Browse Tag

travel

/

Mother Creates Baby Vend, a Vending Machine Business That Helps Traveling Families

Prior to the widespread COVID-19 shutdowns, the vending machine industry in the U.S. reached $8 billion, and global vending machine revenue topped $23 billion.

The vending machine industry took a hit during the beginning of the pandemic but is expected to rebound fully and even continue its pattern of growth now that more people are back to work and traveling more often.

Jasmin Smith is the CEO of Anchorage, Alaska based Baby Vend, a network of vending machines equipped with baby supplies. We caught up with her to find out more about her business.

Baby Vend

What inspired you to start your business?

I have always been involved in entrepreneurship and owned businesses in Alaska from business development consulting to coworking spaces and incubators but BabyVend LLC is truly special.

I found myself stuck in a mall with my twins who were babies at the time and I really needed a diaper because I didn’t pack as many as I thought.

I ran all over the mall looking for help to no avail and it was at that moment I thought I gotta do something about this. Not just something, but something unique. So, I did extensive market research to see how I could make a product that served traveling families.

Baby Vend
Baby Vend at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (Emily Mesner / ADN)

Tell us about being Black in Alaska.

Black Alaska is small and unique. People often forget and sometimes can’t believe we are here but there are many (like myself) who grew up here!

We have an extensive history and deep roots in Alaska to include business owners, elected officials, military, community activists, and more. We celebrate Black community milestones like Juneteenth and Black History Month, Kwanzaa and we also are n solidarity with movements like Black Lives Matter and had our own civil rights moments here.

We have organizations like the NAACP and Black Chamber of Commerce and Alaska Black Business Directory & Expo and many other organizations and we literally have Black community members from all walks of the diaspora. For folks who are new to Alaska, it can be hard to adjust but once you get acquainted with the community I think many see we have a lot to offer.

Being Black in Alaska is not for the faint of heart but we have a community committed to making sure we are seen and heard and empowered.


Based on research and feedback, what type of locations are these vending machines most in demand?

Definitely airports, trains, hotels, amusement parks, and anywhere else you may want to visit and don’t have quick access to leave if you find yourself without something.

What can we expect from BabyVend in the new future?

We recently launched new machines that take technology to a whole new level. We expanded to more locations and are currently in 8 states with 2 more on the way and aspirations to be in 15 by the end of 2021.

We finalized our supply kit division for locations that cannot accommodate a full vending machine. We also launched our own shipping and receiving department to get our machines placed faster.

In addition to that, we are in the process of holding a huge nationwide custom vending conference to help other people launch their own companies to include getting one of our machines.

baby vend

How can we support you now and going forward?

By investing and supporting our campaign, most importantly. We are one of the largest Black owned custom vending companies in the country and the financial support will allow us to grow, hire new key departments and finalize some much needed research and development

Lastly, if you know of any airlines, Amtrak, or other transit locations that would be interested in various sized machines and products kits, contact us!

Visit Baby Vend on FacebookTwitterInstagram, or visit their website.

/

The Only Black Woman Hotel Owner In Morocco Is Planning Her Next Moves

Meryanne Loum-Martin is the owner of Jnane Tamsna, a 24-room boutique hotel located in Marrakech, Morroco. She has operated this business for over 20 years. During the last few months, she has had to pivot and figure out how to keep business afloat while rebranding her enterprise and launching new ventures.

We caught up with her to find out how things going now and what she has in store for us next.

Black Woman Hotel Owner
Meryanne Loum-Martin

What inspired you to step into the hotel business?

I used to be a lawyer in Paris but I was always passionate about architecture and design. I discovered Marrakech in 1985 and immediately fell in love with it: diversity, cultural heritage, the mother continent, and a cosmopolitan and creative social life.

Black Woman Hotel Owner

I also had the intuition that boutique experience was the future of travel, so in 1989 I launched two neighboring private residences and turned them into a hospitality business. This later won the “Best Villa to rent in the World” award from Harper’s and Queen magazine.

My work was published in the New York Times, WSJ, Town and Country, Architecture Digest, and almost 60 other magazines worldwide.

At one point in time, there was a waiting list to find a slot and Tom Cruise had to try four times before we could find availability. Brad Pitt had told him that it was the place to stay in Marrakech.

We’ve hosted Fortune 500 CEOs to public figures like Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Peter Lindberg, David Bowie and Iman, Mick Jagger, Princess Caroline of Monaco, and many other royals. They described the villa as “very famous to very few” and was always full.

The enormous success of this boutique villa concept led me to create Jnane Tamsna in 2001. In a nutshell, I love designing, and I have to turn it into a business to make a living, hence hospitality.


The travel and hospitality industry has been hit hard during the past few months. How have you been able to pivot or leverage your brand in other ways? 

It has been very hard as of late February. I had just sponsored, hosted, and conceived a cultural pop-up called AFREECulture Salon to celebrate the creativity of our diaspora in film, literature, and entrepreneurship.

It was a great success and was counting on the very high rate of occupancy of the high season to follow, to absorb the expenses and suddenly there was nothing.

View this post on Instagram

Rest in Power ? Zindzi Mandela 1960-2020. ✊?

A post shared by AFRƎEculture (@afreeculture) on

But such is life, as the world was going through a major pandemic. Because I am a connector, cultural entrepreneur, and creative,  I want to use my platform to host events that will enrich the conversation about our diaspora. AFREECulture salon will launch for Labor Day 2021. 

Since I have non-profit status that can benefit corporate sponsors,  I would like them to support events such as fascinating retreats with amazing speakers, films, documentaries, and music connected to our cause.

