telling myself and it would be great if you just roll with me, mmkay?)

There is a way, that even in relaxing, some of us just want to be around others of us.  Yes, I am clear, that many of these folks may have had relatives or roots on island, but there were also quite a few who did not…and came ANYWAY.  Sometimes, we just want to be our fullest of selves amongst other people being their fullest of selves in similar ways and not worry about anything else but just being.  It’s why I choose to relax in countries where I know there is a black population, and it’s why I tell you all about these places so you can plan accordingly.

So……a whole bunch of writing just say, I was completely full with what I saw.  I felt as though this desire to be amongst my own is not just a “me” thing, that there are plenty of other folks who are doing it.  I know this is not a revelation, but I love it as if it is.  Since I love it like a brand new toy, I’m showing it off.

Bon soir,

Sunset, the view from our villa


Reflexivity and Big BOLD next steps

18 Apr

My resting face as I daydream and plot moves

So, since I’ve been back from London, I have had so many thoughts run through my head.  One has been reflecting on the ways in which I am a contributor to the privileges of those who do not look like me and an enabler to the covetousness of those privileges for those who do look like me.  In plain English, I took a large group of students who were, for the majority, of the power dominant group to a country with a deep, rich history in conquest and imperialist power.  Overall, they LOVED the trip (that’s a good thing but my critical bend sees the problem with it too).  There was a small group of students of color who also went on the trip, but were so mesmerized by embracing and coveting the “high culture” of London, that they looked down on and even disparaged any person of color that they encountered. It was a bit embarrassing, and I felt empathy for each person they encountered negatively.  I wanted to do more than what I did to fix it and them.  But then I had to take a step back.

This side of me learned the art of cool, calm intellectual clap back this trip.

As a scholar who centers Blackness in just about everything that I do, I felt as though I failed.  However, my time to reflect shows me I need to look forward not backward.  How can I contribute to those who are not yet “semi-grown” and knowing it all?  I have a non-profit that just needs a boo$t to launch and guinea pigs in my house.

I know. They’re adorbs, right?!

I have four children, all under the age of 7 years old (I know, I know).  These children deserve to see a world that centers them and values their blackness, their awesome and their ancestral history of intelligence, authenticity, service to others and nurturing. They also need to effortlessly center themselves in every position they find themselves in life.  Center themselves not just because others don’t, but because they know enough about where they come from that they can see it no other way but to be at the table whether by open invitation or necessity.

So I’ve been thinking about how can I make this world my children’s classroom?  How do I expose others while I am teaching my own?  What would it take?  What do I need to do?  How would I need to plan?  Heck, where do I start?  I’m thinking, plotting, strategizing, in the lab in BOLD new ways.

Right now, I’m not sure how this is going to end up.  But I am focusing on it so that by year’s end, big confident steps and strides have been made.

That’s all I got.  Me brain dumping all my current questions in order to start this plan “officially.” Do any of you have experience with global classrooms, traveling with small children and/or unschooling?  Please comment below.  That would be most helpful.
Oh, wait.  I guess I need to bring the hubster up to speed, huh?

April 6 – The Globe Theatre and a bit of British Black History

6 Apr

We went to Shakepeare’s Globe Theatre as our group activity today. I was more interested in the folks building the set for Romeo and Juliet set to start April 22nd, than I was in the information on the tour.  I spent a great deal of time people watching here today.  I saw a nonverbal example for low level of tolerance for the American millennial and the French teenager.  I think it has a lot to do with the “cloud of sound” (a term coined from my husband’s trip to Poland in the early 2000s) that these groups tend to be.  This is more an observation of behavior clash than anything else.  I don’t think the British are purposefully rude to these groups, nor do I believe these groups to be intentionally troublesome to the British.  It is clearly an expectation violation issue here.  The British culture expects a level of reserve in public spaces and these two youth groups expect the freedom to enjoy the company of their friends however that may happen.  Watching the nonverbal reactions of the groups to one another was quite amusing.  My research ethics does not allow me to have pics of these exchanges, but imagine the church mother spying the young girl in the short skirt walking into church and how they would react to one another during the church greetings.

