Black women traveling the world is radical, especially when world politics are increasingly conservative
April 21, 2017
By Teju Adisa-Farrar, AFROPUNK contributor
Over the past five years there has been an increase in pages for and by Black women travelling around the world on solo missions, for vacations, to do projects, to be fabulous and so much more. These instagram pages are the epitome of #blackgirlmagic #blackgirlfly and #blackjoy. Black women traveling the world breaks so many barriers, and is an attempt to dispel pathologies which come from the legacy of restricting the movement of Black people and women. In a time when political leaders in the Western world are using racism and sexism as platforms to gain more popularity, Black women traveling freely is a form of resistance and “F**ck You” to all the people who want to regress history.
For about six years now my sister, Shola Adisa-Farrar, and I have been traveling as a duo. We have often been told that we should start a blog, vlog, or have a show to document our adventures. We never followed through on any of these ideas, until January 1, 2017 when we took the small step of starting an Instagram page called Two Global (@TwoGlobal). This page is about the trips we take together as well as our lives living abroad in different countries. For last years we’ve supported and followed other instagrams, which also highlight the fearlessness and fierceness of Black women traveling the world. Thus, I want to communicate why Black women traveling around the world is radical, especially now.
We are Black. As a result of colonialism, neocolonialism, racism, and other forms of structural disenfranchisement Blacks, and people from the African Diaspora more broadly, have had limited access to travel. Historically there have been explicit laws restricting and controlling the movement of people of African descent, and further the legacy of aforementioned circumstances (racism, etc.) have created implicit standards that make it difficult for Blacks to move around the word freely and with ease. Currently, there are politicians who want to limit the movement of other minority groups such as Muslim. As Black Americans, Black West Indians, Black Africans, we are resisting and overcoming legacies of mobility impairment and restriction. My sister and I both live in countries where we were not born nor raised, additionally many of the women featured on these instagram pages, like us, travel to countries we’ve never been to before.
Sisters and Suitcases (@sistersandsuitcases) is an instagram page for women of color who travel, but even further it is a community. It features beautiful photos of women in various places from a Tulip Garden in Holland to a woman facing her fears by ziplining over a canyon in Uruguay. Sisters and Suitcases effortlessly inspires by posting photos of carefree-Black girls gaining new experiences through travel unbothered by the legacies and current political realities that try to hinder us.
We are women. Even in countries where men and women are on the most equal footing, like Denmark, women are still fighting for equal rights to just live. One of the clearest disparities between men and women is salary. A common statistic stated on this issue is that women in the United States make 77 cents to a man’s dollar. What this statistic leaves out is that Black women, Latina women, and Asian women make even less than 77 cents to every (White) man’s dollar. Thusly, as women who are Black there are layers of inequity that we have to overcome. Similar to racism, the legacy of sexism is still very pervasive and thus means that it may be more difficult for women to travel, without the accompaniment of men—not only for financial reasons, but for safety reasons as well. There has always been periods in history, like the one now, where men try to impose laws and policies that control what women can and cannot do with our bodies. Choosing to control our own bodies and our own movement is one way of challenging this ludicrous attempts at inferiorizing women.
In 2015 my sister and I went to Marrakech, Morocco for her birthday. We flew there together from Paris after I had been in Ethiopia and Kenya visiting friends. While in Ethiopia I was asked by three women 1) If I felt safe traveling alone and 2) Where is my husband and was he okay with me traveling. I told them that I do feel safe traveling alone and remain very cautious, and that I do not have a husband. When Shola and I arrived in Morocco, men asked us if we felt okay traveling “alone.” We would usually respond: “we are not alone, we are together.” Regardless, safety is a real issue for women traveling alone and even though we are carefree Black girls, as seasoned travelers we are cautious and always aware of our environment. Still, for women to confidently and consistently travel, without men and without asking for permission is a statement in itself.
Life of a Song (@life_of_a_song) is curated by a beautiful, intelligent, and thoughtful Black young woman living in Canada and traveling the world when she’s not trying to change it for the better. Her page represents the beauty of travel and simplicity as well as the subtle details of a Black woman resisting constructs. With a personal goal of being happier this year, we can see through her photos that being a Black woman has not restricted her travel destinations or the joy she gets from learning about and seeing new places. She doesn’t ask or need permission, because her positivity and persistence propel her forward.
Travelling takes a lot of emotional energy and it is uncomfortable. This emotional work of traveling to places where we have never been and, most times, do not speak the language is not an easy feat. Choosing to travel and do the emotional work necessary to maintain a healthy state of mind is the epitome of bossness. While some vacations are meant to be relaxing, the hassle of the airport, adjusting to different cultural norms, timezone changes, and planning a trip by yourself in general is extremely difficult. Traveling forces us to be uncomfortable, something most people will not willingly do. But of course, the results are more than amazing. Black women traveling is radical…
It is radical because we are rejecting structures and systems that have been put in place to keep us “in our place.” It is radical because we are breaking barriers that are so pervasive they seem invisible. It is radical because we are not rich, we have responsibilities and commitments, and we are all also simultaneously pursuing our own very different personal and professional goals. It is radical because we are not wealthy, White men, with access to a copious amounts of resources. It is radical because we are resourceful. It is radical because it is an act of courage, self-love, and exploration in a time when some people wish to make us hate ourselves, isolate ourselves, and live in fear. It is radical because affirming Blackness, womanness, and globality — without out any qualms or outside definition — is radical.
Alas, if you need some inspiration, optimism, and fierceness from Black women who are traversing the globe, head over to instagram to support the movement.