Category: Humanity


The seed and desire to live in Paris was sown in me during my high school years. I had a French high school teacher that organized a trip to Paris during spring break. My family could not afford to send my sister and I there.

So for years I clipped articles about Paris. I studied French. I became fluent. I dreamed of the monuments in my sleep. I talked about going to Paris to everyone I met. I shared my dream with so many people. They started in believing in my dream for me.

A friend bought me a roundtrip open excursion ticket to Paris. My mother threw a Bon Vonage Party.  Her customers, friends and family gave me money and travel gifts. The support was overwhelming. Two days after I graduated from college I flew to Paris solo.

When I arrived at the YWCA as a Black American, I was a rarity. They had trouble  finding my reservation. Luckily, I took my French professor’s advice and had a printed copy with me.

I was finally shown my room and given a tour of the YWCA. I don’t think that they had ever seen a Black American girl before me. Word spread quickly that I was there. The French girls talked about me during dinner. There were mostly French and African young women living there.

That night I cried when reality hit me that I was there by myself. I listened to the strange sounds of the street noises and cried my self to sleep. I had finally made it to Paris, but I felt misplaced. I was lonely and homesick.

The next day a Senegalese girl befriended. She came to my room after dinner and introduced herself. She became my best friend. Her father was diplomat. She had lived in Washington, D.C.  She taught me about the Senegalese food and culture.I embraced the Senegalese culture.  I never did make friends with the French women.

All of my friends were from African or Caribbean countries. French people always thought that I was from Martinique or Guadeloupe because of the color of my skin and my long hair.

When I lived in Argentina, they thought I was from Brazil because I wore an Afro. My supposed country of origin changes from country to country depending on my hairstyle to the natives of that country.  Now people think I am Jamaican because my hair is locked. As I travel and evolve I absorb all the places I visit. My multiculturalism shapes me. I am an international citizen.

– Skychi- Paris, France- June 1982-June 1983

* For more information on Skychi and her travels please visit www.skychitravels.blogspot.com

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One Saturday morning, on a quiet street in the El Vedado section of Havana, Cuba, my classmates and I, who were attending a Spanish language immersion program at the University of Havana, were mounting our bicycles getting ready for a guided tour of the city. I noticed an attractive Afro-Cuban woman observing us from across the street and went over to introduce myself. Her eyes lit up like a neon sign as I heard virtual cash registers ringing in her head. Just because I’m an American she seemed to have felt that I’m a black relative of Bill Gates or Donald Trump and sought to get what she could.

I saw Luisa as opportunity to practice my Spanish and get immersed in Afro-Cuban culture.

In turn, I saw Luisa as opportunity to practice my Spanish and get immersed in Afro-Cuban culture. I met her two children Miguel (7) and Ingrid (5); her mother Isabel, and her brother Ronaldo, and other members of her family who lived in a rough-looking housing project across the street from where I was staying. However, after visiting Luisa numerous times, I realized that, although the people were poor, there was hardly any crime. The Cuban government is very hard on crime. What might get you a slap on the wrist in the USA can easily get you 10 to 20 years in Cuba.

The first time Luisa and I were alone, her first request was that I take her back to the United States. The last thing I wanted in Cuba was to find a wife; especially one who couldn’t see past my wallet. She started telling her family, that I was going to take her. My response was that I wanted to stay here in Cuba with her, and together we can support the revolution. That shut her up! But later, as we went shopping, she lured me over to the appliance section trying to get me to buy her a refrigerator; way over my vacation budget.

The last thing I wanted to do in Cuba was a wife; especially one who couldn’t see past my wallet.

As I got to know Luisa better, I realized that she was not being devious. She was desperately trying to make ends meet for her and her children. And with this unrelenting trade embargo against Cuba, it was evident that it wasn’t hurting Castro nearly as much as it is hurting people like Luisa and her children. For this reason, I felt good about helping Luisa and her family in ways I could afford. The day before my departure, I gave the children Miguel and Ingrid gifts that they thoroughly appreciated. You can just see the exhilaration in their eyes. I also handed her mother some money.

After returning home to Oakland, Luisa and I stayed in touch by phone and by mail. I just feel bad that it is so difficult to send money or gifts without the Cuban government’s greedy interference.Luisa, her children,and her mother and are friends separated by politics.

My trip to Cuba was a vacation from heaven. There was something about the energy of the Cuban people that made me feel like a long, lost member of the community who finally came home. Words cannot express how uplifted I felt to just walk about town hearing salsa, merengue, and Afro-Cuban music blaring from homes and businesses. One day, there was a group of us walking through Central Havana as we heard this loud salsa song coming from a restaurant. I couldn’t take it anymore. I reached out and grabbed a woman, and we danced right there in public. Of the 12 countries that I’ve visited in my life, Cuba is the only country from which I returned feeling homesick.
I was born in St. Louis, MO, and lived in a closely knit African-American community called “The Ville.”

