13.2 C

    A Journey of Discovery

    A few months ago, I along with a group of award-winning journalists, writers, historians, photographers and film-makers launched DETOUR, a digital content platform for Black travelers. Our stories delve into where place and race intersect globally through powerful storytelling.

    The moment we went live was exhilarating, like bringing a newborn baby outdoors for their first time. Sure, our staff was proud, but we were nervous, too. The good news is that since then, DETOUR has only mesmerized us with her curiosity, fearlessness and passion. Today DETOUR is already ahead of her peers as a storyteller and guide for Black travelers. Every day, she makes us think, laugh and even cry. Like most good stories, it’s all in the details. For example, one of our columnists, celebrated author Faith Adiele, wrote this about her morning stroll through Manhattan, where she had joined a friend on a business trip: “…this dizzying, international metropolis is actually just a string of tiny villages, each with its own ecosystem folded into squat store-fronts and stately brownstones and stylish Art Deco buildings… It’s a Broadway musical just listening to who runs these streets in the morning, the dozens upon dozens of languages disembarking from buses and subways to stage the city, the hard-working Black and Brown folks and immigrants getting the job done.”

    After the story was published on Detourxp.com, this popped up in my inbox from a reader who’d recently traveled to the Big Apple after a depressing pandemic sequester: “Indeed! New York has a larger-than-life story, yet with the feeling of a smallish bear cuddle… Thank you for helping me relive one of the absolute joys of 2022.”

    Making a way
    Through our editorial partnership with WayMaker Journal, DETOUR will be helping others reminisce, discover or aspire to their next adventure by sharing its stories right here. We know you are already taking trips, but DETOUR hopes to help make you a better traveler by widening and deepening the whole experience and our approach, to make those experiences more transformative.

    We’re taking note of the WayMaker perspective, especially from founder Louis Carr, who started this brand because he had people in his life who had made a way for him when he didn’t even know he needed a way—and they expected nothing in return. For him, WayMaker is an expression of gratitude that is converted into information for other people much like an on-ramp for them to grow.

    I saw this philosophy up close at The Blueprint Men’s Summit last fall in Chicago. There, several hundred Black men were engaging in the messaging and energy from sessions around mental health, fitness, relationships and personal finance. Brothers were getting haircuts, mas- sages and for some, their first headshot.

    I’m the dad of three young men. I’m a son. I am a teacher. In all of those roles, I see Black young men and the ways in which they traverse the obstacle course, sometimes trauma, of getting through to that moment where you want to gather at a safe space. To make it there, your self-esteem, it takes a hit. But the opportunity of having your headshot taken was a gesture saying, “OK, time to photograph you, catch you at this moment to see your resilience, your strength, to celebrate you, to make this moment about you, put you under some lights.”

    Another restorative entry point was seeing so many brothers loved up on. I’ve seen us brought together to be scolded, to be encouraged. However, at the summit, there was a lot of positive energy directed at us. It’s honestly something I hadn’t seen since my mom, bless her soul, showed me Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball. She had recorded the show and played it for me during one of my visits home.

    I was looking at all of those women who were talking to each other and saying, “I am woman and woman I am and we are the Mother Earth.” The way she celebrated them was humbling. She brought all of that Oprah class to the moment. I began thinking, Who would do that for brothers? Who could? Fast forward to what Louis Carr created and curated that weekend in Chicago. Emotionally it felt like generosity. It’s a special person who wants to be that giving. This form of sharing and passing along knowledge, as well as igniting one’s purpose, is in alignment with DETOUR’s mission.

    Writing our story
    As a founder, I wanted the cornerstone of DETOUR to be that Black people feel a sense of belonging at every step of their travels and journeys. One of my first memories of traveling was with my family. I grew up in Detroit and we were a car town. The city was the epicenter for the auto industry, which kind of set the standard for aspiration around movement. Everybody was always into their whips because your parents worked at the car companies, such as General Motors, Ford or Chrysler. During summers, you’d show them off as you would travel down south.

    That’s what stayed with me from those trips. It wasn’t a sense of worldliness, but it was a sense of real joy, family, the camaraderie, the community. I knew it made us better when we got on the road and left together and ate together.

    This feeling has followed me as I began seeing the world on my own. There’s something within travel where it works kind of as an elixir toward purpose. When I’m traveling, I become a lot more reflective, introspective. I usually wind up thinking about the most important things to me in my life and I feel more emboldened. I get clarity around what matters.

    I like to think it’s how David Dorr, unheralded explorer, was inspired by his travels. Back in the 1850s, Dorr accompanied his white owner on a tour of the world’s major cities. By day, Dorr played a perfect servant to the Louisiana businessman, but at night Dorr would slip out to enjoy a stroll through the streets of London, Venice and Jerusalem.

    The experience was transformative; returning to the states, Dorr not only escaped slavery and moved to Ohio, but in 1858 he went on to self-publish A Colored Man Round the World, a richly reported travelogue which courageously omits all traces of his former owner from the narrative.

    There’s something within travel where it works kind of as an elixir toward purpose.

    These days, I see David Dorr as the origin story for DETOUR. Like Dorr nearly two centuries ago, DETOUR celebrates the importance of seeing the world for yourself, of moving, as the late Toni Morrison said, beyond the “white gaze.” There’s an old African adage that says, “Until the lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.” For centuries, Black people have influenced global culture—in food, fashion, music, politics and sports. Yet travel media is still largely stuck in the past, a clubby white industry aimed at affluent white audiences and cloaked in messages that promote European colonialism.

    I remember the day DETOUR was conceived. I was standing in the marble foyer of a gaudy mansion on a Louisiana plantation on assignment for The New York Times travel section. The mansion was a stop along the state’s newly launched African American Heritage Trail and the plantation had been purchased and restored by a wealthy white developer, who that day doubled as our guide.

    Listening to glib musings on slavery and antebellum life was hard enough. When he started pontificating on slavery’s lingering effect on Black parenting—well, I just walked off. Black people want a messenger whose experiences reflect at least some of their truth and, more than ever, we’re willing to go the distance to find it.

    Ron Stodghill, the founder of DETOUR, is an award-winning journalist and professor at the Missouri School of Journalism.

    Share post:


    * indicates required


    More like this

    Herman Dolce Jr. Says Debt is Ignorance to Financial Liberation

    Herman Dolce Jr. isn’t a social worker anymore, but...

    Tyronne Stoudemire Leading the Charge for DEI in Corporate America

    Four years after George Floyd’s death spurred many American...

    Black Tech Saturdays Bridge the Racial Wealth Gap through Innovation

    Black Tech Saturdays are building a community seeking to...

    Carrie Lapsky Davis’s Million-Dollar Gift to Tougaloo College

    Carrie Lapsky Davis never forgot her student days at...