I decided to go with a group to Greenwich after lunch in Borough Market (Which I highly recommend, there is food for EVERYBODY there.  I had the best vegan burger, vegan cupcake and drink all for less than 10 British Pounds. They are only open Thursday-Sunday though).  At first, I thought I was merely going to be accompanying my students who had research interests in Greenwich, politely exploring the Maritime Museum while they took copious notes and then going back to the hotel.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I walked up to the upper level and ran smack into this door:

Here folks, is where my Black British History moment for the day begins.  This was an exhibit that explains the Salve trade from the British perspective.  What I found most interesting, is much like in the US, the atrocities are  about glossed over and the British role in abolition seem to be at the forefront.  It was almost an inconvenient factoid to mention that the British were responsible for transporting 1.4 million of the slaves in the Ma’afa, because they were in fact “adamantly opposed to the horrors of slaving.”  The juxtaposition of these two quotes found in the museum just a few hundred feet from one another highlights my point:

Found inside the Atlantic Trade Exhibit

Found just before you enter the Atlantic Trade Exhibit

Overall, the exhibit was quite moving.  There were artifacts I had never seen before.  China plates with slaves caricatures, news articles demanding the abolition of slavery, audio accounts of Toussaint’s revolt, actual whips from the sugar plantations and “ID bracelets.”

I took so many pictures!  I won’t bore you with all of them here, but there was so much to read into the presentation, the rhetoric and the artifacts.  The combination of them all is a bit more matter-of-fact than how we “discuss” (we really don’t, but it’s the word of choice) slave history in the USA.  Even though it is still from the perspective of the slaver, there is more of a sense of “we did some bad ish to the Africans and this is what it looked like”  in the UK versus the “Blacks came here as immigrants too looking for opportunity” garbage that we  perpetuate in US History.

I also managed to find a few books in the gift shops. 

SPOILER ALERT for my family. These are some of y’all’s gifts.

Yes.  I am absolutely that woman that came all the way to London and bought only Black books about Britain (even the Shakespeare has a Black tragic protagonist).  But you already knew that about me. 🙂 

April 5 – Castles and Children

6 Apr

The garden side of the palace

Today, we visited Hampton Court Palace and I must say this place had children in mind. When you exchange your London Pass for a ticket, there are rows of velvet robes hanging in various sizes so that you can “dress like a Tudor” for your tour. The audio guides have a general guide, a family guide and an actor’s guide that will allow you to hear characters talk about life in the castle. Just about every area had a hands-on table and the appropriate props are in most rooms. For example, the kitchen has the fireplace actually going, with meats vegetables and breads strewn around the kitchen.

There were period actors in the Tudor section reenacting the day Henry VIII proposed to Katherine Parr. That was exciting to watch.  I kept going back and forth between the audio tour and the live actors. 

The Tudor actors in Base Court in Hampton Court Palace

There is a LOT to see in Hampton Court Palace and I noticed that many families do indeed make the day of it. There was a special family activity that is running through Easter where children need to find golden  bunnies hidden throughout the castle.  When they find them, they are given a chocolate treat.  This had the children actively engaged as in order to get the chocolates from some of the docents, they had to give them a fact from history or the exhibit. Between this activity and the many families getting cozy in the gardens eating lunches and letting the children play, it was nice to see that it appears the castle wants to make this “home” for children. The actors make a special point to engage the children in their scenes and the docents seem so kind and nurturing to all of the children.

I guess to put in perspective for some of you, the castle employees are like Disney cast members (do you see it now?).

The palace also has a “Magic Garden” that is basically a huge play area for children with super sized jungle gyms, slides and swings.