Black Woman Hotel Owner

What upcoming projects can we expect from you?

I am launching a special offer for the Shoppe Black audience. Please contact requests@jnanetamsna.com and ask about “Meryanne’s Shoppe Black special deal.”

My book, “Inside Marrakech” published by Rizzoli NY is coming out in October. It is my personal journey through the most beautiful private houses and gardens of Marrakech. I am looking for Black-owned bookstores where we could organize festive zoom launch parties, all over the country.

I am also working on a fabulous new resort concept and hopefully, we are ready to submit to planning consent in the Fall.  This is the project of my life.

The architect and project partner is a multi-award winning icon in the 5-star hospitality industry, and I could not be more humbled that he shared my vision and suggested to partner.

Black Woman Hotel Owner

I am developing my e-commerce lifestyle brand starting with beautiful tableware and luminaries. I can be contacted at Jnane Tamsna Lifestyle to receive photos and details about our available products. Although our website will not be up before fall, we have started selling. So please contact me! 

Black Woman Hotel Owner

Where do you see the business in 5 years?

In an ideal world…

My two hotels are doing well with the most diverse clientele ever. I will own four restaurants, one cultural special events venue, and a small museum space celebrating the impact of diasporas on culture.

For the museum space, I am working with an amazing architect who is redoing the Rockefeller wing of the MET. Kulapat Yantrasast.

I see AFREECulture salon having a yearly rendezvous in Marrakech. My e-commerce lifestyle and interiors line is a success.

I would also like all of my enterprises to mentor young interior designers and hospitality creatives so that our diaspora has more and more placers connected to our narrative while opened to all.

What advice do you have for those interested in the hospitality industry?

It is a tough world. Don’t start your own business unless you know your market and future clients, have identified a niche and have direct access to it. Have very strong unique selling points so the competition is less harsh. Be unique, don’t be afraid of being generous and human.

Tony O. Lawson


Subscribe and Follow SHOPPE BLACK on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter


 Get your SHOPPE BLACK Apparel!

/

BlackTravelBox Offers Beauty Products for The Traveler on the Go

According to Orion Brown, Black travelers have few, if any places they can go to find personal care products that work specifically for their hair and skincare needs.
That is why she created Black Travel Box. Her goal is to give women of color a brand they can trust for all their travel personal care needs.
“I started Black Travel Box because there aren’t any brands serving the 5 million strong (and growing) population of Black millennial travelers”, she said.
Orion is creating a brand dedicated to serving this consumer (and its extensions) with products that take the guess work and stress out of traveling with products best suited for an ethnically diverse community.
We caught up with her to find out more about her inspiration and how her entrepreneurial journey is going so far.
the black travel box
Orion Brown

What inspired you to create Black Travel Box?

After traveling to my 15th country, I found myself with less product than I needed and nowhere to purchase something suited to my hair and skin care needs – I thought to myself that I really can’t be the only one struggling when I travel. And after talking to other travelers like me, I discovered I wasn’t.

the black travel box

How did you decide what specific items to offer and ingredients to make them with?

I started with the basics – products that are in every hotel, travel aisle, and gym that still manage to consistently not consider the needs of travelers and folks on the go outside of what’s considered ‘normal’ hair and skin.
Often products like shampoo and conditioner, while not popular with most travelers, are especially problematic for richly textured hair.
While watery lotions made with waxes and fillers leave darker skin tones dry with an ashy residue. So our product line started with that – and of course lip balm because we’re not trying to have crusty lips out here. It’s a staple we can all get behind.
the black travel box

If you could wake up tomorrow as an expert in any business skill, what would it be? Why?

I’d be an expert in content creation – its so important for us to tell our story and engage with our communities in ways that enrich their travel and on the go beauty experience.
The creativity that I see in the marketplace today is astounding, and I am in total awe of brands that create multifaceted conversations with their communities with such clarity of voice and perspective.

What has been the most rewarding and the most challenging part of your entrepreneurial journey thus far?

The most rewarding part has been receiving notes via email, text, and LinkedIn with words of encouragement from within the Black travel community and beyond.
Our customers are passionate brand advocates and as we learn and grow brand awareness, the response has truly been humbling.
The most challenging part has been keeping focused on the strategy and tactics that we’ve laid out from the outset and not get distracted with shiny objects and short term opportunities.

What types of brands and businesses are you interested in partnering with?

BTB is all about serving people on the go – retail, hospitality, beauty, travel, even fitness partners would be a great fit for our long term vision.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

We endeavor to be the Away meets Glossier for our community serving up relevant content, building community, and creating a best in class inclusive line of products made for an on the go lifestyle.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Trust your gut, pray, and take the leap. Whatever form that may come in. Whether you side hustle or full time, with dedication and focus you can create the business and legacy that you want.

– Tony O. Lawson
/

12 Black Travel Bloggers You Should Be Following

We’ve compiled a list of some Black Travel bloggers who are inspiring an educating us with their journeys around the world. Take a look, you just might get an idea for your next trip!

Black Travel Bloggers

The Sophisticated Life

HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).

