Charles Fox, Jr.

Savoring the Journey

I recently returned from a vacation to the Bay Area of Northern California. I took in the sights and sounds of San Francisco and its surrounding areas. For me, it was the continuation of a commitment to 1.) Actually take a vacation from work, and 2.) See as much of the country/world as I possibly can. In the past five years I’ve logged more miles, taken more flights, and visited more locales (foreign and domestic) than I had visited previously in my entire life. It’s been such an enriching experience. Each trip takes on a life of its own and becomes a mini-chapter in my life. That being said, it is imperative that we expose our children to travel as early as possible. The manner in which it stimulates the brain cannot be understated. I’ve personally witnessed, time and time again, young people come alive at the sight of some landmark or location they had never previously seen in person.

Back in 2007, I took a group of students (most of them of color) to Ellis/Liberty Island. These students lived a short train ride away from New York City, yet they had never really explored what to some, is arguably the greatest city on Earth. I watched as a sense of wonderment and excitement pulsated in their eyes. Even the most stoic and apathetic children appeared taken aback by the sights and sounds of the city. I’ve had similar experiences with youth all over the eastern Seaboard, as far North as Syracuse NY and as far south as Atlanta, Georgia visiting historical landmarks, institutions of higher learning, etc.

Many of those students may have long forgotten who chaperoned them on those trips but I can guarantee that they remember the journey. They remember walking across the Howard University campus, where so many legends left their mark. They will remember standing in front of the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They will remember peering through the gates of The White House, while inside the first Black President deliberated policy, their young minds knowing that there is no ceiling to the heights that they can achieve. They will remember sitting on the ferry to Liberty Island and watching as the Statue of Liberty emerges into view…the promise of freedom hidden in the reality of inequality that still persists. They will remember. I hope that they were as changed by the journey as I was. I hope that traveling will be the catalyst to big dreams and colossal realities. I want them to see a clear, unobstructed path to the kind of prosperity that is their birthright.

Travel is an awakening. It’s a glance into the lives of others that is outside of our daily routine. It challenges us to step outside our comfort zone. Whether we are 20 miles from home or 3000, we are forced to confront a different style of life. Our youth need these experiences as much as anything during their developmental and formative years. In an ever changing world, in a global economy, it is so important that we equip the next generation with the tools and acumen necessary to deal with folks from all walks of life. The world has gotten smaller. Technology connects us in ways that our ancestors would have never thought possible. However, we mustn’t let those advances cause us to forget that only a train, plane, or automobile ride away lies true wonder and amazement that cannot be duplicated on an HD screen.

While in the Bay Area, I had the opportunity to visit Muir Woods National Monument. As I walked among the massive redwoods (some of them being over 600 years old), I couldn’t help but think about how detached African-Americans have become from nature and all its beauty. Many of us have been programmed to believe that nature is something “for White folks” or that Black folks don’t like the outdoors. That is obviously ludicrously inaccurate. I think about great folks like Shelton Johnson, the black Park Ranger who has worked in Yellowstone and Yosemite for the past thirty years and has masterfully linked nature and the outdoors to the civil rights struggle. There are so many reasons why Black Americans should reconnect to the planet that we have contributed so much to.

Prior to my trip to the bay area, I was in the barbershop and a young brother mentioned that he had recently visited San Diego (another beautiful city that I’ve been blessed to visit). Another barbershop patron joked: “San Diego is cool; I thought you meant San Francisco. Who the #*&% would go there?” Laughter ensued. Of course, this was an obvious reference to the vibrant Gay community present in San Francisco juxtaposed against the hyper-masculine, uber-straight world of the Black man’s barbershop. I respectfully broke my usual quiet barbershop demeanor and said: “I would. In fact, I’m flying there tomorrow with my lady.” Silence ensued.

This is yet another example of how much too many of us place these nonsensical restrictions on ourselves for fear of what someone else might think. Traveling to San Francisco does not make one Gay any more than traveling to China makes one Chinese. We have to break free from that mentality. It’s far too limiting. We have to be willing to see things that shock us and sometimes, even things that scare us. That is how we grow as human beings. Truly, it is how we evolve on a social and cultural level. As much as I’ve enjoyed every place I’ve visited, I won’t be going back any time soon because there is so much more to see, so much more to take in.

One of my greatest desires for the world is that every inch of it becomes a safe, seemingly unending, massive playground for all of us to explore, connect to, and experience…together. Until next time, happy and safe travels to you all.

© Copyright 2014, Charles Fox, Jr.

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