Black travel is BOOMING! But travel is not new to us.
Let’s Unpack That is a travel education series where we process and unpack our baggage of social identities, hot topics, and travel privileges to understand how they impact our travel experiences. We will be covering everything from culture shock to conscious travel. Each post, we focus on a topic or social issue to dig deeper and reflect on our travel experiences. Whether in our own countries or abroad, understanding our impact can help us be more responsible and conscious travelers.
This time we are talking about representation in the travel industry through the history of the Black travel movement. Since the rise of social media, there has been an uptake of Black travelers making their way around the globe. Whether for leisure or also as content creators and journalists, you can find Black travelers promoting their adventures everywhere. But what does that mean when we are not represented in the marketing of destinations they visit? Or when our words and perspectives are not seen in top travel publications? What happens when people who spend almost $130 billion (USD) in travel are deemed unmarketable?
Yeah…we need to unpack that.
Connecting the past and present movement
At the time I am writing this post, there has not been a complete documentation of the Black travel movement. Well, at least not that I had found. However, it is important to connect our past with our present and future. To understand the rise of the Black travel movement, you have to understand the history of Black Americans in the United States.
The importance of the Green Book
When you hear about Black history in the U.S. it always starts with slavery or the Middle Passage, which is also known as the Transatlantic Slave Trade. While that is our history of forced migration we have a history before and after that. But due to the lack of representation, discrimination, and racism in history books and media we are not told about the depth of Black history.
One of those pieces of information is the Negro Motorist Green Book. Created by Victor Hugo Green, the Green Book was a Black business directory that showed Black people where we could travel throughout the U.S during the 1930s to the 1960s. Due to racial segregation, we were not allowed into many establishments such as hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. This book was our travel guide and Victor Hugo Green was one of the first Black travel writers.
The rise of Black-led group travel companies
Aligning with the rise of social media apps, such as Instagram, Black travel rose too. More companies by Black travelers seeking community with other Black travelers emerged. Black people wanted to be around people of their same social identity to enjoy beautiful destinations around the world. For example you have one of the first of these groups – Nomadness Travel Tribe. Created by travel trailblazer Evita Robinson, Nomadness started taking group trips in 2012/2013. Evita went on to create Audacity Fest, the first travel festival for Black and brown travelers. Her work has paved the way for many other Black travel businesses such as the current favorite the Roaming Republic.
Present-day pioneers of the Black travel movement
In addition to Black travel companies, we have new Black travelers being our guides. They are becoming our Victor Hugo Greens and have paved the way for the modern Black travel movement. This includes Travel Noire, founded by Zim Flores then acquired by Blavity in 2017, which was one of the first online publications for Black millennials who love to travel. Two of the first popular Black travel bloggers in this space are Oneika Raymond from Oneika the Traveller and Gloria Atanmo of The Blog Abroad.
Then we have Black travelers in the on-screen hosting space. There is Kellee Edwards, an adventure journalist by land, air, and the first Black woman to host a show on the Travel Channel. Then for the Matador Network series “Phil the Culture” is Phil Calvert. Known on Instagram and his website as Philwaukee, Phil is the first Black man to have a show on the Matador Network. I could go on, but there are so many who have really done amazing work in the Black travel space.
Building communities across the Black travel movement offline
More Black students studying abroad
In 2006, Andrew Gordon founded Diversity Abroad. Its mission is to create equitable access to the benefits of global education by empowering educators, engaging stakeholders, and connecting diverse students to resources and opportunity. Diversity Abroad offers guidance and opportunities for underrepresented students to process and understand their time abroad. They are an incredible resource for students to use and get connected.
Building community in Black travel groups on Facebook
Similar to Black travel companies, Black travel-focused Facebook groups are increasingly popular. You can find groups about being Black in Portugal or Spain. There is a group about “Blaxiting” which is the phenomenon on Black Americans leaving the U.S. to go abroad. We even have Black women travel groups and many other location specific Black expat groups on Facebook. These are great to join to meet up with other Black travelers. You can also join them to learn about being Black and abroad in various destinations.
A word on representation vs. accountability
As much as this post is uplifting Black travel groups, Black travel bloggers, and more, we still have a long way to go. Representation is putting Black travelers in marketing materials or including us in your audience of focus. However, that does not equate to accountability. Organizations such as the Black Travel Alliance (mentioned below) are holding tourism boards and brands accountable. This means paying Black content creators, valuing our voices, and listening to our perspectives and criticisms of Black inclusivity in the industry.
Three of my favorite Black travel bloggers
There are many lists out there about Black bloggers to follow. I did not want to replicate an entire list. However, I did want to recommend a few of my favorite Black traveler bloggers. After all, it is Black History Month! And I am always down to spread the love to Black people who live to travel. Keep reading to see three of my favorites.
Kay of The Awkward Traveller
If you are looking for a funny perspective of traveling, Kay has you covered. The Awkward Traveller has tons of content for you to read and consume. From cheap eats in Tokyo and the different ways to communicate abroad, to perspectives on traveling with food allergies, Kay has curated a wealth of information. You can learn so much for her site! Go check it out.
The Hambricks of The Traveling Child
I am obsessed with this beautiful Black traveling family with a blog to match! The Hambricks are not only an informative resource, but they are an inspiration for those who want to travel with kids. They have itineraries and recommendations that are so detailed and helpful for families who want to vacation around the world. Their Instagram is also full of visual representations of their adventures as well. The Hambricks will make you smile, laugh, and of course – travel.
Jeff Jenkins of Chubby Diaries
Even though there are many Black female travel bloggers, I had to show love to a Black man! Chubby Diaries is an online community for plus size travelers who are passionate about seeing the world, experiencing new foods, and learning clever hacks along the way. Jeff not only shares travel tips to destinations such as Jackson, Mississippi, outdoor travel, and Greece. He also shares tips such as taking photos as a plus size traveler. Head over to his platform to read more.
This is like homework, but better!
You don’t know what you don’t know. But now that you know, learn more! Check out the following resources to learn more about culture shock examples and how to handle it
– TED Talk by Evita Robinson: As the Founder of Nomadness Travel Tribe, Evita Robinson gave an incredible TED Talk about the importance of the Black travel movement. The talk is titled “Reclaiming the globe” and she touches on so many emotions behind the significance of the movement. I would highly recommend you watch and feel her passion for creating spaces for Black people to thrive in the travel industry. It is a beautiful talk that honors our history and our future as Black travelers.
– The ABC Travel Green Book: Martinique Lewis, an award winning Diversity in Travel Consultant, compiled this informative Black travel resource. If you are looking for a hairstylist who does Black hair the ABC Travel Green Book has it. Are you looking for Black-owned businesses in Ecuador, Yemen, or Amsterdam? This book has it too. From A to Z it is the ultimate Black travel guide.
– Black Travel Alliance (BTA): Launched in June 2020 in response to the culmination of the lack of representation and accountability for Black voices, BTA is here to stay. With the pillars of “Alliance. Amplification. Accountability,” BTA is providing opportunities and education to Black content creators. BTA hosts webinars, has a job board, hosted their first networking event last December and offers so much more. Check them out! It will be exciting to see where they go next.
Want more? Check out this post on more experiences traveling while Black!