View this post on Instagram

???? ??? ??????? ???? ?????? ???????/??????????? ?????????: [Save this post for later!]⠀ ⠀ Our first piece of travel writing to be published in a print magazine came in 2016. The publisher of the onboard print mag for a luxury ferry company asked to republish our blog post and photos.⠀ ⠀ Once we saw the payment hit our account, we knew we'd made our first foray into travel journalism. However, it wasn't all easy going from there. ⠀ ⠀ Trust, our mistakes were plentiful, but we've learned so much along the journey.⠀ ⠀ So here's a few tips to help you navigate this space, and get your work published:⠀ ⠀ ??? ?: Have a consistent body of work that shows your writing style. Editors are likely to look at your pitch and then want to check out other things you've written.⠀ ⠀ ??? ?: Research the publication and understand their requirements surrounding word counts.⠀ ⠀ ??? ?: Engage with commissioning editors on social media. Developing some rapport could help in breaking the ground for your pitch. ⠀ ⠀ ??? ?: If you have to cold pitch, NEVER email generic publication email addresses. Find specific editor emails through social media, LinkedIn, industry events, etc. Use the Hunter extension for Google chrome.⠀ ⠀ ??? ?: Pitch to publications that you actually read or are familiar with. If they offer a print magazine, buy a few issues. Study their tone of voice and get an overall feel for style and audience.⠀ ⠀ ??? ?: If you don't hear back from editors, realise that they get dozens of pitches per day. Refine, and keep stepping. Come back later and pitch a different story.⠀ ⠀ ??? ?: If you're a keen photographer, make sure to communicate that you can provide professional images in your pitch. Through this, we've been able to sell our images alongside our written story.⠀ ⠀ ??? ?: Familiarise yourself with journalism terms like: byline, subbing, fact box/cut out, assignment, blurb, circulation, kill fee, pull-out quote, etc.⠀ ⠀ ??? ? & ??: We're waiting for our journalist friends to chime in! Share your top tips, and we'll add to this list. We may turn it into a resource blog post…

A post shared by Eulanda + Omo? #EndSars (@dipyourtoesin) on

http://https://www.instagram.com/p/B1f9V5AAtF2/

Brunch Belle

Spirited Pursuit

 

Robbi Enroute

View this post on Instagram

River Pool ?

A post shared by ???????????? ✈ (@rlanc) on

Where Life Meets Living

 

The Traveling Child

 

Mister Levius

Worldwide Nate

 

Chidi Ashley

Exploring Legacy

Griggs Gone Global

View this post on Instagram

Going through a traditional Ghanaian name changing ceremony with the chief and elders of the local village was so surreal. ___ We received day names, which correspond to the day of the week each of us was born. For example, Brendan is "Papa Kobina" because he was born on a Tuesday. I am "Papa Kwamina" because of my Saturday birth. ___ Sarah, Jadyn, and Layla received "Mama Akua," "Mama Aba," and "Mama Araba" for their Wednesday, Thursday, and Tuesday births, respectively. ___ We also received surnames based on past prominent figures of the village. Brendan's complete name is "Papa Kwamina Mensa," who was a great local leader and skillful photographer. ___ Before receiving the name, we are instructed, "when you see water, see it as water. When you see soft drink, see it as soft drink," while drinking from both glasses (an essay could be written on my reflections/revelations from that nugget of wisdom). ___ Everyone in the room busted up in laughter when Brendan proceeded to drink the entire glass of orange soda. He saw "soft drink" alright! ? ___ And now the attire… . We are no strangers to experiencing the local customs and attire of the places we've visited. Whether it was Dubai, India, Indonesia, Thailand, or Egypt, we patronized nearby merchants and enjoyed wearing local garb. #CulturalAPPRECIATION ✊? ___ With that said, this is probably the first time we put on traditional clothing that felt incomparably personal. Words don't do it justice but suffice it to say that Ghana as a whole has felt like one big "welcome home" ceremony. ?? ___ Thank you @ExploringLegacy (another traveling family you should follow) for helping us so much with our plans to Ghana (we almost didn't make it!) as well as @DreamKwame & @bigcycle_adventures_ghana for a truly amazing experience. And a special shoutout to my good friend @chukuonyemachi who flew out from Nigeria, also in the photos. ___ More to come… . . . . #Ghana #goldcoast #elmina

A post shared by The Griggs Family | ? Travel (@griggsgoneglobal) on

 

-Tony O. Lawson 


Subscribe and Follow SHOPPE BLACK on Facebook, Instagram &Twitter


 Get your SHOPPE BLACK Apparel!

/

Six Historically Black Beaches to Visit This Summer

When we think of black history often times vacation destinations are left out of our dialogue. Our past is well documented with stories of slavery, plantations, and oppressive reality yet little do we hear about how some of our ancestors and those who came before us got to celebrate their lives.

As I decided to write this article I was just thinking about the history of African American tourism. As a little girl I grew up in Florida and the beach was a regular part of my life. I wondered about the history of our beaches in relation to us and discovered some amazing stories.

While many of the historic black beaches in America have seen gentrification and lack of restoration, there are a few which still remain as active and flourishing destinations that you can spend your dollars and enjoy a lovely time. It is estimated that African-Americans spend billions annually so why not get a dose of sun and history in the process?

As Black history month comes to an end I will share with you some of the top historically black beaches and resort towns in America. Grab your swimsuits, pack a bag, and prepare for an amazing summer drenched in your Blackness.

1. Highland Beach (Maryland)

black beaches
YWCA camp for girls hosted at Highland Beach in 1930

This is the oldest of all the black resort towns in America. Founded by Charles and Laura Douglass in 1893, Charles was the son of the well renowned Frederick Douglass.

This beach is located approximately 35 miles outside of Washington D.C. and was the very first black owned resort in the history of America. This destination was birthed from an act of racial discrimination when the Douglass’s were denied entry into a restaurant on Chesapeake Bay.

