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Traveling Black, Spending Black

DANIELLE POINTDUJOUR and friends in Florence

DANIELLE POINTDUJOUR and friends in Florence

A movement to rebuild their historic financial foundation is taking hold among African-Americans, and traveling with purpose is part of the mix.

While much of the United States is consumed by the latest outburst of gun violence, police controversy or the tragicomedy that is Donald Trump, a new movement is quietly building among Black Americans.

It’s a movement to rebuild the solid financial foundation we had in this country, before Jim Crow and the Black Codes in the South, political and financial subterfuge in the North and blatant anti-Black terrorism nationwide destroyed it.

(If you don’t know about the destruction of once-thriving Black commercial and residential enclaves in places like Atlanta, Tulsa OK, aka “Black Wall Street,” East St. Louis, MO, Rosewood FL, Chicago, Knoxville KY — well, you now know one of the reasons why Black History Month exists.)

Specifically, it’s a growing collection of grassroots campaigns among African-Americans to support Black-owned businesses, nor just with rhetoric, but with their own dollars.

The spate of controversial police killings of unarmed Black Americans, the hateful pushback directed against the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and the virulent strain of racism flowing openly among supporters of Trump’s presidential bid, have added impetus to a movement that has been already building its own momentum for nearly a decade.

Even before #BlackLivesMatter, a growing number of African-Americans had already concluded that it was time, once again, to make #BlackDollarsMatter. And slowly but surely, we’re acting on it.

Most recently, the idea of “buying Black” has been joined by “saving Black,” with African-Americans beginning to open savings accounts in the country’s roughly 20 Black-owned banks.

The world of travel is hardly immune to this, especially as reports surface of discrimination against Black air passengers and airline employees alike, as well as African-Americans seeking to book lodging through airbnb.

Social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are abuzz with Black folks talking travel, planning travel, conducting travel and sharing the experience of travel. Some of it is spurring by a growing political consciousness. For others, it’s a new way to socialize, a concept perhaps best expressed by the Web site “Travel is the New Club.”

We’re starting to prize culturally luxurious experiences over luxury items.

There’s no Black-owned airline in the United States, but African-Americans collectively do an estimated $50 billion of travel a year. A growing chunk of that money is going to international travel as a new generational of educated, adventurous young Black men and women set out to see the world on their own terms.

Catering to that new generational of young Black travelers is a growing segment of African-American travel agents, tour operators, hoteliers, travel bloggers and travel groups, many of them using social media as a base as they carve out their niche in the travel industry.

Together, this new generation of travel consumers and entrepreneurs is setting out across the globe, while trying to keep their hard-earned dollars within their own businesses as often and for as long as possible.

While we don’t own an airline in this country, we’re starting to realize, little by little, just what kind of travel options — and travel assets — we do hold. And new ones appear almost daily.

Here are a few of them:

Both these Black travel tech startups are a response to the #AirbnbWhileBlack controversies, offering couch-surfing options for African-American travelers. Neither is up and running yet, but both already are drawing interest.

If you want to stay under a Black-owned roof, couch-surfing is not your only option. NABHOOD, aka the National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers, has a hotel directory of Black-owned lodging in 35 of the 50 US states, the District of Columbia and five countries in the Caribbean and Africa.

Some of these folks own Hiltons, Doubletrees, Courtyards, Embassy Suites and Marriotts, as well as unique properties found nowhere else.

In the mood for something a little cozier and more intimate than a hotel? The African American Association of Innkeepers International will hook you up with any of 11 Black-owned bed-and-breakfast establishments in eights on the East Coast, in the Dirty South and the Midwest.

Groups like these are mixing business with pleasure, organizing and booking trips for their own travel groups and clubs. Some are general travel groups, while others focus on specific activities. Examples of the latter would include:

All of these organizations and enterprises are but the tip of a large and growing Black travel iceberg. Not only are African-Americans increasingly turning to domestic and international travel, but we are starting to make the connection between traveling while Black and spending Black while traveling.

And that’s a good thing.

So if you happen upon a Black Web site devoted either to the enjoyment or the business of travel, check it out for yourself, then share its existence with others. Or give me a shout here at IBIT and I’ll do it for you.

Greg Gross is the Publisher/Sr. Editor of “I’m Black and I Travel!,” and the owner of the Trips by Greg travel agency, specializing in cultural and heritage travel worldwide. Next February, he’ll be leading his own group to West Africa.

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