Friday, December 21, 2012

Even if John Kerry doesn’t change the convo on business with Africa – You Should

Leslie Pitterson's piece in Ebony Mag about John Kerry's likely ascension to Secretary of State is a timely piece that hits home for me. I would argue that when 80% of my friends talk to me about Africa, they ask “humanitarian” questions. Which orphanage can I give to? How are people getting water? Is the poverty as bad as they show on TV? And the list goes on. While intentions are good, a conversation around how we can “help” Africans is failed from the start.

We should talk about the opportunities in Africa, opportunities that are actually harder to come by for black diasporans here in the US than on the Motherland. How many people do you know personally running US enterprises in big-time businesses like agriculture, banking, or telecommunications? If you are like me that answer is ZERO.

Beyond just not having the level of wealth needed to invest, these sectors are fully developed in the US with little room to break into the holds of the large conglomerates. With African countries holding 7 of the top 10 slots for GDP growth globally and weathering the economic crisis better than the US and Europe even a beginning business student would argue that the bigger payoffs for a startup lie across the Atlantic.

How do we get there? Jumping up and starting a business in Africa seems like a tall order – and in some ways it actually is but there is hope for us yet. Check out this article about Black American immigrants to Ghana who took advantage of the country’s open door policy and filled gaps in Ghana’s services sector. The message I got from this and from others who’ve done it is “simplify”. Laser-focus on the skills you bring and then understand the market needs.

Not yet ready to get your Marcus Garvey on? Check out the National Black Chamber of Commerce or the National Minority Business Council. Both organizations send trade delegations to African countries as well as to nations with high black populations in the Caribbean and South America. Accompanying a delegation or attending one of their workshops or events is a great way to network, compare business ideas, or crystallize an idea you already have.

If you have some time – check out what these black entrepreneurs had to say about expanding their businesses to Africa.



Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Afripolitans Guide to Art Basel 2012

Headed to Miami for Art Basel next week? Check out my post in Afripop Magazine for your guide to all things Black Basel!

Here's a preview:

Art Basel can easily be a crazy conundrum for any person to tackle. For people interested in the black aesthetic on all things art, music and fashion, the task of finding who, what and where the fabulousness is has just been made easier for you:

Tuesday December 4
Arrive before the festivities officially begin and get rewarded with these treats:

Luxury Pick: International Contemporary Jewelry Fair Opening… on a Yacht!
SeaFair will be docked at the Intercontinental Hotel Dock adjacent to Bayfront Park, 100 Chopin Plaza, Miami, FL 33131. | 6 – 10 p | Free w/ RSVP

Get your fancy on and rub shoulders with diplomatic reps from Brazil – home to the largest number of black diasporans in the world. RSVP early and get shopping for some glitz now!

Enjoy the read and I hope to see you there.



Thursday, November 22, 2012

No le pegue a la negra - My long overdue post on Cartagena

Hola Amigos and Purveyors of this Blog,

I've been doing a whole lot of living and not enough writing over the past two months but I HAD to put up some pics from my beyond wonderful trip to Cartagena, Colombia in October. I went for my beau's birthday and could not have chosen a better location. We originally slotted ourselves for Barranquilla but correctly changed plans at the prodding of our fellow travelers to what is one of the most beautiful, vibrant, and amazing cities that I've ever been too.
Beautiful Brown Girls

90 Degrees! 

Disguising the Evil They Lost My Bags Face

Local Commerce

Cartagena had it all, it was my "sophistiratchet" self rolled up in a living breathing city. If it had a theme song it would have certainly been "No le pegue la negra" We stayed at a bed and breakfast called "Les Lezards" owned by a french fella named Marcus in the old city. Because of bday boy we were upgraded to the "Africa Suite" which probably was more exciting to me than my companion but anywho, it was beautiful. Not in the, I'm writing for my blog and it has to sound spectacular way, but in the OMG this is even better than the pics can I live here sort of way. Our place was right in the old city, where pretty much everything you want to see exists, had 4 stories, a rooftop, outdoor jacuzzi, and amazing staff who cooked breakfast every morning (note...arepas are not always your friend).
Rooftop View

All Sorts of Books Kama Sutra Too *covers eyes*

Jacuzzi Flow

Frances en Espanol?

Once we ventured out of the house, me in my same clothes due to an American Airlines party foul, we began to roam the area and check out the locals who were every beautiful shade of brown you can imagine. The cumbia, reggaeton, salsa, and hip-hop blasted from every open house as we walked down the street. The square near our place was anchored by a beautiful yellow church that was indeed functioning despite the full out barefoot soccer games taking place in front of it. We dined at the beautiful Casa de las Cervezas which is on the top of a former fort and had beautiful views of the bay. We were def paying for the view as the food and drinks left something to be desired.
View from Cafe de Las Cervezas

The Many Colors of a Cartagena Sunset

Pollo Tropical >>>>

Mangoes Everywhere!

