Hard times and disappointments can prepare us for something amazing.
Born to teenage parents, my childhood began in conflict. I had a physically and emotionally abusive mother, coupled with neglect and eventual abandonment by the man that fathered me.
The beams of light in my early childhood came from my grandmothers, wonderful aunt Cee-Cee, great-aunts Margie and Betty, and Betty's husband Uncle Lawrence. They lovingly tried to fill the empty holes in my heart and spirit, providing moments of happiness in my life. Despite their attempts to care for me, from the age of 5 years old, I lacked a stable home. This lack of security extended until I was 17, which left me insecure and distrusting of the concepts of family and love.
After all, what kind of parent would give up a child they truly loved? At the time, I was unaware of the custody battles between my mother and my paternal grandmother. It was a battle my grandmother eventually lost, which and returned me to mother who was fighting her own emotional battles from years of neglect by her mother. My mother did not fight for me because she loved me; she only wanted to use me. When I was not needed or was an inconvenience, I was shuffled between her, my grandmothers, great aunt Betty, and eventually foster homes.
With each relocation, I started to build walls around my heart to protect myself. I unknowingly disguised my fear of attachment by becoming an introvert and by burying my feelings behind a veil of aloofness and "being strong."
My exterior seemed unaffected, but deep down I was broken and desperately craved the love and security of a consistent family life. But, the universe had other plans for me.
Life kept hurting me. Any happiness or positive time spent with my paternal grandmother was overshadowed by my father doting over his other daughter while barely acknowledging my existence. I felt unlovable and developed an inferiority complex, believing something was wrong with me. In the mind of a child, it made sense. I was aware that he had the capacity to love, just not me.
My tears were a constant until one day my Aunt Cee-Cee offered me words of comfort that resonated in my soul. With a loving hug, she said, "One day they will need you and you can treat them the same." Not the best lesson for a child, but it was exactly what I needed. I held on to the possibility of revenge and looked forward to that day like Christmas.
The accumulation of fear, neglect, and abandonment during my childhood led me to become an emotional mess. By my mid-teens, I was seeking the love, attention, acceptance, and protection of my absent father in other men.
At 13, a male family friend made sexual advances towards me. I never told my grandmother because I did not understand what happened until later in life. As a child, I only knew that his comments made me extremely uncomfortable. By then, I had already learned to stuff my pain in to my "big girl" and "future strong Black woman" boxes, moving on and ignoring my problems as if they never happened.
At the age of 16, after leaving a concert, I was kidnapped, raped at gunpoint, and left in the woods to die. The only counseling I received was to be strong. By 17, I was homeless. I was sleeping in the stairwells of hotels and begging for money to eat. I learned about a dancer job at a hotel bar. I got the job, and at night I would hide and sleep in the dressing room. I cried in loneliness many nights. I am thankful for my time dancing because I learned a valuable lesson. One day, while standing outside the hotel with the doorman, a woman strung out on drugs walked by. She wobbled across the street as I watched in pity. The doorman looked at me in the eyes and said: "That is what happens when you stop trying,"I made a promise to myself to never stop trying. I still live by that promise today.
One day it hit me: since I had nowhere to go, I could go anywhere. I stopped crying and called my grandmother. She welcomed me with open arms. I found a job and started modeling. Life was starting to get better...for a while.
At 25, I was again raped. This time, I was date-raped by a man with the most innocent and disarming smile. He forced himself on me during our date and threatened my life if I ever told anyone. For years, I carried the fear and guilt of both my rapes. I was mentally and physically damaged goods. My self-esteem was so low that I looked for my self-worth in acceptance by men.
I attracted men who took full advantage of my insecurities. After a string of failed relationships, at age 31, I married a man who promised me the love, security, and protection I craved. Unfortunately, that promised did not include protecting me from him. Three months into the marriage, he held me down on the floor and pounded me in my face with his fists for what seemed like a lifetime. One of the strikes slammed my head into the cement base of the dining room table. At that moment, I surrendered and accepted that that night would be my last. I found peace in that thought and stopped fighting him. I was ready to die. As soon as I stopped begging him to stop, he ended his violent attack. Without my terror, he no longer had the energy he desired to feed his ego.
The beating was the final straw that sent me to seek much-needed therapy to understand myself and my relationship with men. Five years later, I emerged from therapy with a feeling of inner peace. I became a crusader for other Black women searching for the light within the darkness of feeling alone or unloved. I now see myself as a compass, helping others to navigate in the direction of hope. That commitment inspired the compass in our new logo and the crown for the metaphorical royalty of spirit that is the birthright of every child. No one is above or beneath any of us. As my grandmother would say, everyone is the king's kid.
I share this story, not for sympathy but for others to understand the story behind my passion. To let you know it does not matter how many times you get knocked down; the only important thing is getting back up. Yes, others have victimized me, but I refuse to live as a victim. I refuse to be that woman outside the hotel. I will never stop trying.
The mistreatment you experience in life by others has NOTHING to do with you and was never your fault. Having the capability to take advantage of you does not mean that they should.
If a thief enters your home and steals something, they can go to jail for the theft. As the homeowner, you are not to blame, even if you left the front door wide open. We are expected to know right from wrong and conduct ourselves accordingly, no matter how easy it is to do wrong.
