Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fear, Exploratory Confidence, and Black Women Travelers

"So often, we face challenges with a spirit of intimidation, or we're uncomfortable with the novelty of a situation. Those feelings were present when I first traveled to NYC with the Black Studies Program in 2011. After having the opportunity to explore the city again, I found myself more engaged in the culture, equipped with an exploratory confidence." --Kacee Aldridge

Black Studies travelers waiting for subway
During our many extended conversations with our travelers in New York City, a recurring theme related to fears and insecurities concerning safety seemed to emerge, as the young sisters discussed why they had not traveled and explored more prior to this trip. Some of the fears had been inherited from older family members and friends, and then some of their fears were based on what they had witnessed growing up in sometimes tough environments.

Our Black Studies trip hardly erases all worries, but our movements in and to the city did seem to serve as a special opportunity for groups of our contributors to reconsider their places and mobility in the world. They covered considerable ground in New York City, walking and utilizing public transportation to visit museums, bookstores, parks, and a variety of areas, including Harlem, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, and Brooklyn. With every several steps they took, the travelers challenged aspects of long-held insecurities concerning movement and reconfigured the boundaries of their personal maps.        

As Midwesterners, our travelers are typically unaccustomed to taking the kinds of multiple public transportation trips and long walks around so many different peoples that they took in New York. Also, the place of NYC in the cultural imaginations of our participants motivates them to cover a range of different locales and areas in a relatively small amount of time.

Multiple trips to NYC might also contribute to how our travelers confront fears and insecurities concerning mobility. Our long-time contributor Kacee Aldridge traveled with us to the city last year and this year. She noted that making more than one trip had assisted her in building "exploratory confidence," which prompted her to see and do even more.    
Related: Black Studies, NYC, 2012

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