Central Clocktower

Day 2 was DOPE, we went to El Bazurto Social Club which in name alone sounds fly. It didn't disappoint. The Afro-Colombian spirit was alive and well in this place and we danced the night away after eating a meal that I've been craving ever since, coconut rice, plantains, and chicken marinated in spices to die for.
Afro Colombian Homage

Me the Booski and E Badu?

La Comida!

Live Music, Please and Thank U

We opted for an adventure on Day 3, the actual birthday and decided to take a bus to the "mud volcano" about an hour outside of town. An experience is an understatement, between the bus breaking down, the strange men rubbing you down in mud, and the women in the river washing us down remarking that my mate was "delicioso" this was by far one of the top moments of the trip. If you do nothing else in Cartagena DO THIS.
The Post-Mud Volcano Struggle

Getting home was a piece of cake and we opted for a fancy dinner at La Vitrola, restaurant that I'm sure the cartel frequented in its heydey but awesome food nonetheless. It was in a more touristy part of town then our digs in "Get-Set-Amie" but picturesque nonetheless. Bouncing from fancy time we headed out for a night of revelrie by way of the Cartagena party bus "Las Chivas". You basically ride around with semi-obnoxious people (yourselves included if you're doing it right) drink nearly unlimited rum and coke with a makeshift cumbia band keeping your spirits high. You get dropped off in the end by another of Colombia's forts and the end of the night is yours. The rest of the evening was too hot for this blog but let's just say I spoke fluent Spanish "rachetese" by sunrise.
Our Unlikely Party Bus Starter

Wilmon w/ the Cuba Libre after the Chiva

Stumbled Upon the Masons

The Police Officer Loved NY So Much He Escorted Us To The Club

After our night of bday shenanigans we missed our boat trip to the beautiful beaches at Islas de Rosario so we decided to head to the Castillo Fort which we learned also doubled as the slave holding and receiving location. The gates and holding cells looked eerily similar to those I say in August in Equatorial Guinea and I def had an emotional moment there but it was a spectacular construct nonetheless. It was here that I learned that Colombian flags only come in size XXXL when on display lol.


Columbian Flag XXXL

Holding Cell - Colonialism

We finally made it to the beach on our final day and it was indeed beautiful...however don't get duped on a psuedo snorkeling run. We thought we were going to get up close and personal with stingrays and coral reefs and ended up getting dumped into the middle of the ocean sans fins and swimming away from a blurry jellyfish. Definitely spend the time and money researching your beach excursion to make the most of it or better yet, let someone like Marcus do it.

There is plenty of street eats, restaurants and other haunts to check out most notably the mysterious Coco Loso's, all tostones, and some wonderful places to get a blow out. I would go back to Cartagena in a heartbeat. It was hands down one of the best trips of my life! Check out more snaps of the goodness below.

Ciao until next time.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Tears Came This Morning

In 2008, I was in Chicago's Grant Park on a strangely balmy November evening with my 5 month old son strapped to my chest and a circle of people hovering over us as I breastfed him. Their faces looked like a United Nations of the Windy City and they were all complete strangers to me. Flanked by a million people anxiously awaiting the results of the election flashing before us on the big screen, I felt an American unity that I'd never even conceptualized before.

When the Obama family walked on stage in their stunning red and black ensembles there was not a dry eye in downtown Chicago. I'd never doled out so many hugs or smiled so hard for a person I did not know. It was ethereal, walking down Michigan Ave in complete peace. That was the best way to describe the feeling I had the night we elected our first Black President. For that evening, it was as if America had found a way to forgive ourselves for our bloody and untenable history with race.

Fast forward to 2012 and it was as if this moment was a dream, a blip on the radar with camps from every community blasting the President. It was if the worst of America had come back with a vengeance, from the Obama effigies hanging at the gas station to the slave wench representations of our First Lady. I began to wonder if the peace I felt in 2008 would ever return. I began to wonder if the conspiracy theories were true, or if my peers would sit home, and if we as a country would disappoint the entire world by failing to re-elect who I feel will be the greatest President our country has ever seen. Not because we share the same skin color but because for the first time in our history, the whole of America is represented in its highest office - the single-parent households, the minorities, the ivy-leaguers, the rich, and the poor.

Last night I felt a huge sigh of relief in the realization that the America of November 2008 still existed despite the rhetoric and foul-play of this election but there were no tears. However, this morning as I sit at my desk and thought about my son and realized that the 2012 election was markedly the turning point in our history the tears began to flow.

To create an America that has no choice but to recognize the wants and needs of our diverse society is the greatest achievement we've made. To show that when those people are addressed and considered an important part of society, they will involve themselves in the political process will forever change the political discourse in our country. To know that from his first year in life, my son was born into a world where his possibilities and potential would only be determined by his hard work and that of our community is the best peace of mind I could ask for. Again, I am a proud American and honored to represent my country in this world.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

African-American Exceptionalism and the "Diaspora"

I've been reading the "Amazing Facts About The Negro" thread on and was a bit startled to read that out of the nearly 11 million Africans brought to the "new world" via slavery, less than half a million ended up in the United States. Compared to the nearly 309 Million self-identifying members of the African Diaspora in the US now, that figure is even more astounding.

