Tag Archives: Black Away from Home

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……

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Museum of London: A family-friendly history lesson

2 Apr

                    

I wish I was sleepy and not WIDE awake…


Welp. Since the time difference is wreaking havoc on my sleep patterns day one, I might as well be productive and talk a bit about the day.  We immediately got off of the plane and into explorations.  The students (and faculty) were exhausted by the end day as evident by a few off color comments I’ll share later.

The Museum of London was our first stop.  I must say, this is an ideal location for the entire family.  There are interactive exhibits all throughout the museum, tactile and digital, as well as many short movies that sum up important moments in London’s history.  Most impressive to me was the prominence of noted Black Britons through history: Olaudah Equiano (Spelman College inaugural ADW class represent!), and other noted Blacks from the Victorian era to present day.  There was also a section dedicated to the Black population in London with images and signage like the ones below showing the emergence of a strong Black voice in London around the same time as the US Black Power Movement in the late 1960s early 1970s.


Overall, this museum is a good way to go through the rich history of the city in a one-stop shop that is entertaining for all ages.  Even my students found themselves caught up in the activities and films throughout the place!

We had a group dinner at a pizza restaurant nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral (I know, I know).  At this dinner it became more apparent how tired folks were becoming.  We were having an interesting conversation about the artifacts in the British Museum and whether or not the UK should be obligated to return these items (see my London Retrospective for a refresher on some of these images).  In this conversation, we debated how secure these artifacts would be in places like Syria in midst of conflict and the comment was made about how some countries just would have a difficult time knowing what to do with them if they were returned.  To which a male traveler notes “Yeah, because since the aliens built the pyramids those people don’t know what to do with them now.”  While that whole section of the table erupted into laughter, I tried REAL hard not to pull out my best Auntie Maxine:

My actual face


I immediately shut down.  Why must the brilliance of the Black mind always be a point of issue?  Why is it that there has to be some inexplicable phenomenon that rationalizes away our greatness?  The fact that even in jest (to them not me), aliens building the pyramids is more plausible than African people, has me giving old buddy a HARD side eye (fortunately, it was NOT one of my students).  Day one, dude? REALLY?!  My response?  Intellectually tactical:  I will be documenting through photos and these posts this week, every single piece of evidence of the beautiful Black mind while I’m here.  My fellow BAfH folks, do you have photos you would like to share of #BlackFolkMagic in London?  Put them in the comments!  Tower of London tomorrow (if I can ever get to sleep)…..

Images of books printed and released in London in the 1960s

Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho (I need to look him up)

Getting to Guatemala Day 1: Service Trips and authentic “tears”

1 Apr

Today was our travel day to Guatemala.  Nothing out of the ordinary in regards to my students.  They showed up on time, they were ready, excited and anything else to be expected.  With no worries there, I decide to do my typical observation of the various contexts around me as we travel.  The United States education system has hit a boom with the “service-learning” and alternative spring break model for developing classrooms without walls.

I am all for exploration of new cultures, all for doing good to leave the world better and fully support young people with passport stamps with meaningful stories behind them.  But you know me, this is Black Away from Home, you know what I was checking for.  Much like with my Spain trip last year, the international terminal was a flurry with giddy students in matching shirts with frantic adult chaperones trying to keep them all together.

You know what was missing:

Once again, very few brown faces.  But this time, I decided to engage one of the adult chaperones sitting next to me on the plane.  I need to go deeper with this observation now. Ask some questions that may help me get to the dirty of why so few of our babies are here.  You know airplane chit chat “Is this your first time to Guatemala?” Do you speak Spanish?” Then comes my question to her: “What exactly will you be doing down here/”. Her response gifted me one of the most profound revelations  about this whole study away, engaged global learning fit I have been having.  As simple as it was, I realized from her response, another underlying reason for en masse service exodus among classes and students who don’t look like the beautiful babies above: “We’re on a mission trip to teach agrarian techniques outside of Antigua.”

Okay. WAIT. PAUSE. In my head I’m thinking: You’re taking children to an agrarian country to teach the people there how to be farmers?  

  HUH?! Where they do that at? (Above photo courtesy of a phenomenal “brother-in-love”)

This where “authentic tears” come in.  See, it was her response that helped me to see that one of the unspoken reasons for the types of trips is to satiate a desire to help those in need with a population that feels most safe.  It is another example of those tears the color of snow that feign compassion from a distance and empathy with condition. What’s the saying: you don’t bring sand to the beach?

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support alternative spring breaks that extend beyond the walls of the classroom in to the backyards, those communities under their noses.   But I have to admit, I do give a hard side eye, to programs that traipse PW students (if you need help with that abbreviation, you haven’t been on this site too often) to the ends of the world to implement temporary, non-sustainable projects when they could have easily done more good at home. And even harder side eye when on surface it looks like there may be practices to purposefully omit a population that will remind you too much of what you are ignoring at home.

I know, this seems strange, Black Away from Home NOT supporting travel abroad? That’s not what I’m saying.  I still support study abroad, but for the enrichment of engaging with other cultures to be able to learn from them and establish meaningful connections and experiences that will shape identity construction and career trajectories.  Not travel for the sake of superficially addressing sentiments of guilt, also the color of snow.

Superficial service projects actually do more harm than good.  Check out this TEDTalk if you don’t believe me: Nonprofits are dead wrong.

Let us not sacrifice intercultural pedadgogy for guilty tears.  If you want to wash away those, I know some water in Flint that could help you with that.