In fact, many Latin-American people suspect that I might be Cuban. Even Cubans thought I was Cuban until I opened my mouth. I couldn’t even fake a Cuban accent. At a popular Havana night spot, I was so flattered when a lovely woman asked my date if she could cut in to dance with me. I took her into my arms and busted one of my favorite salsa moves. She was NOT impressed, as she blurted out in astonishment, ¡tu bailas como extranjero /you dance like a foreigner!). I guess she thought I was Cuban too.

Even Cuban people thought I was Cuban until I opened my mouth!

The Cubans have a name for people like me. It’s called “Yuma,” a slang word for an American, and rightfully so. I was born in St. Louis, MO and lived in what was then, a closely knit African-American community called “The Ville” before moving to New York City where I was influenced by my Puerto Rican neighbors to learn Spanish and love salsa music. Perhaps, I may have been Cuban in another life? I tend to think that just might be the case.

– Bill Smith, Cuba- Summer 2010

*Bill Smith is a hobbyist who explores black cultures in Latin-American countries through reading and travel.For more information on Bill and his experiences abroad please visit www.ahorasecreto.blogspot.com.

When I found out Quark Expeditions was looking for a blogger/writer to document their June 2011 Arctic expedition to the North Pole, I typed in an entry faster than I could refresh the contest page.

As I kept sending out plea after plea to friends and family to cast their votes, I realized I needed to share my backstory and why this contest means so much to me.

This isn’t about trying to reach a place others haven’t been. It isn’t about showing off or trying to compete with friends going on their own amazing polar expeditions (which I’m super stoked about). It isn’t about country-counting (or iceberg counting).

This is about something I thought would never happen to me.

About a statement I made (and truly believed) in my early teens about going specifically to the North Pole.

Childhood Dream

I remember sitting in Mr. Kayode’s geography class (my favorite) in secondary school, an atlas in my hand looking at political boundaries; countries way beyond my reach at that time. I constantly joked about it with family and friends. “I will reach the North Pole,” I often said, oblivious to the fact that I was sitting in tropical sub-Saharan Africa and had never seen snow at that time.

I never, ever in my wildest dreams would have thought I’d be a few votes and judges away from realizing that dream.

Never.

It’s Personal

My contacts and networks mean a lot to me and reaching out to every one of you to vote has been humbling and has filled me with even more gratitude. I care about every single person behind the vote so this is a lot more personal than just some social media campaign. I sincerely hope Quark Expeditions realizes this. Every single one of you is important beyond just your vote.

It’s Moving

The North Pole is moving. Granted, it’s not going to shift all the way to Africa in my lifetime, but it’s moving nonetheless and I’d like to get there while it’s still the North Pole.

Big Shoes

This is the closest I’d ever be to a bonafide Arctic explorer. Sure, we’d be rolling up in some style abroad a Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker, but nevertheless, sailing the paths of these Arctic explorers I’d only read and learned about in geography class would be a tremendous honor.

When I get there, I will plant 3 flags (if allowed): one for Nigeria my heritage, one for the United States my new home, and one for Sweden my love.

I’m also a serial jumper and plan on taking a classic jumping shot similar to these – http://www.flickr.com/photos/lolaakinmade/sets/72157623992737985/

Quark is Eco-Friendly

The polar regions (Arctic and Antarctica) are becoming more vulnerable and susceptible to human denigration and global warming. If I didn’t think Quark Expeditions was an environmentally responsible company (which they are), I won’t be participating in this.

Creativity

As a writer, the vastness, barrenness, and sparseness of the North Pole is bound to rejuvenate my creativity by taking away all distractions, and helping me focus in the now; on each breath, and each heartbeat. It will force and help me to dig deeper.

Visual Candy

Jarring white icebergs against dark blue ink waters is a photographer’s dream to not only witness, but shoot and shoot till their fingers are frost-bitten.

On Lunacy

My husband thinks I’m crazy even though he’s from around these parts and grew up in Swedish Lapland. I’d like to validate his thoughts.

We Dey There!

Nigerians are known for traveling far and wide. I’d be honored to continue this tradition.

Serving and Gratitude

Paying it forward – To whom much is given, much is expected. How can I NOT pay this generosity forward?!

 

Lola Akinmade-North Pole hopeful – 2011

*Originally published at:  http://lolaakinmade.com/2010/12/06/10-reasons-why-i-want-to-go-to-the-north-pole/

for more informationa  how your vote can make Lola’s North Pole expedition dreams a reality please visit the link above.