Today's article mentioned something even more interesting to me. The idea of "African-American Exceptionalism", or the thought that in the minds of many, the Black Diasporan experience, revolves around that of African-Americans.

It's an interesting conundrum that I first explored after moving to Mexico and talking to Afro-Mexicanos in Veracruz about their identity. My friend Dash Harris, who's documentary series Negro you should support, examines this a bit in her series a bout Afro-Latino identity. Prior to moving outside of the US I had never considered the fact that most Africans were sent to other parts of "The Americas", and that in truth we are just a minority in the broader "African-American" conversation. Our brothers and sisters in Brazil, the Caribbean and elsewhere in the Americas make up the majority of that group and their stories need to be told just as much as those of Martin, Marcus, Malcolm, and Rosa. I realized that even I, a proponent of renewed engagement and awareness of Africa by the diaspora, had fallen into the African-American exceptionalist bunch.

It was tought to reconcile but necessary as I work to build the Afripolitans into an entity that is about anything but that. There is a divide in the diaspora, understood but not always documented, that should make us think about this idea of exceptionalism, and how to nip it in the bud - it's not helping any of us. There is an excellent princeton article that discusses the division of African Studies and African-American studies in the1990s that speaks to the divide at an academic level that I encourage people to read.

At a basic level, what used to be a trans-atlantic divide that amounted to curiousity about the other, has become a very cultural divide that has Haitians not wanting to identify their African heritage, African-Americans as outsiders to branded "diaspora" events, and African taxi drivers in Atlanta not wanting to offer rides to their African-American counterparts. It's a disturbing trend that I for one hope I can be a small part of reversing but I think for everyone we must start at debunking exceptionalism and celebrating the journey of the entire collective.

They are amazing...whether they are the colonial struggles of Toussaint or those of British Nigerians breaking into London's ad industry, the African diaspora has continued to defy expectations and become huge contributers to culture, science, acadamia, and beyond. A unity that involves commerce, content, and creativity can push us to even greater realms in a world that's increasingly flat.

I guess this was my soapbox moment of the day but I'm really interested to hear your thoughts.




Thursday, September 27, 2012

Will.I.Am says I'm Dope, Cocktails on a Clipper and the Dopest week ever in NYC

This week has been an amazing time in NYC. Landed from Mexico City and headed straight to Pier 17 for a distillery tasting on a vintage clipper ship. Gilt City sure knows how to please em'. Brooklyn shined as always and the folks at Clipper City featured spirits from local distillers Brooklyn Gin, Industry City, and King's County Distillery. My fave was the gin, it had a herby/fruity flavor that was the perfect end to the summer. Each spirit was paired with a dessert and also was made into a cocktail...note the statue of liberty photo through our eyes below.

Try keeping your skirt down in these winds!

The  history of really - this guy was the Prohibition oracle

Lower Manhattan

Friday morning, the bf took advantage of another online deal, this time from the good people at Living Social. Quick stop at the local street eatery for some morning sustenance and we were on our way to Hunter Mountain, a 2 hour drive from NYC. I must say, Living Social makes some good hires, Carly, Monica, and Alex had more personality in their pinky toes than some people do in their entire bodies. Appropriately we watched Ferris Bueller's Day Off as we headed up the Thruway. I highly recommend ziplining!!! The staff at New York Zipline Adventures were funny but also super comforting. Puma aka Dan, and Frank aka PhotoBomb did their best to make sure we were safe and had a good time. I sweated a small soft drink before the first line, but after that, human animal sounds (cows and Tarzan :/)  and comforting hugs from my bf held me down. On the last run, I even let go and laid backwards in mid air...look ma, no hands!
Getting ready for my first run!

Frank "Photo Bomb" - Our trusty guide lol

After two days of revelrie it was time to get down to business. Clinton Global Initiative proved to be everything I needed it to be and more. The sheer energy in the lobby was unbeleivable. To get so many decision makers under one roof is a testament to Clinton's legacy. My crowning moment was definitely meeting Will.I.Am. Some of you might remember me writing about how Will.I.Am recorded "Mona Lisa Smile" at the Lourve in June. I was amazed at how he did it and the fact that I learned of this on my flight home from my inaugural Paris voyage. I was already a huge BEP fan, but my love for him increased infinitely after hearing his story. Low and behold three months later I meet him at CGI. His "people" were not having it, and I had to patiently wait to try and say a few words but I had to share that thing you know we're speaking in Spanish talking about Afripolitans and some more stuff. That was clearly a "life" moment.

As a New Yorker who's lived away from home for so long, I forgot how much magic happens in the place that birthed me. It might be just the right time to go back.

Signing off from Hong Kong.