Charles Douglass then decided to delve into the real estate industry and began purchasing beachfront property and selling lots to his friends and family. Some of its earliest purchasers were notable African American politicians in the DC/Baltimore area including Senators, Congressman and Judge Robert Terrell and his wife, Mary. Terrell was the first black judge in the District of Columbia.

Charles Douglass, the youngest son of abolitionist and activist Frederick Douglass

When Charles Douglass died in 1920 its ownership was transferred to his son Haley Douglass who in 1922 led a movement to make Highland Beach the first African American incorporated municipality in the state’s history.

Today there are approximately 90 homes still owned and occupied by descendants of the original settlers of Highland Beach and the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center ‘Twin Oaks’ is a local attraction at this distinctive resort destination.

Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Dubois and singer Poel Robinson all made Highland Beach their summer home.

black beaches
19th century Photo of Highland Beach Residents
The Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center, housed in “Twin Oaks”

2. American Beach (Jacksonville, FL)

On Amelia Island and Founded in 1935 American Beach is Florida’s first African American beach. Located in Jacksonville this tourist destination was founded by Florida’s first black millionaire Abraham Lincoln Lewis and his Afro-American Life Insurance Company.

Another beach which came to fruition in defiance of segregation and Jim Crow laws, Lewis saw this as a safe haven that his friends and employees could peacefully enjoy themselves. The streets along the beach are all named after the African American founders and their families.

As tourism grew the beach known as “The Negro Ocean Playground” became sprinkled with food, lodging and entertainment. It was place of refuge for black people during a time when other beaches were out of their reach due to segregation. On any given weekend you might see Ray Charles, Zora Neale Hurston or Hank Aaron having a good time.

The beach saw a decline as it was struck by Hurricane Dora in 1964. Many of its tourists began vacationing elsewhere after the Civil Rights Act desegregated beaches. It still however remains a popular destination and historians and preservationists have been committed to preserving its heritage. When you visit be sure to check out The American Beach Museum which documents all the history of this fascinating place. If you seek a quieter spot to enjoy the ocean and sand it would be well worth paying a visit while passing through Jacksonville or visiting beautiful Amelia Island or Fernandina Beach.

3. Oak Bluffs/ Martha’s Vineyard (Massachusetts)

For more than 100 years African Americans have flocked to this area on Martha’s Vineyard. One of President Obama’s and the late Maya Angelou’s favorite vacation destinations this tourist area boasts a rich history rooted in black culture and remains lively today.

Some of its first dwellers were runaway slaves and indentured servants. During the era of segregation Martha’s Vineyard was always a popular beachfront for white tourists and thanks to Charles Shearer the son of a slave and her white owner, he turned a beach cottage into the first Inn where African Americans could lodge. This began the expansion of the black community on Martha’s Vineyard.

black beaches
African American residence in Martha’s Vineyard began in the Oak Bluffs neighborhood at a small inn called Shearer Cottage, which was established in 1912
President Barack Obama visits Oak Bluff on Martha’s Vineyard (Darren McCollester / Stringer / Getty Images)
Visitors at Dorothy West’s Oak Bluffs cottage, now a site on the African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard. (Credit Julia Cumes for The New York Times)

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture has dedicated an exhibit to honor the work of Charles Shearer entitled “The Power of Place” and features the history of Oak Bluffs and how it has empowered African American culture. It celebrates a myriad of black writers, political and social leaders, musicians, and thinkers that have traveled to the area.

When you visit Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard be sure to take a tour down the African American heritage trail where you will get a chance to view historic homes of people in our history.

4. Sag Harbor (Long Island, NY)

black beaches
Photo courtesy of Hamptons Mouthpiece

We all have heard of the luxurious destination known as the Hamptons, and Sag Harbor is the black wing of this popular and affluent beachfront. It was an enclave for generations beginning in the early twentieth century. If your pockets allow for some time up north this summer during a trip to New York you will find some great history in this town.

After World War II during segregation Sag Harbor developed a robust community of African Americans. Working class black families were able to purchase land and start development in the area. Over the years thankfully Sag Harbor has been able to fight off gentrification and property development and keep its roots in tact. Keeping its identity has remained important to black residents. Today as you visit you will still see a community of middle class families with a population of doctors, lawyers and other professionals.

5. Atlantic Beach (South Carolina)

Known as the “Black Pearl” located between Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, Atlantic Beach remains the only current black owned beach in the nation.

Many of the properties are black owned and operated which include hotels, gift shops, restaurants, and night clubs.

Atlantic Beach hosts ‘Black Bike Week’ every year which draws large crowds of African-Americans to its shores.

black beaches
Atlantic Beach is nestled in between Myrtle and North Myrtle Beach in North Carolina

6. Gullah-Geechee Islands (South Carolina)

If you are looking to venture or remain in the South the Carolina’s offer a nice mixture of beach destinations. Hilton Head Island and the Charleston area are both areas which also offer a historical mix. The area known as the Lowcountry is the site of Gullah tradition.

Gullah Geechee Culture in my opinion is not as well taught in discussions of black history. The irony to this is that the Gullah/Geechees have preserved their history more than any African American community in the United States.

The Gullah Geechee people are descendants of Central and West Africans and were enslaved together on these isolated islands which stretch along the U.S. coastline from North Carolina down to St. Johns, Florida. They developed a Creole language and today continue to preserve African practices in arts, crafts, agriculture and edible cuisine.

If you are visiting the Carolinas, Hilton Head Island, or the Coast of Georgia you can take part in several attractions to further your education of this history.

