Culture/Arts

Black Travelers Are Still Treated Differently Domestically and Abroad

Photo by Ryan Tang on Unsplash

By Brittney M. Walker

Remember when Airbnb’s discrimination issues blew up? Rohan Gilkes the co-founder and inspiration for Innclusive, experienced a cancellation based on what he believes was his race. So he and Zakiyyah Myers founded Innclusive because of the Airbnb’s lax handling of discrimination issues prevalent among many travelers of color. In fact, I experienced some discrimination of my own on Airbnb’s platform.

And when I looked into it more, so many African-American travelers are affected by their ethnic background, skin color and hair texture when they travel. Some people say they’re stared at awkwardly, followed, taken pictures of, refused service, called names and more. I hadn’t really registered this as part of my travel experience before (simply because it’s just a part of my everyday life as a Black woman). But it is.

The issues are so prominent among Black travelers that we are going within our communities (Nomadness Travel Tribe for example) for survival tips, looking for Black-friendly destinations, asking about what type of discrimination to expect and more.

What ‘main-stream’ travel service provides that kind of information for us? I suppose that is the beauty of being niche.

This is why I founded Beyonder. I want to address the discrimination problem travelers like me face and provide a service that does actually help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety many of us have when we go places.

Through Beyonder, we are creating safe spaces and experiences that allow Black travelers to move about the world with a little more ease and less anxiety, at least during the experiences we curate. We want to experience the world and all of its beauty and not have to always worry about whether or not our Afro’s will be inappropriately groped or if someone is going to take a photo of us because we look like a caricature or get cursed out in a different language because the locals are disgusted with the entire Black population.

Beyonder wants to be that local friend, the go to resource and platform that helps Black travelers connect with local Black communities in the new cities they visit. We want to make it easier for travelers to discover those cute, hole in the wall spots only the locals know about or those fun cultural events and gatherings Black travelers want to experience.

Imagine this Itinerary. A half-day experience that includes a beautiful yoga session with a curvaceous Black yogi who is nothing like the typical yoga instructor. Then walk a few blocks to a local juice bar where they will enjoy a ginger beer tasting and chat with a woman who has been healing and helping locals through natural foods and juices. You will end your journey at a local urban farm where otherwise disenfranchised residents are empowered through agriculture.

These and other immersive experiences are what we curate for travelers. It’s about connecting Black travelers with local Black communities, services, business owners and practitioners to create a safe, Black-friendly travel experience.

Beyonder wants to be that local friend, the go to resource and platform that helps Black travelers connect with local Black communities in the new cities they visit. We want to make it easier for travelers to discover those cute, hole in the wall spots only the locals know about or those fun cultural events and gatherings Black travelers want to experience.

Let’s explore the world unapologetically.

Brittney M. Walker is a journalist, hommie and founder of Beyonder, a venture that creates elevated experiences for travelers. Her experience includes journalistic work for CBS Radio, EURweb.com, NV Magazine and the Amsterdam News. She’s a native of Los Angeles and when she isn’t experiencing the world outside of the U.S. is based in New York. Find her on Twitter as @BrittneyMWalker.

 

Experts discuss the politics of hair and identity in Harlem

From left to right: Brittany M. Walker, Diane Da Costa, Adeola Adejobi, Esq.; Derick Monroe, and Ayesha Faines

On Thursday, July 30th, ZNews Africa hosted its first hair and identity event, “We Are Our Hair,” at ImageNation’s Raw Space in Harlem, New York City. The series is a collection of community conversations about topics important to the global African diaspora using hair as the lens.

The panelists at the event included Brittany M. Walker, the editor-in-chief and founder of GypsyJaunt.com; Adeola Adejobi, Esq., the managing member of the Avant-Garde Network and co-founder of the Worldview Realty Group; Diane Da Costa, the creative director of the hair salon SimpleeBEAUTIFUL; and Derick Monroe, a freelance Hairstylist who has worked with prestigious magazines such as Essence. The moderator was ZNews Africa Contributor, television journalist and writer, Ayesha Faines.