The same should apply to those that steal our innocence or trust. Victims are not responsible for the actions of perpetrators, no more than wearing a short dress makes a woman responsible for being raped. In both of my rapes, I was conservatively dressed. Bad people do bad things.
Yes, we can attempt to avoid victimization by learning to recognize traits and signs of predators. But some people have the acting skill of Academy Award-winning actors in telling a woman what she wants to hear. Often, all that is needed is a simple “I love you” to open us to the possibility of deception. By the time their true intentions are discovered, we are all in and the emotional bonds make it difficult to walk away. I know from experience.
What does all of this have to do with travel and interracial or intercultural dating? Everything!
With help, I found my light, my voice, and now my cause. As I listened to so many Black women tell their stories of unhappiness and loneliness, I felt a strong calling to find a way to help. I also felt that in helping them, I would also continue my own healing. I dedicated myself to finding answers. After many conversations and a lot of research, I learned that a major contributor to this problem was the imbalance in the number of Black women to Black men. To be exact, in the United States there are 1.5 million more Black women than Black men between the ages of 35 to 60. This means if every Black man married a Black woman, there would still be 1.5 million without mates.
Of course, every Black man is not interested in Black women and not every woman is interested in being married or even in a relationship. The challenge is for those women who do want mates and are only willing to date Black men. The numbers are not stacked in their favor, which puts them at a disadvantage of dating from a position of scarcity. Supply and demand 101!
I believe in setting myself up to win. Fishing in a pond that does not have enough fish to feed everyone is not a way to win. Especially with over a million others that are fishing in the same pond and are willing to sacrifice everything, including their own wellbeing, to make a catch. More fish can be found in other ponds.
Many men are well aware of this imbalance and use it as a weapon to diminish a woman’s self-esteem. When men tell me how many more Black women there are to Black men, I get great joy in saying that’s only a problem for women that only date Black men. It has nothing to do with me and my happiness.
To add insult to injury, we as Black women are also pitted to compete with each other for the attention of men, instead of being a connected support system that uplifts each other.
Globally, there are more men than women in the world and there is no need for us to compete. We can celebrate the joy of others finding love without envy because it is a possibility for all of us.
Of course, the struggle to find mates also happens outside of the Black-American community, but not always for the same reasons. Many of our reasons are deeply rooted in the past, in slavery, and in an unwillingness to try something different.
By understanding that we are bigger than the lens of the United States, or anyone’s descriptions other than our own, a shift happens and our lives become borderless. We become global citizens and are open to a world of possibilities in finding happiness and contributing to the greater good of humanity.
We are not a travel agency or a global brand. Brands are about business. We are about people, and our mission transcends any business objective. We have never been a part of any Black girl travel movement. Darker skin women like Amina, who expanded the Zazzau territory and Kush queen Amanirenas who invaded the Roman province of Egypt, have been moving and leading our people into foreign lands for centuries. Movements are for underdogs, which we are not.
We see no need for cliche movements, only a reminder or awakening to the continuation into the greatness that was beaten into suppression during slavery. The only "movement" we are part of is moving from one airport to another.
We are fully aware of those that are building "brands" by capitalizing on our reputation to create brand confusion by associating themselves with the Black Girl Travel name and ideas. Oh well! As with all leaders and visionaries, there will always be copycats or imitators that find it easier to follow in the paths of others than lead in their own creativity. I am flattered by the imitation, because leaders lead and no one follows or imitates a bad idea, including that of being a "Global Citizen."
If another Black woman is winning by standing on our back instead of our shoulders, so be it. We will continue to give things to copy and wish her well. There is enough out there for all of us. What is ultimately important to me, is Black women finding a safe place to heal and to thrive. Whether that place is found with us or someone else is unimportant—only that they thrive.
Everything in my past has prepared me for these amazing journeys. Every childhood uprooting, every disappointment, and every heartbreak has brought me to this moment in time, and I am incredibly happy and honored to have the opportunity to travel within and across international borders with other amazing women.
Because of my past, I am now a warrior with a gentle heart. I have developed the emotional strength, along with the compassion and understanding to fight for those not YET strong enough to fight for themselves. The most challenging of these battles is against a disserving belief system about themselves and others in the world.
Travel opens the mind and the heart to the reality that as humans, we are more alike than we ae different. Love has no boundaries! The only boundaries are in our minds as learned behaviors which can be changed.
Once that fact is accepted, life changes for the better and there is no longer scarcity in romance or life in general.
In freeing our minds, we help ourselves and can contribute to the healing of others, both locally and around the globe.
This is what it means to be a Globalnista.
PS: The day did come that my mother needed me. I have forgiven her in my understanding that she perpetuated a cycle of generational abuse passed down to her from her mother and my great grandmother, where Black people learned to whip and beat their children from slave owners. This idea of beating and whipping our children was passed down from slavery.
Moreover, slaves always needed to be “strong.” We must stop the circle of abuse by not beating and whipping and letting go of the master’s “strong Black woman” persona. It is ok to cry! It is ok to ask for help. No one is weak for crying, even men. We all are human and humans cry when in pain. Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammad all wept!
With help, we can be led to a path filled with tear of laughter and happiness for ourselves and others.
I pray that God continues to use me a beckon in the darkness as we move forward in finding our way in the world.