The Gullah Heritage Trail Tour on Hilton Head Island will drive you through compounds and stop at several historic sites. This includes ‘Mitcheville’ the first freedman village in the United States. The Gullah Geechee Visitor Center in Beaufort is also a quick drive away.

The Penn Center on St. Helena Island is a former school for freed Sea Island slaves and offers several tours, presentations, and a museum which exhibits the history of the school.

If you are visiting the Charleston, SC area the McLeod Plantation, Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture, and the Gullah Tours will all give you a thorough background.

black beaches
black beaches
Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island

Honorable Mentions

Definitely worth noting are a few other historic black beaches which are now less developed or that no longer exist. These beaches all have a significant black history that can be researched or traveled to if you are one who seeks to explore outside of your vacationing.

  1. Chicken Bone Beach (Atlantic City, NJ)
  2. Idlewild (Michigan)
  3. The Inkwell (Santa Monica, CA)
  4. Bruce’s Beach (Manhattan Beach, CA)
  5. Freeman Beach (Wilmington, NC)
  6. Carr’s Beach (Annapolis, MD)

Happy Vacationing!

black beaches

By Angela Dennis  a Freelance Writer and Blogger residing in Knoxville, TN


-Tony O. Lawson (IG@thebusyafrican)

Subscribe and follow SHOPPE BLACK on Facebook and Instagram (@shoppeblack)


Come SHOPPE with us!!

/

Meet The Founder of the Company that is Changing the African Travel Narrative

Cheraé Robinson is the founder of Tastemakers Africa, a travel company that curates and arranges local experiences in cities across the continent.

Due to a reignited interest in traveling to African countries, we caught up with her to find out what her thoughts are and how this affects her business.

Tastemakers Africa
Cheraé Robinson, Founder of Tastemakers Africa

What is the biggest misconception people have about Africa. 

I think we have sort of the stereotypes that have been well documented (poverty, war, conflict, corruption) but I honestly think the bigger issue once we get past that is that people haven’t thought about it at all. We’ve been fed that Paris is paradise or that the Caribbean is the only affordable destination for us. So ignorance is at this point the biggest issue.

You sold out your Ghana 2019 trip in 48hrs. Would you say this year will be a game changer for travel to Africa? 

I wouldn’t say the year is a game changer in and of itself but this year is a harvest so to speak. Over the last five years there has been a concerted effort by creatives, companies like my own, entrepreneurs, and others to really show people a more dynamic view of the continent.

I think we saw this hit fever pitch, particularly in Ghana with Bozoma Saint John’s Full Circle Festival bringing nearly 100 people from the entertainment world to Ghana. I think this says a lot about the impact that illustrating the ties that bind via shared culture can have on transforming perception.

Quick story, I landed back in NYC on Jan 1st this year from Ghana and had to run to T-Mobile the next day. Somehow I mentioned that I was just back from Ghana and the T mobile employees were HYPE! Meanwhile this is in EAST NEW YORK.

So these weren’t necessarily your intellectual pan africans so to speak, these were young kids from Brooklyn who wanted to go to Ghana because it looked poppin on the gram. That to me is how we can see the transformation, like this is true change.

In the past 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?

Two things: the concept of “run your own race” and really understanding that most people are literally trying to win themselves, hanging on to slights, real or perceived doesn’t benefit you so it’s best to accept people as other humans trying to do the best they can with our time here. Those two things have been incredibly freeing.

How do you feel tourism is linked to Black economic empowerment on the continent and in the  Diaspora?

Tourism is a significant percentage of GDP in many countries and it’s often undercounted due to the blurry lines between tourism related dining, retail, and transport.

When you think about tourism and black people, it serves the BEE agenda on a few fronts:

  1. Intercultural monetary exchange (black travelers with USD supporting black businesses on the continent)
  2. Longer term economic plays, tourism is an entry point to understanding investment and business opportunities in new markets, this is even more true for the African market. A trip is often the best way to spot opportunities and make valuable connections which are required to do business in a country. If we can leap forward from this point and marry capital, skills, knowledge and access in a two way mechanism, that is transformational at a generational level.

Where do you see the company 5 years from now?

I see Tastemakers as sort of an AirBnB x Vice Magazine hybrid providing end to end inspiration and connection points to millions of people across Africa and its diaspora around the world.

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

/

W. E. B. Du Bois and The Year of Return for African Diaspora

In the heart of Accra, Ghana’s capital, just a few meters from the United States embassy, lie the tombs of W. E. B. Du Bois, a great African-American civil rights leader, and his wife, Shirley.

The founder of the US-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People moved to Accra in 1961, settling in the city’s serene residential area of Labone and living there until his death in August 1963.

President Kwame Nkrumah along with WEB Dubois and Shirley Graham Dubois in Ghana, 1960.

Du Bois’s journey to Ghana may have signaled the emergence of a profound desire among Africans in the diaspora to retrace their roots and return to the continent. Ghana was a major hub for the transatlantic slave trade from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The W.E.B Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture

In Washington, D.C., in September 2018, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo declared and formally launched the “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” for Africans in the Diaspora, giving fresh impetus to the quest to unite Africans on the continent with their brothers and sisters in the diaspora.

At that event, President Akufo-Addo said, “We know of the extraordinary achievements and contributions they [Africans in the diaspora] made to the lives of the Americans, and it is important that this symbolic year—400 years later—we commemorate their existence and their sacrifices.”

W. E. B. Du Bois during the ceremony in which he received an honorary degree from the University of Ghana on his 95th birthday, February 23, 1963. Credit: Digital Commonwealth


200 years since the abolition of slavery

US Congress members Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, diplomats and leading figures from the African-American community, attended the event.