Gardens at Hampton Court Palace

Overall, despite this place being a bit outside of the city (you have to take an overland train to Surrey), it is well worth the trip. I would suggest giving yourself time to experience the whole grounds. Take time in the garden, do the full audio tour, and let the children try the hands on activities and hear the actors tell the stories.

For my Black British History tidbit, I leave you with an image from the Caesar relief painting in the Baroque section  of Hampton Court Palace. This man is in the very front of the first panel of the relief:

An African man included in the front of the relief painting of Caesar’s Triumph subtitled “The Trumpeters and Standard Bearers”

I also bought a book on Black presence in London from Foyle’s Bookstore 😉.

Family Fun in Westminster

4 Apr

Today, my students did a bunch of mini-explorations in small groups.  I decided to use today as a chance to look at visiting London from the eyes of a mom.  I have a few tips that will be helpful for families with children around the same age as mine with a few things that would be of interest for the tween/teen.

1) Whatever you do, GET THE LONDON PASS.  This thing has been fantastic!  You pay for the pass for the number of days you will need it.  Because we are here for the week, we included the 6-day pass in their fees.  This pass gets you into just about every tourist site (except the London Eye, Aquarium and Shrek Adventure), the Hop on/Hop off bus tour, the Hop on/Hop off cruise and the Canal Boat Trip.  Now most of the museums are already free, but you get discounts in the gift shops and/or free audio tours with the pass.  With my mom lens, this is sooooo efficient.  All we have to do is show the cards at entry.  Some places may ask you to get an actual ticket, but if I’m not trying to wrangle children, figure out money and wait in long ticket lines, I’m fine with that.

2) The pre-paid Oyster card is the business!  We have enough money on the card to average a typical week using the London Underground.  If we weren’t taking a day trip to see Hampton Court Palace tomorrow, it would be the perfect amount for our trip. If you find you need more money on the card, you can “top up” at any tube station (with a credit card) or at any bodega that sells cards (cash or credit).  It is possible to get the Oyster card and the London Pass together.  Check the website for more information.

The sites I visited today

We were in Westminster and the Abbey was closed, so we had to find alternatives to visit.  I took a group over to see the Churchill War Rooms.  This was surprisingly engaging.  I’m not a WWII history buff by any means, but the museum is set up in a way that is interactive and engaging.  Much like the Museum of London, there are many activities that you can do with children of any age.  They also have the “war rooms” set up as they were in the 1940s (now if you get weirded out by mannequins, beware).  It was quite an engaging tour.  It was also not something I would have jumped at doing on my own, but it was entertaining enough, that I would recommend it.  The mom in me suggests you let the kids explore the Churchill Museum portion for as long as they want because the tour of the rooms can move a bit slow if there are crowds.  There are videos, hidden compartments and tactile artifacts that would encourage the curiosity of most children.

Churchill War Rooms

The Hop on/Hop off tour is a fun way to see all of the London sites.  You get one day ride with the London Pass and you can use it to get around to all the sites without taking the Tube.  I picked up the bus (a double decker–which I could hear my own children squealing about) about a block away from the Churchill War Rooms and rode the red line circuit.  This route took me past Hyde Park, Harrod’s, Piccadilly Circus, The Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall, Victoria and Albert Museum and Buckingham Palace.  All of these places have stops so you can get off, explore, and catch the next bus when it comes around.  I rode the bus to Buckingham Palace, took a few pictures, and then hopped back on to get back to Westminster.

The rare instance I remember to catch myself on camera. Me in front of Buckingham Palace.

