GUEST POST TUESDAYS: Why International Learning Opportunities are Important for Black Women (Sojourner White)

Sojourner White shares with us about Black Women and international learning! Sojourner, born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, is a lover of chocolate, shea butter and wine. She is an alumna of Bradley University and Fulbright Spain who is determined to write and eat her way through the world. Sojourner's blog, Sojournies, is the space she's chosen to express this love of food, travel and education with stories and advice with whoever happens to read it. You can read more about Sojourner at .

I knew black girls were magic long before a hashtag made it a movement.  Growing up in Milwaukee, I had the privilege of being raised by a village of strong and educated black women. The knowledge my mother, grandmothers, aunts, sister friends and community mothers attained came from inside and outside the classroom. From getting my hair braided in the living room with Spike Lee’s Crooklyn playing in the background to community reading circles at Capitol Library to sprinkling brown sugar over a dish of candied yams at the kitchen table. Black women have been creating non-traditional spaces for learning long before “experiential learning” was a buzz phrase on college campuses.  

But what happens when we take our knowledge and embark on international learning outside our communities? As a black woman who did a semester study abroad in Spain then returned to teach English as a Fulbright Scholar, I’ve seen the magic we bring across the pond. A prime example is Las Morenas de España (LMDES), an online community managed by two black women who relocated to Spain and now enlist in the help of contributors to create content that eases the transition abroad for others. With a mix of general advice such as “What to Expect When Traveling to Spain” and cultural education such as “What is Intersectionality? (And Why Should You Care?),” LMDES embodies the black girl travel and magic movements. They show how our leadership and voices are continuing to create spaces for black women to be heard louder than any statistic about where we should be in life. Like LMDES, there are more black-owned travel organizations such as Nomadness Tribe, Travel Noire and Black Travel Journey which were all founded by black women.  Plus, if you search hashtags across any social media platform, primarily Instagram, you’ll see that black women are living their best lives abroad.

Despite all the Insta-worthy locations and international meetups with other black expats, traveling comes with its own struggles. In Greece, my waiter told me I looked like Rihanna and asked me to sing during breakfast. People always wanted to touch my hair and sometimes took photos of me without permission. And in Morocco, I was called Sasha and Malia Obama on multiple occasions. How other countries define colonialism in classroom discussions can make your skin crawl and if you’re a black U.S. citizen they won’t believe you and ask, “No, what part of Africa are you from?” International learning goes both ways and as my friend Yohanna would say, “You can’t be captain save-a-hoe.” Meaning, it’s not our job to constantly educate everyone in every space. I know from experience how unrealistic and overwhelming that can become. Though resilience runs through our veins, there’s no shame in being vulnerable. Your mental health should not suffer for someone else to prosper. Take the time to vent, cry, write, scream, etc. when the staring and questions get to be too much.

Using the knowledge from black women who came before us and the pursuit of international thinking has birthed entrepreneurs who have led thousands of black people abroad. Black women have built the foundations for others to explore how we are represented on a global scale and look fly while doing it. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. We are able study the world and not a textbook, expand our worldview when meeting with other travelers and aprendemos otras lenguas porque nos sumergimos en otras culturas (learn other languages because we immerse ourselves in other cultures). We leave our mark no matter where we go so the world, not just Instagram, knows that black girls everywhere are magic.


Monique Liston