Representative Jackson Lee linked the Ghanaian government’s initiative with the passage in Congress in 2017 of the 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act.

Provisions in the act include the setting up of a history commission to carry out and provide funding for activities marking the 400th anniversary of the “arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.”

Since independence in 1957, successive Ghanaian leaders have initiated policies to attract Africans abroad back to Ghana.

In his maiden independence address, then–Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah sought to frame Africa’s liberation around the concept of Africans all over the world coming back to Africa.

“Nkrumah saw the American Negro as the vanguard of the African people,” said Henry Louis Gates Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard, who first traveled to Ghana when he was 20 and fresh out of Harvard, afire with Nkrumah’s spirit.

“He wanted to be able to utilize the services and skills of African-Americans as Ghana made the transition from colonialism to independence.”

Ghana’s parliament passed a Citizenship Act in 2000 to make provision for dual citizenship, meaning that people of Ghanaian origin who have acquired citizenships abroad can take up Ghanaian citizenship if they so desire.

That same year the country enacted the Immigration Act, which provides for a “Right of Abode” for any “Person of African descent in the Diaspora” to travel to and from the country “without hindrance.”

Du Bois (center) at his 95th birthday party in 1963 in Ghana, with President of the Republic of Ghana Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (right) and First Lady Fathia Nkrumah.

The Joseph Project

In 2007, in its 50th year of independence, the government initiated the Joseph Project to commemorate 200 years since the abolition of slavery and to encourage Africans abroad to return.

Similar to Israel’s policy of reaching out to Jews across Europe and beyond following the Holocaust, the Joseph Project is named for the Biblical Joseph who was sold into slavery in Egypt but would later reunite with his family and rule Egypt.

The African-American community is excited about President Akufo-Addo’s latest initiative. In social media posts, many expressed interest in visiting Africa for the first time.

Among them is Amber Walker, a media practitioner who says that 2019 is the time to visit her ancestral home.

“The paradox of being an African-American is that we occupy spaces where we are not being considered as citizens. So I love the idea of Ghana taking the lead to kind of help African-Americans claim their ancestral space,” she told Africa Renewal. “It is a step in the right direction.

“It is definitely comforting because that kind of red carpet has not been rolled out by our oppressors in the Western world,” she added.

The W.E.B Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture

In making the announcement, President Akufo-Addo said: “Together on both sides of the Atlantic, we’ll work to make sure that never again will we allow a handful of people with superior technology to walk into Africa, seize their people and sell them into slavery. That must be our resolution, that never again, never again!”

But Walker took issue with Akufo-Addo for appearing to downplay the actions of some Africans in the slave trade.

“In the president’s [Akufo-Addo’s] statement, he sounds like the entire blame is placed on white people coming in with weapons and taking black people away, but that’s not necessarily the history. So I think that needs to be acknowledged,” she said.

She suggested a form of reconciliation such as took place in post-apartheid South Africa—a truth and reconciliation process that will satisfy the millions of Africans whose forefathers were sold into slavery.

 

In 2013 the United Nations declared 2015–2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent to “promote respect, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms of people of African descent.”

The theme for the ten-year celebration is “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development.”

The “Year of Return, Ghana 2019” will coincide with the biennial Pan African Historical Theatre Festival (Panafest), which is held in Cape Coast, home of Cape Coast Castle and neighbouring Elmina Castle—two notable edifices recognized by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as World Heritage Sites of the slave era.

 

Source: IPS News

Cover image: by Sarah Rogers/The Daily Beast
/

Meet The Black Woman who Created The World’s Largest Tech Conference

Social Media Week Lagos is the largest and Blackest conference that you’ve probably never heard of until now.

SMW Lagos features a central stage for keynotes and panels, multiple rooms for workshops, masterclasses and presentations, and an area dedicated to co-working, networking and interactive installations.

SMW Lagos 2018 boasted an attendance of over 20,000 people in person,  an online social reach of 646 million and over 150 local and international organizations contributed to the conference.

If you’ve heard of a conference larger than that, anywhere, let us know. We’ll wait.

The Founder

Ngozi Odita is the founder of Social Media Week Lagos. She is a producer and a public speaker that works with artists and arts organizations to produce public programming that includes art exhibitions, film screenings, concerts & artist talks. She speaks to the unique opportunities that exist on the continent and “what’s next” on the horizon.

Social Media Week Lagos founder, Ngozi Odita

The Inspiration

Ngozi’s work has always centered around the intersection of art, culture and technology as it relates to Africa and the diaspora. After producing two SMW New York events, she decided that instead of telling people how dope Africa is, she would let them see for themselves by creating a platform on the Continent.

She got the license to create the conference in Nigeria and the rest is history in the making.

Challenges and Rewards

When asked about the most challenging and rewarding parts of creating this event, she stated, “It’s a challenge in general doing an event that’s this large scale. In Nigeria, there are unique challenges.

Certain resources and materials may not be readily available the way they are in the West. Getting people in Africa and abroad to see the vision has also been a challenge.

People asked why anyone would want to see a conference about using Twitter or Instagram. They told me that it just would not work.”

Ngozi says the most rewarding part of the journey has been providing new and life changing experiences for those who attend the conference.

“Last year, we had a yoga/meditation tent. Initially, people thought that wasn’t a good idea and that none would attend a yoga event first thing in the morning.

But it ended up being packed! Some of the people had never done yoga before.

