Curating Community & #BrooklyntoBasel
As a #travelpreneur, it is crucial to reflect on the ways we build community through travel. While many things were cancelled due to COVID, my own hiatus from travel content brought me back to the best parts of what I’ve been able to do in service of my love for travel. Back in 2019, we did a a beautiful thing. . . but that beautiful thing began well before The Voluptuary’s curation of an epic adventure to Miami’s Art Week (better known as Miami Art Basel).
In talks with the homey Michael Tonge, founder of The Culture LP we actually birthed the vision for supporting creatives of color through travel years before we created #BrooklyntoBasel. See, networking through travel is one of my favorite things to do, and Mikey and I met through former co-founder Pavel, who I met in Iceland! We met in the lobby of BRIC Media and spoke about getting creatives together in 2015 when we were bright-eyed and manifesting dreams. It didn’t happen then because I was kinda broke lol. . .Sometimes though, timing is key, and on this brand-building journey—that is a lesson I am constantly letting Spirit reveal to me.
Fast forward to 2019 when I officially launched The Voluptuary brand and made the choice to invest in all my businesses more seriously. I put my money where my mouth was and collaborated with The Culture LP to host a group of Black creatives at Miami’s annual Art Week in December.
With Mikey as the certified cultural program plug, we both felt it was vital to literally mob this scene with all of our melanin magic, as both significant creators and subjects of artistry. With my expertise in curating travel experiences, I made sure the logistics, accommodation, and food was on point, amongst other things.
Even in this collaboration, I thought then and still often think about how both Mikey and I see things differently than the current undercurrent of popularity, and exclusion abound within the Black travel space. We really relied heavily on our individuality to create something that was both magical and necessary. When we launched the trip (significantly later than either of us wanted because we were seriously grinding) — we rallied and made it happen. I give Mikey most of the credit by virtue of his standing with The Culture LP and how genuinely inclusive he is—but on his part, he attests to my legwork in my own areas to making this a success from the start.
Anyone who does group travel can also tell you that it is NO SMALL FEAT, and there are inevitable aggravations that arise. However, because we leaned on each other’s strengths and also respected each other’s perspectives we pulled it off, and even received confirmation that our larger plans were spot on for the community we brought together!
As someone who is my own worst critic, after launching my community social membership club called The Flatbush Bourgeoisie Club two months before—I wanted this to serve as testimonial, brief resume, and insight into the world of the underdogs most people don’t hear about because we haven’t accumulated the appropriate number of followers or social recognition to be seen. I am proud to share all of this, with the hopes that this sparks reflection, critical thinking, and of course curiosity as to a broader array of consumption as people who need more than visual cues of what we could/should be doing. Because it is all possible, and it all exists.
The best part of curating the #BrooklyntoBasel experience was how much hope it gave me in Blackness and advancing US authentically.
Hearing and partaking in the genuine, shared conversation that only we can have because we share in the weight that is Blackness in America, being hyper-visible AS the culture—yet invisible/excluded in many spaces, respecting each other’s knowledge, acknowledging what we each don’t know, and wanting to continue to BUILD together was the magic of Miami, that I never experienced visiting for Spring Break and beach getaways in my prior visits.
Specifically, as a #HaitianAmerican raised in #Brooklyn, it was absolutely beautiful to connect with my peyisans (hometown kin) in the originale Little Haiti as Miami is home to more Haitians in the US outside of the country itself. Meeting and partaking in fellowship with Patrick Eugene while communing over Haitian history and art at Carousel Studios with Bel Aire Champagne was an ENTIRE VIBE. Furthermore, attending the Spice it Up event with Anthony Hamilton at Little Haiti's Mache Ayisen (The Caribbean Marketplace) was definitely icing on my Red and Blue Haitian Flag wrapped cake, okay?!
Meeting the gallery owners of Galerie Myrtis, chopping it up with the good brother Ronald Draper in his space at Art Week Miami (after communing at his studio in the Bronx. . .
It felt like a meeting of the Black collective of the Creative Avengers (you know the folks who designed the superhero suits lol) being in these spaces with so many amazing people, doing amazing things!
As we walked through the Pulse Art Fair preview, (as cultural partners no less!) we were seen, as a COLLECTIVE. The scene hits different when other Black people see you in a group, and you sense that feeling that they want to know more. . .but are unaccustomed to approaching their own folks.
The scene also hits different when you are moving as a collective to support your own artists, supporting your own culture, and putting people on ALL at the same, damn, time. In a predominantly affluent experience and event, we were definitely integral to the scene and seen, if you can dig it.
As a Haitian-American serial entrepreneur, currently executing my vision, I’ve learned that I MUST tell MY story, because it belongs to more than just me. The way #BrooklyntoBasel lifted me and everyone else up, I KNOW we’re on to something major. I am supremely proud to allow the multi-faceted aspects of who I am as an individual shine in service to others.
Truthfully that’s why the clout doesn’t bother me. It certainly doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the lack of value and respect for certified knowledge—THAT irks my soul. When you do it for the right reasons, it’s a win. And seeing what is transpiring in our community online, and in reality as of late, I wanted to reflect with these wins of mine because I am, have been, and continue to be part of the real Black travel movement in more ways than a IG page can share. My wins brought others with me and continue to do so, because IMO, that’s the best clout to have.
The revolution is never televised, and I am not quite sure I want it all aspects of it to be. Maybe when I end up in some big magazine 3-4 years from now, I can reshare this because it will be more relevant to those who don’t know me. However, like the maven Woni Spotts who visited EVERY country in the world has taught me:
sometimes the trailblazers get lost paving the way for the ones who get shine and don’t want to acknowledge it.
But, somebody always sees and honors the hustle even if they are watching quietly.
I am grateful that I experienced and documented leaving a toxic Black travel group. It fueled this content as a reminder that sometimes you can be overqualified and beyond capacity for some. It also served as a personal reminder, that I got my own things cooking, and don’t need negatively skewed, and misdirected authority when I AM a bonafide authority in the travel space.
What I learned from curating the #BrooklyntoBasel experience is that I encourage you all to seek real communities. Real communities add value, allow you to think critically, share knowledge, and engage you personally. Find some new Black follows who want you to learn something instead of simply looking at them. Engage with those who add value because they want to and because they ask YOU what you think. I challenge all of us to either continue or begin to think critically about what you have consumed and if it has left you better as a result? I could easily make my platform about “looking at me,” but there’s plenty of that to go around, and it’s just not my style.
We are all the sum of our experiences, but if we as Black people are so good at silencing ourselves and access to knowledge and experiences that differ from one another, how will we ever get out of the cycle we are in?
As my IG friend @ris_royalty said: “If there is no diversity of thought and no individuality. . .it’s not a community, it’s a clique.” And I’m building communities, not cliques. I Hope you consider joining me in that work as I continue to build a community of cultural connection and dope ass travel. Make sure you subscribe for these upcoming trip drops!