The topics discussed by the panel ranged from personal hair to the complex nuances of navigating one’s hair in the black community and greater community at large. One of the first themes to emerge was the ability of the current natural hair movement to endure.

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ZNews Africa contributor Ayesha Faines

“It’s definitely not a fad or a trend. This is a movement that has been here since the sixties, the blackout movement started all of this,” said Da Costa. “Now this millennium movement, I call it the curly revolution, what we’re in right now, is only going to get bigger and expand more than anything. London, Paris, Japan, and Africa are all embracing natural hair and you’ll see more and more. It’s really moving fast.”

Da Costa also talked about necessity for education and research in caring for natural hair. Though she advocated for patronizing natural hair salons, she acknowledged that they are not accessible for everyone in every location.

“Of course in the major cities, there are so many stylists that specialize in natural hair; however, across the country there are not as many who specialize and can do natural hair, expertly,” Da Costa said. “You have to go on and google things to research it.”

Monroe also discussed the lack of education even within the general cosmetology community.

“When I look back on my cosmetology experience, you’re whole discussion in ethnic hair is the relaxation process. It’s never been that this type of hair texture needs moisture, or it needs this. Or that these type of hair products work well, etc.” he said.

“Do you see a problem in the way the media glorifies black female features including our hair as long as they’re not attached to a black female?”

Walker said that the media was at fault and referred to this problem as an “illness” in America.

“Serena Williams has been in the media for quite a bit, ever since she started her career. And the demonization of a beautiful black woman like Serena Williams is disgusting, and it comes from the media. These are the ways people continue to perpetuate these stereotypes discussed about black people,” Walker said. “But you go in the media and you see Kylie Jenner or whomever injecting their lips or the hair or whatever is the case to look like us. Of course I have a problem with that. That’s the illness in America.”

The discussion also touched on the perceptions of class and its relationship to hair texture or hair styling.

“Even though we have this natural hair explosion, we still haven’t been able to divorce it from colorism,” said Faines. “We still have to deal with good hair politics even though we are in a natural hair revolution.

Adejobi shared her own experience with good hair politics telling an anecdote in which a man on the subway told her that she had “good hair” meaning to pay her a compliment, even though she was offended.

“The hair that God gave me is the best hair,” said Adejobi. “People make assumptions and judgments within our own community about you just based on your hair, and it’s very superficial.”

Adejobi also spoke about her experience with hair politics in interviewing for jobs as a lawyer. Though her own hair was relaxed at that time, she said that many of her friends felt conflicted.

“People that had their hair natural, they were very concerned about how their appearance would affect their opportunities to get into a firm,” Adejobi said.

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Audience member eagerl to join the discussion

An audience member raised a question concerning segregation within the natural hair community, where some might consider those who wear a weave or have braids with natural hair underneath, to not be truly natural. Monroe jokingly referred to the more extreme natural hair advocates as “natural hair thugs.”

“When people come out of relaxing, when they come to the self-discovery that, ‘I kind of like my hair the way it is;’ it sort of bothers them to see other people don’t have that same outlook,” Monroe said. “That’s where that divide comes from. It becomes kind of militant and you end up turning people off or coming off as aggressive to people.

Walker emphasized that health is a very important aspect of hair care.

“At the end of the day it’s really about what’s going on with you, and it’s about your health,” Walker said. “You decided not to put chemicals in our hair because it’s unhealthy for us and unhealthy for our bodies.

“We Are Our Hair“ was held at RAW Space, via the ImageNation Cinema Foundation, a media arts group dedicated to highlighting progressive media by and for people color based in Harlem. The foundation bought RAW Space with the intention of converting it into a cinema cafe to provide Harlem with a venue for appreciating black independent films, music, and other culture. ImageNation is currently raising the funds to turn Raw Space into Soul Cinema through the #iLoveSoulCinema fundraiser.

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Danielle Smith is a senior at Columbia University studying English and History. She is currently the head of the news department at WKCR 89.9 FM NY and a freelance contributor to various news organizations. You can reach her on Twitter at @daniellesmithny.

For editorial inquires contact: stories@znewsafrica.com.

