Our Journey Starts with Learning and Listening
This week, I received an email from a JourneyWoman reader who inquired about our commitment to diversity and asked me to “please explain what you are doing at JW to not have a ‘white women travel the world’ company.'”
I am so grateful to this brave reader for asking this question. It made me realize that I have not communicated our recent efforts to you. If you have ideas about what we can do, I welcome them. I know we can do more.
Our Commitment to Anti-Racism
In May, in the midst of unprecedented COVID-19 numbers, the world’s nervous system was overwhelmed by the pandemic. The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 was the spark that lit a movement, effectively shedding light on racial issues that had long been overlooked. It was an extraordinary time. On June 1, JourneyWoman, like many other organizations, participated in Black Out Tuesday by ‘blacking out’ our social channels to protest racism and police brutality.
We took time to reflect, listen and learn. We were overwhelmed with emotion. Frustration. Sadness. Fear. Anger. Discomfort. We were unsure what to do, but followed our hearts. On June 7, we published our Commitment to Anti-Racism, which included tangible actions we would take.
In my letter, I wrote:
“Our passion for travel, and our ethos of embracing curiosity to seek, learn and teach others is more than words. It defines who we are and what we believe. It also defines how we ACT.
Travel is central to our lives. Not only does it teach us about ourselves, but it broadens our perspective on the world. As travellers, we learn tolerance, compassion, empathy, generosity and gratitude. Travel is transformative; It helps us adapt to change, teaches us to be resourceful and resilient.
Now we must exemplify those lessons in everything that we think, do and say. JourneyWoman is more than just one person. Thanks to Evelyn, it is, and has always been, a community. A community of women who believe in equality, in freedom and in human rights. Together, we have the ability to fight racism and the damage of injustice. This starts with learning and listening. We have the ability to inspire action, optimism and hope and make a commitment toward positive action and change.”
JourneyWoman Community Feedback
When I shared this commitment with our community, not everyone was thrilled with my statement. Several women wrote me angry emails, telling me – in no uncertain terms – to ‘stay in my lane’, and that my “opinions on racism have NO place in a website dedicated to travel.” Others sent me notes to say they were unsubscribing from our mailing list.
Evelyn’s daughter, Erica, was horrified when I shared these emails with her. Her late mother and I share similar values: she knew her mother would have written something very similar. Evelyn and I share a desire to empower other women, that’s the ethos of JourneyWoman. Travel is our way to make that happen.
“The truth is, no one of us can be free
until everybody is free.”
– Maya Angelou
Thankfully, these women were in the minority.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the women who wrote to me and express my sincere gratitude for their support.
Some of these notes included:
“This is a beautiful post It is a straightforward declaration of women’s values.” – Beth
“Thank you for the words you have put so much thought into. Kindness can start here” – Marcia
“Your letter was both beautifully written and incredibly important. Growing up in the South in the 1950s, I fully believed that we were on the verge of overturning the ugliness of racism. It breaks my heart, but not my spirit, to realize that we didn’t eradicate racism. Rather we simply allowed it to be pushed underground where it could quietly fester. May our eyes and hearts be reopened very soon.” – Bernadette
“Wow, Caroline. I honour your inspiring words. I must say that I practise your words to the best of my ability. It’s a new world that we are navigating. I’m loving the reflection time taking me forward. I will travel again, but it will be different. As a traveller I have to be conscious of how I will be received as a traveller. I will save your message because I want to be received as a tolerant, compassionate, empathetic and generous person living in gratitude…. that’s what I do every day. There are just no wheels under my feet yet. I’ll have to continue practising locally every day. Thanks again for sending this message. I find it very inspirational. – Marg
“Thank you for acknowledging the Black Lives Matter challenges and that you are listening.” – Maureen
Our Commitment is only words unless it is backed up by actions. Here are some of the actions we’ve taken to uphold this commitment – to you, to ourselves and to the Black community.
JourneyWoman team: Each member of our team has made personal commitments to learn, engage in uncomfortable conversations and speak out when we witness anti-racist behaviour. Our webmistress, Melissa, is half-Bermudian, with a black father, and her voice has helped guide our strategy and perspective. We regularly review our progress at our weekly editorial meetings. In addition, I personally made over $500 in donations on behalf of JourneyWoman to several non-profit groups supporting Black women and Black journalists. I am also taking diversity training as part of my role on the board of Myseum of Toronto.
List of learning resources: Along with our Commitment, we published a list of resources gleaned from our community and other credible resources. This includes a list of books, movies, courses and organizations to support through donations. Among others, we recommend Layla Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy”, “White Fragility” by Robin Diangelo, and for movies: I am Not Your Negro, 13, and When They See Us.