For more information on Lola’s travel experiences please visit:  http://lolaakinmade.com/

 


Fekete Pákó is the name of a TV star and singer in Hungary. His real name is Oludayo Olapite. He comes from Nigeria and came to Hungary in 1994 on scholarship to study Law, but later dropped out. His two Hungarian CDs have sold up to 31,000 copies. Enough to earn him golden platinum and make him a big star in Hungary. 

On how he actually got into showbiz, Olapite recalls it was his friend, Molnár Sándor who came up with an idea. Sándor had asked what seemed to be a crazy question: “What if a black man sings Hungarian folklore?” The rest is now history.

You could think that the existence of a Black Hungarian TV personality is a beautiful example of integration and interculturalism within Europe. According to many, it’s quite the opposite. Fekete Pákó is a rather racist act that creates an image of sex obsessed, polygamous, human eating dummies.

The Hungarian tabloids are so obsessed with him to the extent of making him the spokesperson for Africans in Hungary even though it’s apparent that Pákó does not know much about African politics, culture and social life. Yet, they prefer him to those Hungarian Africans who are competent in this field, as well as speak more fluent Hungarian.

Headlines such as “Celeb Sex: Fekete Pákó in Online Cock Measuring Contest”; “Pákó Fekete Officially crowned Dumbest Hungarian”; “Cleb Dish: Szulak Stalked by “Cannibal” Pákó” is the kind of sensational misrepresentation you could read in Hungarian tabloids.

However, strong opposition comes from his own people. Fekete Pákó is not loved by his own people. Africans and especially Nigerians in Hungary simply hate him. They alleged he is denigrating black people in Hungary with his utterances and lifestyle.

Fredrick Konor, a Ghanaian who is a member of SANKOFA Cultural group, believes Pákó can’t sing but the guy has other characters like being funny, doing unexpected things that have lured Hungarian tabloids to him. “We should stop the jealousy,” he says indignantly. “Our brother came from nowhere with a fresh idea to breakthrough a sector which is highly competitive. An African singing in Hungarian language!”.

It’s true, he did something no one did before and he made a living out of it. And we could think if the likes of Snoop Doggy Dogg, Dr. Dre and 50Cent are not in the same way abusing ideas about black people to make a lot of money in the show business. But then again, maybe we should not take all this too seriously. Why not appreciate the irony and self mockery in all this?

This article was written thanks to an article from The Nation (Nigeria) by Olumide Olapite. Click here to read the full article.

 

-Sibo Kano- August 2009

Originally posted at: http://afroeurope.blogspot.com/2009/08/fekete-pako-black-hungarian-super-star.html

For news and information on people of African descent in Europe please visit:

http://afroeurope.blogspot.com/

Today was my final class in Cross Cultural Communication. On schedule we had a Swedish woman that was to lecture about the American business culture. I was curious to hear if the experiences she shared with the class would be positive or negative. Swedes have a love/hate relationship with the United States. I don’t want to make generalizations but its like there is an obsession with the US and people are extreme in their feelings about it. Either you are 100% pro-America or you hate it, that’s it..there is no indifference here about the US.

Anyway, overall the lecture was interesting and at times really funny until the subject of racism came up. Now, you have to understand that Swedes do not think that they are racist or that racism exists here. Today, there is a serial killer running around targetting immigrants in Malmö, the third largest town in Sweden. There are problems with integration here…I mean entire areas in Stockholm where there are only immigrants that live there, but when she mentioned that her real estate broker in the US thought that she would be able to get an apartment because she wasn’t black or Jewish my classmates were appalled. My lecturer’s reaction was, “yes, these things happen even today in the US” but ask anyone in Sweden with a certain type of last name if they felt that they have been denied an apartment or a job and you hear that yes, these things happen even today in Sweden.

I didn’t feel comfortable with the issue of racism being brought up, because its complicated and something that a white foreigner really could never understand, much less attempt to explain. I am african american and I still can’t wrap my head around racism at times, so its not appropriate for it to be “just a bullet point” on a powerpoint presentation of a Swedish woman who lived in the States for seven years.

As a consequence of this racism -as a subject dabbling, a few of my classmates started to ask me questions…yippee…. about the situation and what its like to deal with racism in the US.

I started off with my view that its a completed subject. I had to explain that I didn’t feel “held down by the shackles of the man” on a daily basis. Yes, I was aware that there were country clubs that did not allow Blacks to join but I had to explain, that I didn’t know where they were. It wasn’t like I was shaking the guard gates screaming, let me in, let me in. Yes, I did agree that the American dream was a myth to most but that only in the US, could the phenomenon that is OPRAH be an example of a dream made real. I also had to point out that poverty should not be exclusively assigned to a racial group. Most Swedes, because of negative media, believe that most black people are poverty stricken and that isn’t true.

