Let me be upfront. I have been to the African continent but I had travelled to Asia first. I’ve heard a myriad of arguments about where black American men and women should travel first. I’ve listened to black folks from various backgrounds as well as read some of the work from the foremost academics in the black community. I will give you my opinion based upon my experience as a black man who has travelled to Africa, Asia, Europe and all around the U.S.
The elephant in the room that needs to be addressed first is the issue of self agency. For centuries the black man has been subjected to the laws and schooling of a people without his best interest in mind. We have been used as a scapegoat for the ills of society and the western world has spread perverse propaganda to present the him as dull, intellectually incapable, lacking sexual discipline and criminal in nature. A lot of brothers have been trained by the western world to seek out attention and approval from the white ruling class rather than our own community. Therefore our decision making and lifestyle choices are often in servitude rather than self mastery. However this is not a permanent state.
It is absolutely false to assume a black man is incapable of making choices that will give him prosperity and satisfaction in life.
We as black men must recognize in each other our own unique capabilities and respect them. Black men and women have been on the forefront of science, technology, art, and academia for centuries. What is critical is allowing a man to embrace his confidence, his being, his potential and his power. It is from there that he can make decisions that enhance his life and bring his goals into fruition. In our language with each other we must consider how our words influence.
When I told members of my family I was going to Tanzania some of them asked questions like “Is it safe?” “Are you sure about going alone?.” Now I had already been to multiple countries alone. It was clear at that point I knew how to travel. The questions about my safety were related to where I was going. This is centuries of conditioning distorting our views of Africa and the rest of the world. To a degree, someone questioning my decision to go to Africa is questioning my self-agency and manhood. However the reaction from those same people was the complete opposite when I announced I would be going to Italy (which happened after Tanzania). The perception is that a white country is safer or better. The irony of all this is that white folks often vacation in Africa and many have left Europe to set up a life in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana etc.
A question someone may have is why did I go to Japan before Africa? It’s simple. I always wanted to go to Japan. I also always wanted to go to a few African countries particularly Ghana, Rwanda, and Tanzania. So for me I knew I was going to get to Africa. I believe visiting Africa after visiting Asia made my African experience better. I was more confident as a traveler, more adventurous, and more willing to step away from western comforts. I was more patient with respect towards the way locals do things. There was a relaxed feeling I had throughout my trip. I had the maturity that allowed me to really appreciate my African travel as a true highlight for my life. My previous international experiences were great, but by the time I arrived in Tanzania I was not interested in typical tourist activities. So that made me seek out what I may not have been ready for in the past. This was my experience. Someone else may have a different approach.
An international trip requires time and money. It requires planning and organization. The decision on where to go needs to come from the person who is spending that time and money. If you black men have been saving your money, planning your trip and organizing your life, I salute you. I don’t care where you are going. We’ve had so many obstacles in life. You deserve the freedom to go where you want and enjoy your life. It is disingenuous for someone claiming to be pro-black to then insult or question the decisions of a black man trying to enjoy his life in a healthy way. The world is becoming more connected.
Alienating our brothers in any region does not help our community. If we are to succeed in the future we must acknowledge our connectedness as black men, but also respect our individual tastes, goals, and talents.
It is important for black people to visit the continent. There is a wealth of history, art and culture throughout Africa. The reality not shown in western media is very enlightening when you can experience it first hand. I do hope you get the opportunity to visit the African country of your ancestry or personal interest. If it is the first place you go that it great. If it happens after another country, that is ok too. What is most important is that you black men see that the world and your opportunities is not limited to what we have been taught in the U.S.