Tag Archives: London

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

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 ūüėČ.

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)

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!

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?

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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