So, I did appreciate the lecturer’s viewpoint that racism is bad but it left too many unanswered questions or too much room for people to draw the wrong conclusions. Racism is everywhere. Its human nature to divide ourselves and create “otherness”. At least in the US we admit to our weaknesses and don’t try to pretend that the problems don’t exist because they do, but as long as people need to feel better about themselves at the expense of others it will continue…just like the shootings in Malmö.

Kyana- Sweden, November 2010

originally posted at http://www.kyanainsweden.com/2010/11/guest-speaker-and-racism.html

*For more information on Kyana and her experiences please visit: http://www.kyanainsweden.com/

For over twenty years I’ve been traveling and living abroad. I’ve been all over the United States down to Mexico and the Caribbean and across the ocean to Europe. I’ve become acquainted with nearly one hundred cities in seventeen countries spread over three continents, each of which, through a slight gesture or a grandiose revelation, gave me insight into what it means to be a black woman in the world.

 

Firstly, my travels have taught me that America’s futile obsession with race does not define me even though it’s done it’s best to convince me that I’m not relationship material, that I’m loud and otherwise ignorant, i.e. socially inept, and that if I’m financially successful, I’m an anomaly.

 

In contrast, the people in each of the countries I visited were interested in me because I was a black woman. They listened when I spoke and wanted to know about black culture in America. Bit by bit, with each journey, I expelled all remnants of a racist ideology that, unwittingly, I had internalized.

 

By the time I moved to the Netherlands, eleven years ago, the slate had been wiped clean enough for me to inscribe my own definition of who I was. Dutch culture does not see blackness first and foremost, nor does it place a stigma on skin color. Therefore, instead of focusing on how others perceive me because I’m a black woman, I feel empowered to focus on my creative potential as an author, mother and individual.

 

America’s obsession with race extends to the black community, where it is felt deepest in our negative body image. Nowhere is this felt with greater intensity than among black women and our hair. We’ve managed to politicize something as personal as hair care. Hair continues to divide us. Even now we’re in the middle of a polemic, one side of which tells us that if we chemically process our hair, we’re ashamed of our heritage and have a poor self-image, as though sporting natural locks could somehow obliterate all of our issues, past and present.

 

In the absence of Dudley products, I’ve been forced to ground my body image in other areas besides the physical. I started paying attention to the fact that people responded to my openness, were drawn to my genuine interest in their culture and were attracted to my growing self-confidence. That, in turn, empowered me to love the body the good Lord gave me – with a couple tweaks here and there! I’m a lovely shade of brown, my body is healthy and my hair is versatile. I’ll change my hairstyle at the toss of a coin depending on what part of my character I want to express that day. Being abroad has taught me that my brown body is just that: a brown body. I get to tell the world exactly what that brown body stands for, not vice versa.

 

In addition to learning that my hair and that America’s racist ideology do not define me, traveling abroad has taught me that I have a distinctive voice. As in writing, voice is not limited to the words I use but extends to how I get my message across. The fact that I travel speaks volumes to the multi-dimensional identity of black women in general. The way I dress, how I pass along the legacies of the black culture to my children, how I interact with my husband, down to how I try to dance on the cross trainer at my gym listening to Prince, George Clinton and the Doobie Brothers are all extensions of the voice I carry within.

 

When I turned to words – through blogging and writing my memoir – I connected with other sisters living abroad and tuned into that vibrant community. I learned that we could be, and were, an indispensable support for one another. We shared past hurts, present successes and future dreams. Their voices, expressed through their stories, resonated with and fused into mine, making it stronger, clearer and eloquent.

 

As I look back over the past twenty years of traveling abroad, I realize that my journeys haven’t been about stepping outside my country as much as venturing internally towards a definition of my black womanhood expressed in my own terms and on my own terms. Those journeys have empowered me to successfully live beyond the limitations of my comfort zone, beyond the limitations of my identity.

* Carolyn Vines-

*Besides being an author, editor and award-winning blogger, Carolyn Vines is a full-time mother of two bicultural, bilingual daughters. She holds an MA in Latin American literature and has taught in universities in the Netherlands and in the US. She speaks Spanish and Dutch fluently and currently resides with her family in the Netherlands.  Her memoir, black and (A)broad: traveling beyond the limitations of identity is available online at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Barnes & Noble online.

For more information on Carolyn and her memoir  please visit:   http://www.blackandabroad.com/

 

 

 

 

 

There is no one, definitive black experience abroad.  People of African descent hail from places varied and far away from small town USA to Kingston Jamaica from Accra, Ghana to Panama City from Tanzania to Canada.  This blog seeks to be holding house and testament to this variety of perspectives and experiences.

It is the hope of the blog’s creator that the articles and links on this space will pique your interests, assuage your fears, give you much needed tips, or all of the above.   Please enjoy this space, engage this space and contribute to this space as you embark on your black experiences abroad.

Welcome to theblackexperienceabroad!

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