Stop Calling Africa "Dirty"

Why you always gotta go somewhere, Ms. CJ? What’s so great? Why you wanna go to Africa? Africa is dirty and doesn’t have any schools or roads.
— A black student of mine

I have been teaching eighth grade science for four years at a public school in Houston.  It has been a joy, pain, but mainly an honor to work with my students year after year.  My school is about 93% Hispanic with sprinkles of white, black, Asian, and multiracial children thrown in the mix.  Usually, my students would get excited about my upcoming trips I would tell them about and consequently, would try to steer me off-track by asking questions about the destinations and if I was going to "turn up" while I was there.  So, imagine my surprise when every time I mentioned an upcoming trip, two of my black students seemed extremely opposed.  Now, I love my new home in Texas, and do believe that Texas is its own nation, but I was disappointed in their lack of desire to step outside of the state. I was floored that my black children were sitting here yelling out propoganda about Africa in front of their classmates.  Aside from covering my eyes and shaking my head in regards to the comment about "Africa not having schools", I decided that this in fact was a teachable moment and the lesson on ecosystems could wait.  My children needed to be schooled.

I've been a domestic traveler for as long as I can remember, as it has been something I had to accept when I decided to attend college in Miami (1,226 miles away from my hometown in New Jersey). I also had the fortune of lengthy road trips in the summer when we would gear up for our family reunions up and down the East Coast, with Michigan and St. Louis thrown in. Even still, it took me 25 years to apply for my passport.  I would never admit it in school, but attending the University of Miami had me feeling pretty self-conscious about my socioeconomic status and I never envisioned myself being able to travel the world drinking lattes, relaxing in a resort, or posing in front of The Seven Wonders. It was not that I did not want to travel abroad, I just could not see it for myself.  I had been shut down a few times in high school and gave up on continuing to pursue it.

That makes me wonder, who is dictating to the black community that we are not worthy of travel?  Is it one specific source?  I Googled "people traveling abroad" for kicks, and let's just say I had to scroll quite a bit to get a decent image of my brothers and sisters toting some luggage.  Within this last year, thas been an influx of articles capturing the severely underdocumented black travel movement.  Can I see more sisters on the Travel Channel?  Travel magazines? PINTEREST? Something without it explicitly needing to say "black"?  So far, not so lucky, but I am ever grateful for bloggers rising to the challenge to make our voices known and heard.

Most of my friends (and I too, used to believe) that you have to be blowin' money fast to be able to travel.  Not so much! Let's remember that I'm a teacher, people.  It's all about how you work your budget.  I have a severe problem when it comes to dresses, coffee, and happy hour, but now I have that problem in check.  The money I used to spend now enters my travel savings account and / or my travel piggie bank.  After I get settled into Dallas (moving there in two months), it will be a major effort of mine to make sure that I am breeding some global citizens in the classroom.  It's time for our youth, especially inner city youth, to #SeeSomeWorld.  Talking about the world can only do so much, but when they experience it?!..Totally different. Just like we urge our freshly turned 18-year-old students to apply for Voter Registration (as they should), we should also be checking to see if they have the means to apply for a passport? No money? Let's find an organization that will assist (do you all see where my mind is headed towards?)

My uncle preached at my grandfather's funeral with the message, "What's your excuse now?". Travel is obviously no longer a "white" thing, but WE need to step up to the plate and teach our communities what the world has to offer. It's not about exclusivity, it's not about bragging, it's about seeing God's beauty spread throughout 7 continents and gaining a sense of worldly education.  If we do not see the world, then we will continue to rely on negative propoganda sent to us about "Africa being dirty and the children are starving", uhh..have you seen Zanzibar? Victoria Falls?

This is part of the reason why I have created this blog.  Up until this point, I kept my travel notes personal and handwritten, but the [black] travel network has been so giving, motivating, and inspiring, that it is time I give back the gift which was bestowed upon me.  I am on a mission to see 30 states and 30 countries before the end of my 30th year on this planet.  I hope that my generation and beyond gains a piece of joy from my writing / photos and are inspired to get some stamps on their passports.  I want my students to gain the conviction that they too are worthy of seeing the world and are capable of shattering stereotypes.  I'm an educator on a mission and welcome you to my journey!