Archives – August, 2009

‘Harlem in Montmartre’ retraces musical history of African-Americans in Paris

Don’t know if any of you caught this on PBS stations in the United States last night, but a FABULOUS documentary highlighting called “Harlem in Montmartre” walked viewers through the roots of African-American jazz in Paris and the forces that shaped this incredible musical genre. As many of you know, Paris is my favorite city in the world, the one place I’d choose if told I could never leave. And when there, I love to stroll around the colorful 18th arrondisement where Montmartre, the city quarter spotlighted in the film, is located.

As the documentary showed, this was where black American musicians, artists and writers often settled when they arrived in the City of Light between the First and Second World Wars. There were nightclubs owned and run by black folks – even strong African-American women like Ada “Bricktop” Smith, whose club was the place to be. It was here that jazz greats like New Orleans native Sidney Bechet earned their fame; where entertainers like the beloved Josephine Baker (whose do-it-your-own-way life story never ceases to amaze and inspire me) performed and hung out. This was no small thing, as these black Americans found a personal and creative freedom they were denied back “home” in the United States. The French embraced them, and African-Americans in Paris embraced them right back….

Continue 4 Comments August 27, 2009

Say amen, sister: Get a spiritual boost by visiting houses of worship when traveling overseas

I don’t know about you, but I’m often more psyched about going to church on the road than hitting a bunch of must-see museums and boutiques. Although mornings and I have never been friends, when I’m overseas, I make a point of finding an English-speaking service, whether I need to hop on a subway or bus or use my own two feet to get there. I enjoy the religious aspect of worship but for me, it’s also about experiencing local culture in one of its most authentic and expressive ways….

Continue 6 Comments August 16, 2009

Some sisters never more at home than when traveling abroad

Not that I didn’t already know this, but I’m always thrilled to hear about black women out there who, American or other passports in hand, eagerly take off for trips to places where we’re not always sure if there will be lots of other folks who look like “us “when we get there. But we go anyway, and often return home with fresh eyes.

Take American Black Chick in London. We met “virtually” through her fabulous blog of the same name, as she’s finishing up her M.A. dissertation in London this summer and looking for work that will extend her excellent European adventure. Not only do I love her fresh perspective on being a young African-American sister overseas, but admire her fearless spirit, especially when it comes to taking on the world on her own terms. American Black Chick just got back from a two-week jaunt to Italy, Switzerland and Liechtenstein and dished a bit about the trip….

Continue 6 Comments August 11, 2009

Black women traveling abroad: Learn a foreign country’s social mores, customs before you go

At the recent Travel Blog Exchange ’09 conference in Chicago, a fellow blogger and I found ourselves discussing why African-American women—even those with the financial means and interest in traveling abroad—don’t do it more often. I often think about this, as I always feel it would be GREAT to see more sisters when I’m running around Italy or Spain either in a group or solo.

For many of us, it’s fear of the unknown. We don’t speak the language; we don’t know anyone in the country we’d like to visit. But in countless conversations I’ve had with African-American women over the years, it comes down to wondering how we’ll be perceived as black people. Even without realizing it, being black in America—whether dirt-poor, comfortably affluent like “The Cosby Show” Huxtables, or “movin’ on up” like the Jeffersons—means wearing the subconscious burden of potential discrimination on our backs like the latest designer dress….

Continue 22 Comments August 9, 2009

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