So, I took one for the team today.  When I purchased a ticket for the London Eye earlier this week, I took advantage of a deal to get essentially two for one and added the London Dungeon tour.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I thought it would be theatrical and entertaining.  It was, but not quite for me.  This would be one of those activities for the tween/teen.  Not appropriate for younger ones (lots of loud noises, blackouts and strobe light effects that may be a bit much for younger children). Not to mention, there are two rides in the tour, one on water and one with a free fall drop.  These have height restrictions so younger ones wouldn’t be able to do these anyway.  I was going through it identifying the exact moments my own children would “done with it” and “ready to go.” I counted about 15 instances.  The entire tour is quite entertaining though.  The actors played their characters well.  A nice blend of tourist cheesy and actual chops.  There is some water involved, not enough to need a change of clothes, but it does spray on your clothes and sometimes in your hair in certain spots, but you’re dry by the time you leave.

Fun for teens, not really for this Momma though

Overall, the London Pass as shown me many more things than I would have considered on my own.  You can buy it online and have it waiting for you at your hotel or sent to your house before you go.  Once you use your card at your first site, your day count begins.  I would encourage using your first day in town to get the lay of land by tube and go to one of the free museums.  Begin to use the pass on your second day and have FUN!

Now because I would not be me if I didn’t keep this going, here is your British Black History for the day:

Nelson Mandela’s statue was erected in Parliament Square in Westminster in 2008. He is the only Black man to join the likes of Churchill, Ganning and other noteworthy British (White) men on the square in Westminster.

Tomorrow, we visit the home of Henry VIII.

The British Museum and a bit of British Black History

3 Apr

Today’s group activity was the British Museum. This is really an all day family activity. There is so much to see. Because we only had about 3 hours at the museum this morning, I took advantage of the fact that I had already been here and breezed through certain sections in order to take more time in others and did a great deal of people watching along the way.  
The collections are grouped by region primarily and then era. Although I went to every section, except for Clocks and Watches, I will focus only on three, Egyptian Hall, The Enlightenment and the Africa Gallery. I took advantage that our London Pass offers a free audio tour at the British Museum and listened as I walked.

Bust of Pharaoh Ramses at the British Museum

The Egyptian Hall is one of the most populated in the Museum save the mummy collection on the 2nd floor. In 2010, I posted about the pillaging that took place worldwide in order for these collections to be here (no need to repeat myself), but I what caught my attention the most were the debates among people in various languages about whether or not Egypt was in Africa. Let me help y’all out: EGYPT IS AN AFRICAN COUNTRY LOCATED IN THE NORTH EAST OF THE CONTINENT. Point. Blank. Period. Yes. They do speak Arabic there, but it’s not a Middle Eastern country. Yes. They do practice Islam there, but they also practice Islam in Senegal. If that’s Africa, so is Egypt. I admit, I may have been more sensitive to these conversations because of my Day 1 conversation, but I really do not understand the fascination with removing Egypt from the continent.  

Wait. Yes I do. It’s for the same reason, that people “cannot be certain” what knowledge came from Egypt and what knowledge originated in Greece. Let me help you again: NEITHER. IT WAS NUBIA AND FILTERED NORTH. This isn’t just my pro-Black sensibilities. There is support for this claim. But, I encourage you to go find it. It is fairly easy to locate.  

The Enlightenment Room at the British Museum

The Enlightenment Room. I’ll be brief here. The entire book collection of King George III as well as “gifts and collectibles” from various lords and dukes in the country who upon their death, donated their “possessions” to the Museum. Many of these things were gifted or “acquired” in expeditions. The story between the lines is pretty clear there. Who exactly gifts the preserved head of an African man to a duke in the United Kingdom? I thought a bottle of wine or flowers was customary (I don’t think I want to up my game though). The funniest thing I saw in this section was a sign that read “Collecting the World.” Am I alone in seeing the humor in this? How do you collect what does not belong to you? Did you ask if it was okay to collect them? I have so many questions, all of which rhetorical, of course. 

The Africa collection is the last section I’ll share. I’m finishing up some research around the African Religious Aesthetic so I found a few pieces that I have helped me finish up that piece for submission. One of the most moving pieces is a contemporary piece shown below:

The picture does not do these pieces justice. It was phenomenal in person! It is inspired by the syncretism of the African masquerade and Carnaval celebrations in the Caribbean. I so wanted the gift shop to have this in print (sadness and sorrow, they did not). So today, still very much focusing on the Black in London.

