What does travel look like this summer? The year 2020 presents unusual circumstances in the midst of global civil rights protests and the COVID-19 pandemic. In late May and early June, the murders of African-Americans at the hands of whites played out on televisions, cell phones, tablets, computers and other devices around the world. The horrific deaths captured on videos and viral infections converged to create a perfect storm that has blown apart any illusions or misconceptions we may have held about justice and equity in the United States and beyond. I speak the names of those most recently murdered. Ahmad Arberry. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Tony McDade.
In response to inhumane, vile treatment of African-Americans, thousands of protestors have taken to the streets in the U.S. and nations around the world. Signs with slogans are held up with messages for world leaders that reflect the outrage, concerns and fears of people who are fed up with the status quo. Two that I encourage you to reflect upon are: “Black Lives Matter,” and “Am I Next?” You see, black lives seem not to matter, and any of us could be next because hatred and fear of the “other” is inherent in the national psyche. However, change is on the horizon. The culmination of 400 years of aggression and oppression have erupted into a global movement.
Again, what does travel look like this summer? Let’s look at a few scenarios. Some travel may be urgent and necessary in the current environment, but undoubtedly, many travel plans have been altered or canceled in light of disruptions in the travel and tourism industries. If you plan to shelter in place or enjoy staycations closer to home, consider donating the vacation funds you budgeted to local grassroots organizations that serve communities of color impacted by COVID-19. Many of these agencies are underfunded due to lack of “the right connections” or barriers in application processes. Yet, they continue to provide basic needs to individuals and families disproportionally affected by the pandemic. [Job losses and disparities in all major social categories are significantly higher in African-American communities than those of whites.] Your financial assistance can provide critical care to those most in need.
For those who intend to travel and vacation despite the current circumstances, I offer the following suggestions for your consideration.
1. Be intentional about researching and supporting black-owned businesses as you plan your travel. Travel agents are an excellent resource for booking transportation and lodging. Many of the agencies are sole-proprietorships owned and operated by African-Americans.
2. Be sure to include African-American museums and historic stops on your itinerary when touring cities such as Washington, DC, Atlanta, Ga., New Orleans, La., and other major urban areas.
3. Include items in your wardrobe that speak to your solidarity with and support of communities that have been marginalized and denied basic rights in this country.
4. Be aware of your surroundings. Violence against African-Americans and LGBTQ members of our community is real and pervasive throughout the nation.
Whatever your plans for summer travel might be, remember to stay encouraged and stay in the press for change. Reflect on how you can use your platform, your privilege, your position, your wealth, your creativity and your gifts in this process. Remember to stay connected with your faith community or network of positive people.
I close with this reminder. “Everywhere people are in transition, trying to create a better life. We’re longing for peace and balance. And we want the healing that reaches beyond ourselves to ‘right-doing’ in our country and in our world. We know that neither corporations nor the government are up to it. We are our own salvation. We are the healers we’ve been waiting for; we are the leaders, the ones who can set things right.” (Susan L. Taylor, “All About Love)”.
Rev. Sonja Lee is the pastor for Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte and founder and executive director for the Lionel Lee Jr. Center for Wellness in Charlotte, N.C.