Tag Archives: Blacks

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


Hidden gems in the Tower of London

2 Apr

The White Tower at the Tower of London

The group aactivity today was to the Tower of London.  This is definitely on the “must do” list for families.  You can’t come all the way across the pond and not see the Traitor’s Gate, the Yeoman Warders spin their fantastically entertaining tales on the tour, nor get a chance to enter into the vault where all the Crown Jewels are housed and look up close at the queen’s crowns with only an inch of highly secured tempered glass between you and them.  Sunday proved to be a particularly entertaining day at the Tower of London as every costumed player was in full form telling stories of Edwardian London, using visitors to reenact rebel attacks on the massive fort and ravens flying all free everywhere, no, seriously:

Two ravens getting all cozy by the Jewel Tower at the Tower of London (I used my zoom, I’m not that cray)

In 2010, I blogged about the despair I felt looking at the Crown Jewels.  Saddened because I knew that for every diamond, gilded spoon and ivory laden writing pen, there were countless lives indelibly ravished and severed from connections to and with the continent of Africa.  As I walked the same grounds today, I haven’t forgotten about those memories from 2010, but I have also vowed to find the Black in London history this go around.  Here’s what I found:

Phillis Wheatley was an honored guest of the White Tower Castle when she came to London in 1773.  Traveling with her master’s son, her visit was to get a sponsor to publish her poetry because they could not find a publisher in the United States (WE know why, but “the innanets” presents it as bad luck…*side eye*…go figure).  The White Tower actually features her image at the entrance of the castle.

Image of Phillis Wheatley taken at the White Tower at the Tower of London

I do not remember seeing this the last time I was here.  I toured every nook and cranny of the various towers and buildings in 2010 just as I did today.  I combed through my travel notes and even the blog posts here to see if Imentioned it or jotted it down somewhere…nothing.  It’s like Spirit has aligned in such a way that this time around, I needed to see this. I really did need to see this.  So, now that my morning has been pumped, I keep looking.  Coming out the vaulted building where the crowns are housed, I stumbled into a changing of the guard.  Regardless the country or armed servicemen, this is a spectacular scene to witness.  I stopped not thinking too much about it until I realized this:

Yes, brotha, YAAAAAAAASSSSS! Good to see you!

Now it’s the 21st century, I’m clear that there have been a diverse pool of folks serving in the military for a long time in this country and ours, but I had not seen (with my own eyes) this particular type of guard represented by a person of color.  I know, when Uncle Barry came to see the Queen there was one guarding Buckingham Palace who broke protocol to smile for a picture with our 44th, but I’m totally making this post about my yearning for everyday examples of folks who look like me on this trip, so let’s pretend you are just as excited as I am.  My excitement increases as I learn from the audio tour that it is an elite group of military personnel who are selected to be a part of the Tower of London warders, having achieved distinguished service from the Queen’s military.  They also get free housing for themselves and their families.  So, this brotha here, is not “just working.” Arguably he is being acknowledged for going above and beyond while serving his country.  


Later this afternoon, we went the Victoria and Albert Museum.  There was a group that was going to have Afternoon Tea in one of the cafes, I was tagging along because it was a museum, but still my eyes are searching, and I came across these:

Image of a Moor in a tapestry

Mother Nature nursing European and African babies

Bust of a young boy

Bust of an African servant

So now I want to know, “Is there a Black History of the UK?”  I don’t mean this question in a naive sense.  I mean where are the anthologies, textbook, history chronicles that outlines in as thorough a detail as the British are able to provide for the historic relationship with India (a whole ‘nother post, y’all, for real, there was an entire exhibit about India at V&A that still centered around the lived experiences of a privileged white man)? In a shallow dig into the interwebs, I found this place to start: Black Presence in Britain.  Join me.  Let’s learn more about this together.

The Roman African

27 May

Billboard in Rome

This title may be a bit misleading, but I do want to talk a bit about Blackness in Rome.  I knew that when we came to the city, my experiences with Blackness would be vastly different than what was going on in Montepulciano.

Here’s the thing, while everyone else (namely white heteronormative ideologies) profess that Rome is one of the first civilizations, Rome does not seem to be confused about how much of their “knowledge and power” actually came from the AFRICAN country of Egypt. You see subtle acknowledgements everywhere including the seeming acceptance of many African immigrants in the city.  Now mind you, I ‘m not naive, there are similar issues here  as with the Africans in Spain (see my posts from Spain in 2015), but monuments, art and even the ancient ruins demonstrate that Rome is clear there was an exchange of information.

There are obelisks all over the city and many have hieroglyphs on them

Now, we all know the saying “the winner writes the history.” So you really have to look for it to find it, want to see it to identify it and admit is presence to acknowledge it. But Rome has it, EVERYWHERE.

I have enjoyed my time here in Italy.  Ups, downs and all.  I need to come back when I have more time to experience this Black identity here. My observations this trip have me fascinated. Between the expats and the immigrants, there is the pulse of a co-culture that I think is been missed by the glitzy tourist attractions.  I need to return and put my finger on THAT pulse.

(Almost) Wheels up (again)!

6 May

As I prepare for the next trip, I am excited and nervous at the same time.  When I traveled to Brazil in 2012, my Portguese was not all that great (can only boast minimal improvement even now) so I couldn’t say confidently I was stepping into a country where I knew the language and the surroundings.  The same holds true for this trip to Italy.  But here’s the difference:  for Brazil, I knew I would be around people of African descent and that would be enough to diminish any fears of not knowing the language.  For Italy, not so much the case.  I not only don’t speak a lick of Italian (I am soooo hoping my Spanish, French and Portguese will allow me to tread water), but there is little chance of me seeing an Afro-Italian.

I know, when I went to Madrid last year, I was shocked to see Africans. But, I knew the LANGUAGE. So I could still catch the subtle nuances of passersby, of folks I passed by and still felt “comfortable.”

Something about this trip has me a bit more anxious.  I am leading way more students than ever (16 this time), but, although there are logistical things there of concern, it really is about this anticipation of the unfamiliar in all respects.  I am used to being somewhere and not really knowing the language well (Brazil, Senegal, South Korea, Haiti) and I am used to being in spaces where my color sticks out as the beautifully different thumb it is (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Spain, heck, the USA in some places).  But the combination of these two are rare for me.

Needless to say, some of my posts this trip may be a public negotiation of this combination.  It will also be an opportunity for me to, for a moment, sit in the places of those Black Away from Home ex-pats living in Japan, China, Russia (well kind of, there are Afro-Russians) and all those other places where language and identity are impacted simultaneously.  It will really put a lot of my research into perspective.

I am thrilled, EXCITED to be going to Italy!  For all of the reasons that anybody else would be excited to go.  But also for the reasons I list above that may read as apprehension.  It’s not.  You should know by now, I set the stage for my thought process in order to prepare myself (and you).


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