Ignatius Sancho, portrait by Thomas Gainsborough

I want to end with a tidbit of information about Ignatius Sancho. He was the African whose picture was in the Museum of London. The interwebs have provided me with these facts:

Ignatius Sancho is the first African to have work published in England. He cam to England at the age of 2 after his mother died in New Granada. He grew as a slave in Greenwich, London. The Duke of Montagu frequently sent Sancho books in order to encourage a love of knowledge. He wrote numerous letters, plays and music. Although the conditions behind his freedom are unclear, once Sancho was free, he owned a grocery store in Westminster and lived in the neighborhood with his wife and seven children. He is documented as the first Black person of African origin to have voted in Britain. You can get Sancho’s published letters here. I figured I’d give you a bit of a taste of the Black British history (since I’m still looking for the book).

In keeping with the old stomping grounds of Ignatius Sancho, tomorrow we hit the Westminster area.  More family friendly stuff to come tomorrow……

Wheels up, AGAIN

31 Mar

As I am doing all of my last minute stuff to prepare for my student trip later this evening, my mind is going in a thousand directions.  First thought, this is my fourth trip taking a group of college students overseas.  I am taking a moment to sit with this.  My commitment to international education and intercultural communication as made it possible to expose groups of students to various parts of the world.  For the most part, these are students who would not exactly jump at the chance to study abroad.  That feat makes me proud.  

Second, this is my fourth trip taking a group of students who don’t look like me overseas.  I have a bit of angst with this thought as I am clear the limited number of opportunities afforded those that look like me and how many times, study abroad, international education and cultural exposure are seen as luxuries unattainable with many ridiculously genius students in my community.  This feeling is more of a motivator than anything else.  Trust me.  I’ll speak more on that on this trip.

Which leads to my third thought, I am visiting a city I have been to with students before…LONDON…so, I kind of already know what to expect.  I need to focus on what I will do as a scholar/researcher while I am there.  For the first time, I’m not really sure.  Sure folks can rattle off ideas surrounding Brexit and diversity and the like, but, to be honest, I’m not really interested. I guess I have a 9-hour flight to figure it out, unless any of you have some ideas….

Until I touch down, toodles!

Apartheid Museum

14 Nov


This will be a brief post: A friend of mine recently visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and has granted me permission to share his photos here.


Although his photos have few captions, the images are powerful.  Let us not forget the various lives we’ve had as a people of African descent in this world.

Enjoy and REMEMBER.

Tuscany with family

23 May

The view of the Tuscan Hills from Montepulciano

I feel like I needed to immediately follow-up after my last post so I’m sharing this one a bit early…

Tuscany is BEAUTIFUL. Like any location I visit, I encourage you to come with your family, but here are a few things you should know:

Best meme I could find

1) Italy is still VERY much a smoking culture – like, EVERYWHERE! There are more smokers than non-smokers here. It is very much a part of the social culture and something to be mindful of when traveling with children. I actually witnessed a woman scowl at a child because he accidentally bumped her cigarette. As if to say nonverbally, how dare you almost knock my precious cigarette out of my hand, you audacious child? This is something to keep in mind for families with asthmatic children especially with hotels. We don’t feel the need to specify smoke free in the States, but it is a MUST here in Italy.

Half way up the hill to the Piazza Grande

The other half of the hill to Piazza Grande

2) Tuscany is not short on hills – actually, I think that may have been too mild. Hills and mini mountains are all throughout most Tuscan cities. You will be trekking up some pretty steep ones, especially in Montepulciano and Siena. This means really weigh the pros and cons of traveling with a stroller. In fact, for practice, get your nearest mountain (if you have them in your area) and try climbing it with your child in a stroller and lugging your suitcase. When you get to the top, you have just walked in Siena and Montepulciano, in one direction.