Art meets wealth in one Nigerian-American’s vision for a community

Shimite Obialo founder and CEO of Anoko

“You must kill it,” her parents would tell her. Killing it signifies putting your best foot forward, having the “doer mentality,” as some may call it.

Her father and mother left Nigeria for America, with the vision in their eyes, to provide for their kin a much more prosperous life than they had. They made the hard choice to uproot from their native land, which is filled with their families and friends.

They arrived in America and with them, their culture. Nigerian culture is built on hard work, dedication, a strong resolve, all of which cannot fully be utilized without education rooted at its core. So when they had children, they instilled all those core values deep within their minds.

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Shimite Obialo took that “kill it” mentality from her hardworking mother and father. She’s a lawyer who works sometimes 80-hour weeks, sings at events with a beautiful voice that captivates souls, and works tirelessly on as  founder and CEO of Anoko, her social networking business.

Anoko is a new members only art social club based in New York, that connects professionals with arts, culture and culinary experiences. Through a diverse set of partnerships, with arts institutions, galleries, performance venues and more, Anoko provides its members with discounts and VIP access. The group was selected to curate the VIP section of the 2017 VOLTA Art Fair happening in March.

The meaning of the word “Anoko” is wealth, in the Nigerian language, Igala.

On Saturday night, I attended the private launch party in Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn. Once there, I was blown away by the creative ingenuity and uniqueness that presented itself in the portraits hanging from the wall. These were Afroprofessionals expressing their creativity outside of the confines of their daily, standardized lives.

Attendees viewing artwork at Anoko's lunch event in Brooklyn, NY
Attendees viewing artwork at Anoko’s launch event in Brooklyn, NY

After having a drink or two (probably more) and waiting for the event to commence, I parlayed with some of the creative professionals about the event, and why they were drawn to attend. Most knew Shimite on a personal level; others were guests of her guests. They all genuinely believed in the mission of sharing their creative artistry with the world–that true art is communal. The professional creatives wanted to be apart of the space, the feeling of transparency that art provides to the soul.

Shimite walked out from the back room–commanding everyone’s attention. She is a striking woman, tall and elegant, with laid back eyes and a beautiful smile. She walked around the room, greeting her guests, before proceeding to kick off the event. Her demeanor exudes a quiet, yet commanding presence.

After some performances by fellow creatives, Shimite, an artist herself, captivated every person’s’ soul with the cadence of her voice, rendering them speechless.

Jeremiah Ojo, art consultant at Anoko speaks with attendee.
Jeremiah Ojo, art consultant at Anoko speaks with attendee.

“There is a multiplicity in us, we don’t have to be just one thing. I can be everything I want to be; we can be anything we want to be. It’s with that vision in mind that led me to starting Anoko,” Shimite said.

Shimite is also building a strong team to help build this community. She brought on Jeremiah Ojo as an art consultant at Anoko. He brings a dynamic experience traveling globally to curate and project manage a variety of exhibitions, working with artists studios, galleries and museums.

He shares, “I decided to work with Anoko because of the mission set forth to educate our generation about the importance of pursing and attaining cultural wealth. Anoko is the first company I have seen to successfully blend the social & cultural capital of the arts and cultural sectors, with immersive educational experiences, built around people and community, not institution.”

Shimite and Jeremiah have built real careers doing creative work. As Afroprofessionals, we don’t have to just be pragmatic. We can be raw and unfiltered in our capacity to express ourselves; we need to share with the rest of the world a bit of who we are through mediums such as photographs, paintings, writings, singing, and all other creative outlets. It shows the world us, the way we would like to be defined: multifaceted individuals with beaucoup identities.

There’s a voice inside of us that can only be emulated through the art that we create.

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Kamar Foster is a contributor who covers events and writes the stories for ZNews Africa. He narrates the cultural stories of the African diaspora as he experiences them locally and globally. Hit him up on twitter @KamarFoster and on instagram @definitionsarerealyall

For editorial inquires contact: stories@znewsafrica.com

The Empowering Beauty of Travel for People of African Descent

Photo by Besir OZ on Unsplash

By KalaLea

Some of you may understand me when I say that there’s something empowering and even invigorating about seeing your people, in my case, people of African descent, in positions of power and play. People who look like me…smiling and laughing in an ocean inherited by them from Mother Nature.