I’m looking at motive here.  But I’ll be fair, I mean, I AM in Guatemala with students too.  Why did we come?  Well, my students are using their majors as lens to critically compare, contrast and analyze Guatemala City and Antigua to what they are learning in Architecture, Civil Engineering, New Media Art/Design and Electrical Enigneering.  Their research here will inform an extended global perspective for the senior projects. No reinventing the wheel with projects that might not last beyond our week long visit.   I’m planting seeds too, but in these minds… I’ve ranted and rambled. My apologies. Jet lag will do that to you. But, I have purged so I can focus on other things tomorrow.

You knew it was coming…Africans in Madrid

1 Jun

 So in my ritualistic vaunt through the hotel neighborhood on the first day, I saw two surprising things. Walking out of the Puerta de Sol, I came up on a street that was lined with African merchants, in true African style — tarp on the ground, wares laid out (mainly knock off bags and sunglasses and a few knock off soccer jerseys) and of course, standing in the shade and talking with one another. Several others were walking up with their tarps bundled on their backs. For a minute, I forgot I was in Spain and thought I was in Dakar (there were THAT many).
I didn’t think too much of it, beyond the quick “that’s odd” thought and continued on. When I walked up to the next plaza, I saw about 15 African men running at full speed with their tarps bundled on their backs. I’m not sure from whom they were running (I didn’t see police or anything like that behind them) and no one else seemed moved by their flight. When I headed back to the hotel, the street that was once lined with African vendors was completely clear, as if they were never there.

So you know I immediately went to “Africans in Madrid” on Google on found a blog post by Nelson George (http://nelsondgeorge.net/?page=blog&item=39) that mentions Africans in Madrid, a few articles about South Africans and many, many comments and posts about racism in Madrid (later on that one).

I then needed to turn to my primary research. I just asked my Seminar Program Assistant (an Afro-Brazilian). This was her response:

There are a lot of illegal African immigrants in Europe, Spain too. Many come from South Africa, but they are from many different countries in Africa, majority West Africa after the South Africans. Because they are illegal, they cannot work, they cannot get healthcare, they cannot get housing, they cannot get an education. A lot of them fall into the hands of the mafia and cartels. They sell goods for them on the street. Often times for about 10 euros a day (around $8). Because they are illegal, they cannot get a vendor license to sell so when the police come, they pack up and move to another location. It hurts me to see them live like that. They have no place to go and no hope. It’s so sad. (translated)

So this “pack up” is a bit more intricate and well thought out. Initially, when I saw the first group on my first day, it just looked like they had everything bundled in the tarp like a satchel (an old school word). In truth, the tarp has rope rigged in it so when they see the police, they can quickly “close shop” by pulling on the ropes, move and easily “set up shop” in a new location.


Now to paint a broader picture for you, I need to give a little bit of our walking tour today. We visited a neighborhood, Lavapies, that has historically belonged to the immigrants in Madrid (I’m about to focus on the Africans only, so more information can be found here: http://www.crecelatino.co/About_Lavapies.php). According to a presentation by upcommons.edu, posted from 2009, African immigrants make up about 11.14% of the immigrant population and about 1/3 of the unemployed in Madrid. Imagine if you will Lavapies looking not much different than the West End in Atlanta, U Street in DC (in the early 2000s just before gentrification REALLY hit) or the West side of Chicago: parts that are cool, parts not so cool, parts that are safe, parts not so safe and occasionally a gray area or two in between them. From what I saw today, the Africans are the drug dealers, which given the inferred mafia/cartel connection above, makes sense. There is a desperation for survival present from the money hustle to the home hustle. There are a few abandoned buildings in Lavapies (no shocker there given the demographic) and the neighborhood association has turned some of them into quimeras (safe havens) for the homeless to squat. There are no squatters’ rights in Madrid or Spain as a whole, so in my idealistic mind, I see it as the government paying selective attention by not shutting them down.

So here comes the political rant……

Black people really deserve better! This is not your opportunity to try to school me on illegal immigration, I have worked with the displaced, refugees and illegals for a good portion of my professional career in some capacity or another. I know the difference between what’s legal and illegal, what governments can and cannot do. What I see is in a different direction: 1) What have we (as a western society) done to the continent of Africa that many of the BLACK people who live there see no other hope but to risk life and limb and expend their savings (and possibly the savings of others) to become homeless and unwanted in a westernized country? 2) What have we done that “that life there” (as described in #1) looks so much better than “this life here?” 3) Why is it that there is no better accountability within the countries on the continent and us (as a western society) to consider the basic life needs of the BLACK citizens?

Yeah, yeah, I know “corruption, blah, blah, blah,” “post-colonialism, yadda, yadda, yadda,” “we tried, etc.” but at some point, rehashing the same failed solution should cause reflection.

Bringing it back to seminar discussions today, Kolb (1984) describes experiential learning this way: You have a concrete experience (such as a failed attempt to assist the countries in Africa), you then should reflect on that experience (What went wrong? How could we have done things differently? What factors played a part in the failure?). After reflection, you make meaning of the experience and the reflection in order to do something different (Maybe if we do X in Africa, it will eliminate some of the negative factors from the first time), you try out the new way and start this process all over again…until you get it right! Study abroad and international education scholars have flocked to Kolb as the be all for teaching the intercultural experience for students. Isn’t this really what I’m describing?

So yes, I have brought my second day in Madrid back to the concerns of the Diaspora…but you knew that was coming.

References:

https://upcommons.upc.edu/e-prints/bitstream/2117/9863/1/ERSA09_Pilar_Blanca.pdf

Kolb, D. (1984).  Experential Learning: Experience as a Source of Learning. Prentice Hall

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)

 

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).

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?

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