I love challenging people to do new things that they never thought of doing. I enjoy providing an experience that they can’t get anywhere else.”

Why attend SMW Lagos?

“I really want Black people on the Continent and in the Diaspora to see that we are all alike. You don’t see yourself until you see yourself. Many people abroad see images of the super fly people and places in Lagos and they are like, “Whoa that’s in Nigeria? That could be Brooklyn, that could be Atlanta!”

That’s when the connection happens. We have to ask ourselves why we don’t connect, and why don’t we build more.”

She continued, “It is important for people on the continent also get a real connection with their brothers and sisters in the Diaspora.

We need to figure out what we could accomplish if we all work together. People say Africa is the future and it really is!  Every western country is trying to figure out (or has figured out) what their “Africa angle” is.

If we don’t figure it out as a people, others will figure it out for us and we’ll be in the back seat. We need to connect and people in the diaspora need to come over and see how we can build together.”

SMW is a great way to connect tech minded and business minded creatives and entrepreneurs.

“I love the fact that because of social media, youtube etc, we can see all the dope artists and fashion, but we have to be more than consumers, we need to own.We need to figure out how to own our own.

All these amazing African startups are getting investment from outside the continent. They end up being owned by people who don’t look like us. Jay-z and Nas and others are investing in tech.

Now, let’s think about investing in some African startups. We need to figure out how to get involved and make money moves and not keep watching from the sidelines.”

The Future

“My dream is that this time of the year will be like a homecoming, and everyone will have February blocked out to come to Nigeria to take care of business and turn up.

African countries are doing amazing things and we celebrate this, but we’re not moving the needle. Mad youth are unemployed and the government is a mess. Other people come out here and get paid, but most of them don’t look like us.

All the resources are there and we all know it but we’re not making the moves to take advantage of what is ours. We’re not talking to ourselves in a way that matters.

In the 50’s you would have leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, discussing Pan Africanism with Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of Nigeria.

They both travelled to America with the intention of building with like minds. The idea of Blackness as a whole was different then than it is now.

Now, we don’t think as much about nation building, but we need to. There’s no way to do this if we don’t do it together.”

What to Expect this year

A few of year events include:

  • Re-Imagine Africa
  • Intro to Angel Investing
  • How to scale your business with Instagram
  • Digital Media and the Music Industry
  • Potential for growth:Digital sports in Africa
  • My F*ck Up Story – Sharing Stories Of Professional Failure

Visit the SMW Lagos website for more information.

 

Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

/

Up in The Air Life Founder Shares How She Built a Million Dollar Travel Business

Up in The Air Life is an international travel company founded by Claire Soares. The company is focused on showcasing luxury travel and amazing experiences that you’ve never imagined.

Claire Soares

What inspired you to create Up In the Air Life?

I started Up in the Air Life because I felt there was a gap in the marketplace. A majority of the groups in the black travel movement, even today, are geared towards budget trips.   After traveling all over the world I was searching for something more upscale. After a trip to Dubai where a friend of mind rented a private jet for us to soar over the city, I realized I wasn’t the only one interested in unique experiences and seeking the finer things in life.

So, I created Up in the Air Life with a mission to “inspire, connect and grow.”  We want every trip to be such a unique experience where our clients, who have historically been ignored in the travel space, feel deeply respected and special.

Tour Leader in Egypt on a Chariot Ride

Believe it or not I never planned to start a business. My plan was actually to start a blog to help people plan their own adventures.

At first I organized trips and Meetups for free because my friends would ask me to – I was good at it. It wasn’t until I planned a yachting trip to Croatia for new friends I met in a Facebook travel group that 15 people bought into at $1,997 each, followed by a trip to Mexico that was similarly successful, that I realized I was on to something.

Your company has reportedly brought in (close to) $2 million in revenue just four years. What business practice/s do you feel contributed the most to this accomplishment?

Before I started my own business and eventually quit my job to run it full time I was a sales executive for a Fortune 500 global travel and expense management company where, at certain points, I worked sales opportunities from millions to billions.

During my tenure there I learned a lot about how to build a successful team, how to incentivize them, how to establish necessary partnerships worldwide and how to manage an extensive budget. Most importantly I learned the value of stellar customer service by my frequent travel at upscale hotels.

At Up in the Air Life we get to know the people we’re serving before each trip. We call every client prior to a departure to answer questions, get them excited and learn a bit about them. We hang out with them in special Facebook groups so we can find out their favorite music, what kinds of foods they like or when their birthday is, so we can use that information to make their trip that much more special.

Clients in Paris at the Eiffel Tower

What is the most fulfilling and the most challenging part of your business?  

The most fulfilling is watching people cry from joy or excitement at the places we take them or the gifts we give them.   On several trips we surprise clients with pictures of loved ones framed in their room.  Often times this is a huge surprise and in some cases brings tears of joys as they can see loved ones on the nightstand when getting ready and while going to bed. We listen. We pay attention. We care, and if we make a mistake we like to fix it right away.

The most challenging is not being extended the credit I need to grow my business. It’s a challenge many small business owners face. Despite the amount of money we make and the fact that I pay off our business credit card immediately each month, banks won’t give me any additional credit. With those additional funds I would be able to develop new products faster and improve existing products that our clients already love.

Clients in Mexico on a beach

You now live in Mexico? What made you decide to make that move?

Short answer – a better quality of life.  A slower life with no stress, daily inspiration, and a quiet space to grow my business.  My best friend being there is a bonus and I get to be an auntie here!