JourneyWoman Book Club: We reviewed our list of books submitted by readers and added a book for the September 16 session called ‘The Kitchen House’ by Kathleen Grissom, which impacted me deeply when I read it years ago. In addition to the book, which about slavery in Virginia, our book club moderator Wendy B invited Dr. Mary Furlong-Minkoff, PhD, Curator of Archaeological Collections at Montpelier as our guest speaker. To prepare for this book club, we’ve suggested that readers visit Montpelier’s Mere Distinction of Colour (MDC) Exhibit, which tells the story of the enslaved people of Montpelier and the connections between slavery, racism, the Constitution, and today. If you’d like to register, information is here, even if you haven’t read the book. We welcome everyone.
Social Media: On June 24, we were recognized by the Black Travel Alliance for making our commitment as part of their #pullupfortravel campaign. We added many black female bloggers and travel writers to our social media channels on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, ensuring that we follow, share content and support these voices. We actively invite stories from the Black community.
Editorial: We have made a concerted effort to feature women of colour in our editorial.
Some of the more recent editorial includes:
- Solo Travel Memoirs: The Journeys Love Takes Us On, featured Dr. Mary Clark (August), who says: “Growing up as the only black girl in her class cemented Dr. Clark’s ability to adapt to and navigate unfamiliar places and situations. “I become a chameleon when I travel and try to blend in because a lot of my joy is in seeing what the customs are. Of course, when you’re a black woman and you go into a culture that’s not predominantly black, it can be hard to blend in.”
- Milestone Birthdays and Self-Love (August) featured Nadine, who shared her philosophy: “Most people would say nobody knows you better than yourself. However, it’s not always the case. We don’t take the time to know ourselves and get to know ourselves. We just live life on fast forward. So, organizing something special for yourself every five years allows you to get to know yourself all over again and make you feel special.”
We receive inquiries on submitted article requests each month. but very few from women of colour. We would like to have more articles submitted from women of colour. If you are a woman of colour with a story to share, we’d love to hear from you.
JourneyWoman Advisory Council: Our recently announced 13-member advisory council includes two women of colour, Dr. Mary Clark and Dr. Nekessa Remy. I am so proud and honored that they accepted my invitation to advise on both the editorial and strategic direction of JourneyWoman. I hope to expand this council over time.
JourneyWoman.JourneyWoman Behind the Scenes Webinars: On August 26, we launched a new monthly webinar to help you meet the women behind the stories in our editorial.
For the first session on our August Love Issue, we invited Mary and Nadine to join us (along with Joy!), and share their stories of love lost and found. You can view this (and laugh at our technical errors) here.
Deep Dive Session on Privilege: On August 31, we offered the community a two-and a half hour facilitated “Deep Dive” session on Privilege. We discussed our own privilege, our upbringing, barriers to change and many other topics.
We are planning to do more sessions. (Let me know if you’d like to attend a future session.)
WORK IN PROGRESS
JourneyWoman website: Our webmistress, Melissa, reviewed all the imagery across our entire website to ensure it was reflective of ALL races and ethnicities. Finding imagery that has been representative is harder than you might think, but we’ve discovered new image libraries that we are using going forward. Please let us know what you think.
JourneyWoman Video: We made our first video in the Spring and invited the community to share imagery, as it was difficult to find diverse video footage showing mature women. There are several women of colour in the video, including Nadine, who provided skydiving footage. While there are still photo libraries available, finding video and still images of older, mature women of colour has been challenging. We welcome your ideas on this.
Part of our ethos is to support is women in the places we visit, so we also included photos contributed by readers of their travels, and of course, many are Evelyn’s. For example, Women’s Trip to Kenya’s Linda Higdon shared her photo collection of the mamas in Kenya. Linda serves on our Advisory Council, where she shares her 20 years of experience listening and learning to the Kenyan women as guides and teachers. Linda and I also did a webinar together in May called “Portraits of Motherhood: Lessons Learned from Kenya” to explore what we can learn from these incredible women.
Community Circles: I know there are other women of color that we have not reached yet, and intend to be more proactive inviting women of colour to attend our three Community Circle calls around the world. I’d love your help on this. We want to hear your stories. The schedule is here.
Women’s Travel Directory: We are constantly reaching out to women-owned businesses to let them know of advertising opportunities in our directory. We need to be more proactive with Black businesses when we restart our advertising in the fall.
Things She Loves: I want to feature products and services from the Black community in this new part of our website. There is no charge to participate, but I’d love to offer our community a discount on featured products.
There is still much to do, but I hope this provides you with evidence of our commitment. I welcome your ideas and suggestions at any time.