You know that feeling when you reach out to your online community for suggestions, they drop one, then you’re like, “YESSSS, come thru with the support!” That’s exactly what led me to finding out about our incredible group for this week’s post. As July is BIPOC Mental Health Month, it’s the perfect time to highlight something that was born out of the need for self-care in the Black community. So, thank you Nicole, for introducing me to Black Teachers Travel and the dean, Cheria.
Upon graduation from American University, Boston native Cheria joined Teach for America at a charter school in New Orleans, LA. Teaching is no easy feat (*I know firsthand after teaching English in South Korea*) and she was constantly working, even on the weekends, but Cheria fell in love with it anyway. From there she moved to Charlotte which is where she realized that instead of engaging in self-care, her teacher “breaks” were still spent focusing on her students.
Becoming aware that her colleagues were experiencing the same, she decided this “no plans/no new experiences/not taking care of ‘me’ during breaks” lifestyle was not for her. *Who thinks our teachers deserve WAY better, bc I do!* With an aim to connect young educators through travel, Cheria built her own traveling tribe; thus, Black Teachers Travel was born in 2017!
Not exclusively for classroom teachers, this is a place for any educators of the African diaspora to come together. If you’re a teacher, hit ‘em up! If you’re an administrator, hit ‘em up! School counselor? Non-profit leader? Education consultant? Tutor? Work with or impact education in any way? You know what to do: HIT. ‘EM. UP!
Travel. Reflection. Networking. Cultural experiences. Engaging in self-care. You can guarantee that all of these will be part of the trips curated by Black Teachers Travel. This is evident from their first trip which took place in December 2019.
Spending four days in New Orleans, five professional educators traveled together without previously knowing each other. They experienced the Big Easy through a cultural lens – some activities included visiting Studio Be, a crawfish boil, and ghost tours – and created a lifetime of memories.
When we spoke, Cheria mostly talked to me about Black Teachers Travel, but she also took the time to write about what travel means for her personally.
Black Teachers Travel curates experiences that bring educators of the African diaspora together to travel, reflect, network, and engage in self-care.
What is your favorite country you’ve traveled to?
My favorite city/country that I have traveled to so far was Berlin, Germany. Honestly, I did not expect to love Berlin but while there I saw a painting on a wall that said, “God is a Black woman” not only was I shocked but I also felt seen as a Black woman. While in Berlin, I also visited the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. It was tough to be there, but it made me reflect on how the United States does not own or acknowledge the enslavement of Black people. I do not think we as a nation truly acknowledge slavery and its multi-generational trauma impact. Many Black Americans continue to suffer from what Dr. Joy DeGruy identifies as Post Traumatic Slave Disorder, which “describes the multi-generational trauma experienced by African Americans that leads to undiagnosed and untreated post-traumatic stress disorder in enslaved Africans and their descendants” (2005).
Which country is next on your list?
The country next on my list is Trinidad and Tobago. I want to experience their Caribbean carnival.
What brings you joy and happiness in traveling?
While traveling the things that bring me joy and happiness are experiencing a new place and seeing the things that make that place unique. Since I typically travel with friends, it allows us to have a shared experience and create new memories.
What is a favorite travel memory you have?
My favorite travel memory is Black Teachers Travel’s first trip, which was to New Orleans. Five people who have never traveled together before spent four days together experiencing all the Big Easy had to offer, and by the end of the trip, it felt like we knew each other for years. To hear more about our time in New Orleans check out our blog.
Is there something you want to tell fellow Black people about traveling?
If there was one thing I could tell fellow Black people about traveling it would be to find and experience Black culture in whatever country you decide to visit. Some of my favorite experiences in other countries are when I took the time to engage in their Black culture. I always felt loved, seen, and supported. I learned a lot about other Black experiences and they also learned something new about Black Americans.
If there’s something you can tell non-Black people to do/not do or to know when it comes to you traveling as a Black person, what would it be?
Something I want non-Black people to know when it comes to you traveling as a Black person is that our experience in some countries is very different than our white peers.
Since we can’t really travel currently, what’s one thing you’re doing to take care of yourself right now?
Since we cannot travel, one thing I am doing to take care of myself right now is reading. Since our mandatory shelter in place, I have read 7 books! I am super proud of myself because I typically feel like I never have enough time to read for pleasure and leisure but I was committed to reading more this year.
In true teacher fashion, Cheria’s words teach me something and allow for reflection. I recently heard that there is Black history and heritage in even some of the most unexpected places. As a Filipinx-American, I find delight every time I learn something new or am able to find Filipinx culture in unanticipated ways. So next time I travel I’ll make it a point to see if there are any tours or information on Black history and heritage wherever I go. I already found Black Heritage Tours in Amsterdam! *I’m ready to learn; raise your hand if you’re with me!*
The work Cheria and Black Teachers Travel is doing to invite a specific group of those within the African diaspora to experience, learn about, and revel in their history and heritage is nothing short of inspirational. Travel in and of itself is a form of self-care for one’s well-being but for Black educators to do so with others in the same field is such a powerful way to reclaim their joy and avoid the burnout.
With 2021 trips coming up to Cuba and Chicago, their Teacher Tuesday features, and much more, be sure to check out their website and follow Black Teachers Travel on all their platforms!
And you know I gotta ask… if there are any more groups like Black Teachers Travel you’d like me to share a story on or if anyone wants to share their travel tales, you know what to do – slide into those DMs!
With wanderlust & ‘til next time,