Before European-led colonization, there were many vibrant coastal cultures with traditions tied to the ocean and seas. I often imagine my ancestors basking in the sun then refreshing themselves in the cool waters.

The majority of my travel experiences have landed me on various coasts around the world. It’s where I feel loved and connected to all living beings. After landing in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the first move I made was to remove my leggings and dip my toes in the vast Indian Ocean. I looked around at the brown-skinned beauties and wondered when it became safe again to frolic, to linger, to float, to be free.

This second trip to the continent immediately felt different because the ocean is healing, it pushes and pulls me to higher spirits. The ocean grounds me on my worst days because I know there is something to run into, nature’s enormous retreat.

It’s been nearly two weeks in Tanzania and our time has been truly wonderful. I couldn’t possibly share everything here but I wanted to mention some highlights and lessons learned thus far.

Traveling grows you. It molds and bends you in unexpected places. My traveling partner aka my boyfriend has remarked a few times how great of a traveler I am. I’ve had years of practice but I was still flattered. He’s been great too.

We made a list of a few main characteristics needed to be a cool traveler and I added some explanation to give you a sense of how we prepared for our trip:

Stamina – it took us 48 hours exactly to arrive in Tanzania. Two weeks before leaving, we made fresh green juices every day and took a multivitamin twice daily – we also exercised more than usual and took plenty of naps so that we were particularly ready for the 12-hour layover in Dubai. Remember: the cheaper the flight, the longer the layover. Not sure we’ll ever do this again.

Patience – we created a code word so if we were getting on each other’s nerves we could simply say the word without offending the other … I’ve only had to use it once thus far and he used it two times for me, or vice versa. Either way, it’s working!

Flexibility – Our first day in Dar, the power went out for the entire day. We had planned to run a few errands but plans change. We spent the full day at the beach with friends who made a bonfire while we listened to someone’s mp3 player under the brightest of stars.

You’ll also need to practice your bargaining skills, exercise non-judgment, pay attention to small signals, use your intuition and embrace being alienated, foreign and different. Everywhere we go, we encounter the Tanzanian Stare Down. It’s intense and usually subdued with a casual greeting of “Mambo!” We may be brown but it’s obvious we are not locals and this garners a great deal of attention.

KalaLea is the founder of Why Did I Eat That? (WDIET), a wellness site where you will find inspirational stories, news, her favorite things and educational resources. WDIET’s goal is to improve the well-being of anyone who eats — especially busy creative professionals.

What Sepp Blatter and I understand about FIFA

When the corruption scandal broke, I was initially shocked that the derited States was prosecuting and the first thoughts on mind were akin to Imperialism (please read through before you judge).

I didn’t really pay much attention except to count how many times Loretta Lynch and her henchmen repeated “soccer, soccer…” at some point, it sounded like “sucker.” It was okay for me, but I could imagine watching in Nigeria and other parts of the world and wanting to tell them “no, it’s football”!

Anyway, when the facts came out, I realized that the U.S. had jurisdiction etc. And, who better to probe corruption – especially in a body like FIFA – than the U.S.? In spite of her “deflategate,” multiple steroidal Olympians, and Mayweatherisms, the U.S. is still better than most parts of the world corruption-wise. It’s like a whirlwind compared to a tornado. So I was glad that the U.S. was prosecuting, but my thoughts still lingered.

Now it is a fact that all the countries that have won the World Cup since inception have hosted it before (I realized this in the last decade when deliberations were going on about an African World Cup).

Of course, these two may not be related but I know that when you get to those heights, where preparation and talent are only basic requirements, several other factors come into play – confidence, psyche, fan clubs, referee united, winning mentality, limbs of God etc. And if you know what I know, you’ll understand that any advantage is an advantage.

So was I expectant and happy when South Africa got the nod? Of course! And to prove my point, it would have been the best outing of any African country to date except for the intervention of the Mike Tyson of football. There are several other examples to support my hypothesis (e.g. Japan/South Korea – 2002, etc.).

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What Sepp Blatter and I understand about FIFA

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