I live by the beach, I’m part of a growing community of Black, entrepreneurial expat friends, I’m just a couple of hours away from the U.S. and I’m in place that’s super affordable, which allows me to focus on scaling my business faster.

Clients in Egypt at the Pyramids

There are now many Black Travel related companies. What sets yours apart?

Affordable luxury is Up in the Air Life’s calling card. These exotic trips are curated “for us, by us” and allow us to relax, unwind and successfully network with other Black professionals around the world. That’s something that’s still new to Black travelers. Plus we like to spoil our guests in thoughtful and intimate ways. This past May, for instance, we hosted a private lunch with wine and bubbly on the Great Wall of China in a remote location protected by police so our clients could enjoy the view.

Last month we surprised our clients on our Champagne Life trip with a special tasting with the only Black Champagne makers in Champagne, France who spoke about the industry and challenges with being the only Black Champagne House.  We’re also givers. For almost all our trips we like to surprise guests with “pre-gifts,” books or other surprises that tell them about the food, culture, or photography of the destination they’re going to.

Tour Leader in Brazil at Seleron Steps

Many people would live to travel the world but are constrained financially. What advice do you have for the aspiring world traveler?

I would suggest them to start saving by eliminating some services they can get for free.  Canceling cable is something I did early on to save $1,200+ annually.  Also reducing your cell phone plan if possible and using WIFI more often.  Another way to save is using Ebates.com for regular purchases. Then use the savings to save into an account for travel.

At Up in the Air Life we aim to make our trips more affordable by allowing clients to plan a year or two out with low payment plans. Our trips cover six continents and cater to various travel desires from Food & Wine, History & Culture, Exploration in Africa, Yachting, and Luxe Life trips. Prices for trips and events range from $1,999 to $5299.

Clients at a Wine Vineyard on our first trip to Croatia

What have you learned about yourself on your journey as an entrepreneur?

I’ve learned how to be a better listener, how to not take things personally, and how to have thicker skin.  I’ve learned that you will make mistakes, but the grace you have with mistakes and your response to accepting the lesson is what makes you and your business stronger. It’s also what will continue to define you.  Most importantly you have to forgive yourself for making mistakes.

At all times if you focus on doing your best at that given moment you will not have any regrets later (The Four Agreements). I’ve learned to follow my gut over doing what others think I need to do when I am at an impasse.  In the end, you will face the decision and I believe it’s better to bet on yourself. Your ability to differentiate yourself and leverage your magic is what will push you as the front runner.

Clients at the All White party in Mexico at our Annual Meetup

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

  1. Start today!  Join FB Groups for budding entrepreneurs and come up with your first products.
  2. Invest in Yourself – Whether its business coaches to help you build your business or taking time to improve your craft you have to work on your craft
  3. Understand your market – Be aware of what’s out there and understand the gaps in the marketplace.

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

/

You Deserve to Travel – and it doesn’t have to be expensive!

As hard working as we all are, we often think travel is something out of reach. Travel is often seen as expensive and an item low on the priority list. Americans leave 52% of unused vacation time at their jobs according to a study conducted by Project: Time Off.

Can you imagine yourself sitting on a beautiful sandy beach with turquoise water slowly massaging over your feet at the perfect temperature? Can you also imagine having a personal butler fulfilling every request? Now can you imagine doing this at a price that is affordable to your lifestyle?

travel

Travel enables the opportunities to enrich our lives that have long benefits on our families, jobs and other areas of our lives that command our attention. It all can be done without having to break the bank.

As I began exploring the travel industry, I prioritized looking for the best value of my dollar. Here are my top 3 tips to make travel fit within your budget.

Planning ahead is king

When we wait until the last minute, be prepared to pay a premium for it. I recommend booking your travels at least 4-6 months from your vacation date.

You will typically find the best prices within that time frame. Booking 12+ months ahead does not automatically mean the best price. There are few cases such as cruise liners or highly popular events like the Essence Festival where this would be important.

I also recommend doing the research on vacation destination and what other events are happening at that time. This could add to or take away from your trip.

Seasons – The time of year is a major factor

Each city and location has its high peak and low peak travel seasons. Dramatic discounts can be found by going in low peak times.

For example, in 2017 I traveled to Morocco in December instead of summer time. I got airfare and 5 star luxury accommodations for nearly 40% less, and I love a bargain!

 

Value vs. Cost – there’s a difference!

Did you know that traveling to the Caribbean could cost you about as much as it would be to go to Las Vegas? Right. Sometimes you can actually go further for the same price.

Glow. @istyle_ // Tortuga Costa Rica

Here in the US, if you are traveling to other big cities – you will get big city prices. An average tourist spending in New York on any given day is about $500 for hotel, dinning, transportation and entertainment.

In Costa Rica you could easily get away with spending $200 or less per day including hotel, dinning, transportation and entertainment.

The reason is because the US dollar has more value than the Costa Rican colon. To put this in perspective, $100 US dollars is equivalent to 56,537 Costa Rican Colones!

A full plate of Casado- the traditional Costa Rican dish will run you about $4-6. That’s how much it costs me for a grande mocha in Seattle.

Travel is extremely therapeutic and enriching, and let’s not forget WELL DESERVED. No matter your budget you can still get a great vacation. Travel is Soul Food.

To begin exploring your next vacation visit www.PrimeMeridianTravel.com

 

Gusti Clark

CEO/Travel + Culture Expert

Prime Meridian Travel

San Francisco | (415) 377-0084

GustiClark@PrimeMeridianTravel.com

www.PrimeMeridianTravel.com

IG: @ChoklateDoraExplora

#PrimeMeridianTravel