If there's one thing I love to do when traveling anywhere, it's finding out about the black culture or communities of that region. Even in places where one might be apt to ask, "Are black people even living here?" I'm always curious to find out about the African diaspora and its history all over the world. And trust me, our footprint is everywhere---whether through ex-pats or our cultural and political influences. Since it's indeed Black History Month, here are a few must-see global destinations on my list to get beyond the usual museums and landmarks.
Italy: Rome and Tuscany
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Rome is a top-of-mind spot for travel to Italy considering it is indeed the capital, but let's veer off a bit from the usual gelato, pizza, and wine joints and get into a little history. Take a visit to the Arch of Septimius Severus, which was built in 203 A.D. in celebration of one of the emperor's triumphant battles. Septimus Severus was born in the Roman province of Africa and is described as a nomadic moor by several historians. Though his ethnicity in today's terms might be in question among some circles, it's still worth a trip (and a bit of research) while visiting the northwest end of the ancient Roman Square.
On another note, Rome is also the place where Berry Gordy, Billy Dee Williams, and Diana Ross filmed cult classic Mahogany. The theme song for the movie was a No. 1 hit in 1976, and was nominated for a "Best Song" Oscar that same year. Add a little glam to that suitcase and retrace some of the sites that Tracy, the lead character played by Ross, visited in that legendary photo shoot montage.
You can also take a trip to Tuscany, a hilltop city that includes Barga and the small village of Sommocolonia, where the legendary Buffalo Soldiers played a pivotal role in World War II. (See, Spike Lee's Miracle of St. Anna for a bit of dramatized back-story.) The town is full of beautiful cathedrals and restored castles, and local villages host antiques and food festivals.
Mexico: Veracruz and Mexico City
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Mexico has had its moments of issues with acknowledging citizens of African heritage as well as the African contribution to the country, but with a bit more understanding, more tourism support through travel, I think this can change. Veracruz, a port city has a large population of Afro-Mexicans, has a history impacted by Caribbean culture and foods brought by slaves from island nations. The first free slave community in the Americas was actually founded here and is called Yanga, named after Gasper Yanga who led the revolt for freedom. His statue stands in the city not far from Veracruz's other beautiful beaches, historic chapels, and San Juan de Ulúa, which was once a major fortress, prison and palace where slaves were traded.
Mexico City is where actress Lupita Nyong'o, a Mexican citizen of Kenyan heritage, was born. The Oscar-winning actress who won Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years A Slave (a film that made history as the first film directed by an African American to win Best Picture) spent time in a small Mexican town in her teens and told one publication she had to take a bus more than two hours away back to Mexico City just to find someone to braid her hair. In the city, you can visit the statue of Vicente Guerrero, the first (and only known or widely publicized) black president of Mexico, as well as enjoy their beach resorts (like the super-exclusive Nima Local House Hotel), Afro-Caribbean fusion restaurants, and street food spots in the Coyoacán or Michoacan markets.
Africa: Cairo and Ethiopia
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Everyone knows about Accra, Ghana, which hosts the return of thousands of African Americans to trace their roots, visit the slave castles, and be welcomed back to the native home of their ancestors. But there are other African locales that have a link to African-American history as well. Cairo, the capital of Egypt, has a metropolitan area that's the largest in Africa and was the place where Maya Angelou worked as an editor for the Arab Observer. While there, she counted as friends luminaries like David Du Bois (the stepson of W.E.B Du Bois), and she describes this experience in her book, The Heart of a Woman.
Also, many researchers and historians stand behind the premise that the ancient royalty of the country were indeed black, so when you're visiting the typical hot spots in Cairo like Tahrir Square and the massive Egyptian Museum, think on that. Stop by Khan El Khalili, a massive souk (or street market), for artisan goods, plan a luxe day trip through the desert, or drive just a couple hours away to enjoy nearby 5-star hotels like the Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh.
Ethiopia was once named the world's best destination for tourists---with its beautiful Simien Mountains National Park, majestic Blue Nile Falls, and widely visited Ethnological Museum within Emperor Haile Selassie's former palace---and it has a few historical ties to black Americans. Mignon Lorraine Inniss was a Caribbean-American scholar and educator who traveled with a delegation of African-Americans to the East African country to help with development efforts in the 1920s. She founded the first private co-ed boarding school there. Her husband, Arnold Josia Ford, who founded a black synagogue in Harlem, also helmed the development of a community of African Americans who left the U.S. and the racial discrimination of the time to settle on 100 acres of land gifted to them by Selassie. The historic Abyssinia Baptist Church in Harlem also has links to Ethiopia: The church was founded in conjunction with Ethiopian seaman in 1808.
