Why do we need AA Abroad? Ask a Rhodes Scholar and an International AIDS policy professional:
Here’s why a Rhodes Scholar supports AA Abroad:
I am a National Truman Scholar and U.S. Rhodes Scholar, who has traveled broadly in Europe, Africa, and Asia. I lived, studied, and worked in the England for over three years, and conducted academic fieldwork in South Africa for nearly one year to collect data for my master’s degree (M.Phil.) in Comparative Social Policy and doctorate (D.Phil.) in Social Policy at Oxford University in Oxford, England. In my current position as a National Institute of Child and Human Development (NICHD) Postdoctoral Research Fellow, I have continued an active research program in South African studies and human rights which has led to more travel and I anticipate much more to come as I continue to develop my research endeavors. As I expand my research to new regions and countries, as I advise young scholars, and as I arrange trips for my students, a guide which speaks to the specific considerations for African Americans is a welcome addition to the current travel guide offerings.
My two primary regions of travel are Europe and southern Africa. I would have benefited from an introduction to common phrases and attitudes, the history of people of color in a given country or region such as the Windrush immigration stream in the United Kingdom, and racially integrated social places would have been extremely helpful. In South Africa, my travel was predominantly academically focused, and I found a wealth of information about the political race history, but very little on the social side of being African American in post-apartheid South Africa, for instance. A guide which I could read before travel and check in with throughout my travel experience would have saved me a lot of time and anguish and helped me to feel less isolated and alone.
I would purchase and recommend a resource like AA Abroad to friends, colleagues, and students for all of the reasons stated above. It fills an important niche. As more and more African Americans have the disposable income to travel, they also need a better understanding of how they will be received and where the Diaspora is located within a local social history.
Here’s why an International AIDS Policy Professional supports AA Abroad:
I am an African-American health professional with a master’s degree in public health living and working in Kampala, Uganda. Presently, I work for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs. I have been working in East Africa-Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania- for the past 5 years, largely implementing communication programs for reproductive health, adolescents, malaria and HIV prevention.
While living here, I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the region and never do so without travel guides, namely the Lonely Planet. While the Lonely Planet and other guides like it are usually quite helpful, they are clearly written by and for the majority traveling population-white Americans and Europeans. This is obvious by the way they present the ‘facts’ and especially, by the places they tell you to avoid.
After reading an excerpt of AA Abroad, I realized this is just the type of book African- Americans living, working and traveling abroad need. More importantly it’s an important book for the majority of us who don’t travel and could possibly encourage African-Americans to consider the world beyond Disney World and the Caribbean as viable destinations for whatever reason. The realistic descriptions of places to visit, things to look out for, and sites to see from the perspective of an African-American, makes the book more relevant to us.
The purpose of a travel guide is to make the travel destination more manageable, more tenable, friendlier to the foreign traveler. This guide, will allow African-Americans to roam the world with navigational tools catered to our unique perspective. That in itself is important if for no other reason than to help us navigate key phrases, find the best salon for a hair relaxer, and to get a meal with a little more hot sauce. I do think, however that this guide has another, more intrinsic value. In helping to simplify overseas travel and in describing the realities of different cultures as they relate to ours, it could as a result, encourage African-Americans to challenge our world view. A view that looks through a lens that is profoundly American and grounded firmly in the turbulent and racist history we share.
In my living abroad, I have come to realize that to be ‘African-American’ is not largely understood by those outside of the United States. Those who don’t know the full American history and our culture often fail to distinguish us from the red, white, blue and the all mighty dollar. While we may sometimes look like some of our hosts, upon revelation of the blue and gold passport, we become, to most, simply ‘Americans’ with seemingly limitless credit.
Traveling the world (or a good deal of it, at least) has helped me to see the world and its people in a different light. Unexpectedly, through traveling I have also faced some of the most significant challenges to my own racial and ethnic identification, and even to how I characterize my own citizenship. I believe a book of this sort, in encouraging African- Americans to travel abroad, could help us all realize that for better or for worse, the world does not necessarily think of us or relate to us in the way we have become accustomed. I believe coming to this realization could allow African-American travelers to enjoy and embrace the world with a freer mind; and perhaps to even return home with a different state of consciousness about who we are.
Now as an American true and true and from a purely capitalistic stand point, I think there is a significant and untapped market of African-Americans who can afford to travel abroad; are interested in doing so; and who just need the little nudge or some encouragement that the idea is not so daunting. This travel series could be just the catalyst needed and would be undoubtedly, highly sought after.
I fully support the AA Abroad travel series and I believe it should be written to concentrate on locations where many African-Americans don’t even consider traveling, namely, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, and South East Asia.
I look forward to seeing the AA Abroad travel series in print!