We are living through yet another wave of racial reckonings happening in the wake of George Floyd’s death, the absence of justice since Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Miles Cosgrove are still walking free after murdering Breonna Taylor, and the multiple demands for corporations to #Pulluporshutup with Sharon Chuter’s @Pullupforchange
campaign. As a Black traveling woman, the industry I work in is no different, and the formation of The Black Travel Alliance is the travel industry’s call for transparency. While the re-awakening for some, the way-too-late acknowledgement for others, and the performative plays are a bit tiresome—being stuck in the states, has led me to continue to reflect deeply on what it means to be a Black woman travel expert with influence.
One thing that this current wave of racial wokeness has done is reignited the fire under Black people’s asses to support our own, #BuyBlack, and turn to cooperative economics. But as a former US History teacher, and traveler throughout the diaspora us supporting each other is a harder sell because we haven’t seen, been raised in, or truly exposed to what it looks like to visibly be in the majority. This is important to realize because even in travel, where we have a chance to own narratives that hold the key to our own Blackness, we focus on other destinations, trends, and places. While people continue to wax poetic about the Black Travel Movement, and demanding equity in a space that is propagated by white people, I don’t see enough Black travel influencers talking, pushing, or flexing with pictures in Mama Africa.
“The Continent” as some of my friends have referred to it is the cradle of man, the seat of wealth for the world, and home to ALL BLACK ANCESTRY. I have to pause here and say that any Black person who claims to NOT
be African/not be their ancestors or
have any relationship to Africanness
is ridiculous, and needs to tap into some history lessons, books, and thoughtful reflection on heritage. And I do have Black American friends who have reflected some of these notions and so I know it may sound harsh, but peep what I’m pushing here.
Travel to a majority Black country in Africa is ESSENTIAL as an African-American, Caribbean-American, or European-African living in a white supremacist world. Since 2005, I have been to 6 countries on The Continent: South Africa, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Morocco, Egypt, Ghana and Kenya. While Morocco & Egypt. I am proud that from very early on in my travel experiences I made it a point to visit the Motherland and have been able to see for myself, the roots of humankind, and my own people.
While Morocco and Egypt are not as melanated in their majorities, it hits your spirit different when you land in a country and literally see yourself EVERYWHERE. You and the people that look like you are on ALL the packages (big and small), and You and the people that look like you are working in all areas of life, going about their day to day business as the MAJORITY. I have to tell you that I LOVE seeing billboards with my people on them. As soon as you get our of the airport and into the city you start to see people that look like your friends and family. Literally I see resemblances to so many people whenever I am home. It also hits different when these same familiar faces are all over the boxes at the beauty supply store, on all the shops, on the streets, in all the clubs. It’s literally the best mind-fuck to have coming from the land of white supremacy, where it’s just not happening!
The nuances of traveling to different parts of Africa were also telling. I remember being in Egypt with the travel team and people would say to us “Go back to Africa,” as if Egypt was somehow NOT in Africa. They clearly don’t ascribe to being Black there, but it was also a very real demonstration that nations in Africa are not monoliths, as we tend to see it as Americans who like to say “Africa” instead of a specific country amongst the 48+ options you have on the Continent. In Morocco, it was all love when the guys in the stalls saw me (even when I didn’t buy anything), and we had plenty of great dialogue over Moroccan tea. Visiting Robbin Island and seeing Mandela's jail cell continue to be memories that have left indelible imprints on my mind, heart, and spirit. I remember seeing Swazi money for the first time and feeling (quite comically) like I was in the real life, reverse version of Coming to America (a girl always has dreams of finding a prince no matter the narrative lol).
In Kenya, the greeting for the team was always “Hey sister, brother” when they realized we were American. We clubbed at a floating bar, went to an outdoor club, and literally felt at home being in a sea of people all looking to let loose the way only WE know how. Hearing old school reggae is the best when you're in Africa because you know those are the roots of our existence.
I am often looking at how many of the Black influencers are pushing and celebrating Blackness at its core by hyping up travel to Mama Africa. I always see Bali, Thailand, and Tulum. Tulum is a now-popular choice because it’s still open, and the IG pictures of Ven a la Luz at the Ahau Tulum Beach Hotel have been all over the feeds of people. So If we as Black folk can hype up all those places, why can’t there be MORE hype where we are welcomed, where we are from, and where we are the MAJORITY? In 2020, if you’re relegated to letting African movies on Netflix surprise you into seeing how “developed” many of these nations are—you’re doing it wrong my friend! Also, if you are sold on paying $300+ for an Ancestry read, then why not just spring the extra $400 and go there for yourself? These are real questions I ask myself that I felt I should pose to the community at large, given where we find ourselves.
And of course, It’s not a stated requirement if you’re a Black travel influencer, but personally, I know that because travel is my thing, people value my opinion. That is where the influencer thing actually reflects some type of responsibility. So, I always put people on trips to 1-2 countries in Africa. I am also fortunate enough to have been the consultant that got over a dozen people to go to African countries for the first time in their lives (a very major plug of my work because—I gotta big up myself for that!).
While traveling home (as I refer to it), is not without it’s adjustments —at least I’m not Googling “Is it racist in _____” before I go, I KNOW I’ll see myself reflected in the culture, and I’ll get a chance to connect to parts of myself seen as undesirable or co-opted here in America. Earlier I did say that Black people who lay no claim to African ancestry and Africanness are ridiculous. So, if you’ve made it this far thank you, you must understand that while culturally the diaspora has a variety of shades, complexions, flavors, and sounds—the coils and kinks of our hair; the rhythm in our hearts when we dance; the swag we carry; the resilience to keep going in spite of the assault on us globally; the laughter and joy in our hearts; and the melanin that makes us prophetically chosen came from The Motherland. There is no disputing that.
I’m already planning on going back to Mama Africa in 2021 when travel resumes (God-willing). I encourage you to consider doing the same and to make visiting at least one Black African nation part of your travel agenda in the future. Last, but certainly not least, If you need professional assistance, as your global guru of courseI can handle that for you too.