This road is for cars and people. Notice, no sidewalks no driving lanes

3) Public transportation, is limited to intercity in Montepulciano and although there are taxis, I did not see many and the town is more of a pedestrian town than a driving one. Parking and bus stops are outside of the city at the bottom of a steep hill and many of the streets are not passable by car.

4) The chocolate lab! – for those of you that love the stuff, or have children who do, absolutely go to the chocolate lab. It’s about 200m from the Piazza Grande and DELICIOUS!

Crociani Wine Shop and Cellar

Inside the Crociani Wine Cellar

5) Wine, wine, vino, vin. However you say it, there is plenty of it – Montpulciano has 75 vintners in the area and almost all of them have cellars in town. You have tour the cellars and have wine tastings (a lot are even free). I would suggest stash the euros to do the wine tasting at Crociani. Susana Crociani is phenomenal and her tasting is filled with the wine history of he area and her family. Her wine is terrific and I promise you, you will never drink a Merlot or Cabernet in the States the same again. My husband jokes that I’m a wine snob now, wait until these bottles get delivered to our door (yes, they ship to the USA!)

It seems morbid, but may be interesting to folks

6) The Torture Museum – okay, yes, it sounds grotesque and eerie, but my students said it was actually a pretty interesting history lesson attached to the exhibits. May be better for older children though.

View from the Caffe in Piazza Grande

7) For the younger ones – Piazza Grande is a huge open space with some cafe tables lined around it, perfect to sit back with a caffé (or vino…do you) and watch the children let off some steam. For something a bit more “organized,” the Fortezza at the top of the city, has a play area with swings, slides and the like.

8) Lake Artemezza is 30 minutes outside of the city and ideal for a getaway from the tourist scene of the town.

You can walk the entire city in less than 45 minutes, but it is jam packed with so much stuff to see.  

The color of identity, the limits of language

22 May

Not quite Montepulciano, but gives you an idea

There is something to be said about language and how we see ourselves. There is also something to be said about how others see you despite language. I admit, I was a bit nervous about going into a country where I was the minority and did not speak language. But when I tell you microagressions see no geographic boundaries and only color, I’m not playing!

Montepulciano is a city in the mountains with a population of a whopping 14,000. It is still a tourist town, because well, WINE (#drinkingvinonobile). Be clear that there is a particular type of tourist this town is accustomed to catering to daily and folks that look like me are few and far between.  

So. Many. Wine Barrels.

This means there are ways in which color means more than nationality here. There have been few establishments I have gone into and in one, I ordered a cup of cappuccino and sat at one of the outdoor tables. After about 10 minutes, I was asked to leave because “it was lunch time not coffee time.” It wouldn’t have bothered me, there was a steady stream of folks coming in to eat, but just the day before, I witnessed two women sit at that same table for HOURS without being asked to leave and there were others there the same time I was drinking coffee or soda who were not asked to leave. You only have to guess the difference between us.

How I’m feeling right now

Today was not the best day for this. I am already dealing with microagressions of students refusing to call me Dr. and instead butcher the pronunciation of my first name despite the fact I have asked repeatedly they not do that and finding out that I am the only faculty/staff person housed in the worst conditions and farthest from the heart of the city. So this event at the coffee shop, is not entering in on the best of circumstances.

I am having a rough time asserting my identity in places where it is neither desired nor respected. The difference is, language leaves me powerless to fight for its presence at this Italian table. We did have lesson one of two of Survival Italian. So if, someone asks me in a restaurant tomorrow Che cosa desidera? Would I be out of place to answer: Vorrei rispetto, per piacere! Probably. But a piatto of respect would taste really good right now. I’ll take that over pasta at this point.

Language Key

Che cosa desidera? = What do you desire?

Vorrei rispetto, per piacere! = I would like respect, please

piatto = plate  

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