More African Americans would travel to Ethiopia to relocate, and the emperor was a popular figure during the Harlem Renaissance. He had ties to key black American figures including Duke Ellington, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and legendary pilots John Robinson, who served in the Imperial Ethiopian Airforce, and Hubert Julian.
A few more things to try on a trip here---to add to visits to the aforementioned tourist spots---is to stay at the luxury Kuriftu Resorts or enjoy a camel walk with a registered tour group.
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This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Recently, a young content creator named Mayte Lisbeth posted an emotional video about experiencing touch starvation. She expressed that she feels she is dying from touch starvation and does not receive hugs. Additionally, if she were to receive a hug, she would crumble. The nearly three-minute video continued as Lisbeth breaks down her need for touch. Healthline says touch starvation or deprivation “occurs when a person experiences little to no touch from other living things.”
According to research posted in the National Library of Medicine, “touch is a powerful tool for communicating positive emotions.” Furthermore, other studies emphasize the importance of social touch. When an individual lacks touch, they can experience the following: depression, anxiety, stress, relationship dissatisfaction, difficulty sleeping, and detachment. Moreover, people who do not enjoy being touched can also experience deprivation due to occasionally longing for a hug or handshake.
Lisbeth’s video was triggering because touch starvation is something I experienced in the past. The first time I experienced this was when I was 17 years old after moving across the country to a state where I had no family. It happened again during the pandemic. I remember going into the pandemic optimistic as I really could be.
It worked for the first several months but quickly spiraled into some of my most challenging times, emotionally and mentally. That feeling was amplified when there was no one I truly loved to hug me. Something about a long embrace from a loved one assured me that no matter how dark my world was at the time, there was a light at the end of my darkness. Being away from my support system was rough during that time of uncertainty.
I was not fully aware of what touch starvation was at the time, but I knew I longed for touch. It was not until I was visiting my best friend and randomly asking for a hug that I remember having an immense sense of anxiety and sadness.
The content creator stated in her video that the solution is more complex than scheduling a hair appointment and receiving services. The form of touch was not suitable because she had no ties to these people. It is more about receiving affection, which can come in touch from someone who cares about her, not specifically a romantic touch.
Its been five years of touch starvation. I’ll probably have some more years of it. I’m not handling this well.
First, I commend Lisbeth for her vulnerability and courage to speak on a subject many sometimes do not know about or even acknowledge. She even commented that her family was not big huggers, which did not help her touch starvation. She could count how many times she hugged her parents when she saw them last. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, this is the norm for many families. “I do not know how to heal in a community; I only heal alone,” Lisbeth tearfully explained in a follow-up video. People instantly flooded her social media pages with support and suggested solutions, including breathwork, touch work, and even hiring a professional cuddler.
Sadly, many suffer from touch starvation and do not have family or a tribe to contact. If that is your current situation, here are some exercises that copy touch sensation when experiencing touch starvation.
- Blankets – Wrapping yourself up in a blanket can provide comfort. Another option is a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket mimics receiving a hug, which can provide a sense of calm for an individual.
- Self-Touch Breathwork – The counselors at Twinpowerment, LLC taught us a five-step self-holding technique that could help remedy touch starvation.
- Body Pillows (or pillows) – Cuddling up to a body pillow can mimic cuddling and allow comfort during sleep.
- Cuddle Therapy – Like the name states, you can pay a professional to cuddle with. The Institute of Counseling in Nigeria explains that “Cuddle therapy fills a niche that is complementary to traditional talk therapy.” With traditional therapy, a mental health professional cannot touch their clients.
- Companion Animal – Dogs and cats make excellent companion animals. The endless number of cuddles and “kisses” they provide can offer comfort during hard times.
Even though traditional therapists cannot provide touch to their clients, they are a great option if your symptoms from touch starvation increase.
Since then, Lisbeth has posted videos explaining remedies she has tried or is willing to try. Some days are better than others, but she keeps moving forward. I pray she finds peace during these times.
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