By Edward Henderson
My last international trip was to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fully equipped with my renewed passport and a renewed since of adventure, I boarded the plane dreading the long flight, but excited for the adventure ahead of me. Walking the streets of a foreign country puts a lot into perspective. Especially your race. Seeing the different colors and hues around me filled my spirit with a sense of pride and also hope for others who looked like me to have a similar experience.
The same can be said for Jamilah Shabazz. The San Diego State University graduate recently launched a non-profit organization entitled IMANI International Experiential Travel. The org is dedicated to create international experiences for people of color, expanding their minds and their perception of what traveling while Black can unearth.
On Saturday, September 23rd IMANI hosted an open house in Compton to introduce the community to the programs they provide.
Their pilot program, Young Scholars, is a 9 month expose for youth to immerse them in cultural adventures which will broaden their perspectives on the possibilities that are awaiting them. From surfing to African dance and drumming to learning to run their own businesses, youth will be introduced to diverse experiences they have never imagined they’d try. The goal is to encourage Young Scholars to explore their passions and become more open-minded to the multitude of opportunities the world has to offer them.
“If you’re dealing with a kid who’s lived in LA and never been to the beach, talking to them about traveling to Brazil, Jamaica or South Africa is not even on their radar,” said Shabazz. “Taking baby steps to expose them to the world lets them know travel can be done in their own backyard.”
This January, youth will travel to San Diego for an ‘Afro Adventure’ surrounding hip hop and spoken word. After a year in the program, youth will be eligible to get their passports and take an international trip after funding is secured.
“Travel starts in your head. When you want to travel, you put the effort into it no matter what you’re doing. It’s getting out of your comfort zone and being deliberate about it. Every one of our experiences are led by people of African descent. In general, students may not be as used to seeing black people take part in these lifestyles and activities. It lets them know there is another option.”
For Shabazz, that mental travel began after signing up for the alternative spring break to South Africa offered by her Africana Studies class at SDSU. She eventually caught the travel bug afterwards and has served as a Peace Corps Volunteer and even organized a trip to Cuba for young black professionals looking to experience a new culture and provide a service for the people living there at the same time.
“I didn’t know there were people who looked like me who were traveling and doing things. It opened my eyes that the world is bigger than what we see right here.”
After the pilot program is launched, IMANI will also develop programs for adults looking to learn more about themselves and how they can serve internationally in cultural adventures abroad.
Currently, IMANI is raising funds for their programs and raising awareness towards what they have to offer. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit Imani-int.org.