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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Black Entertainment History at the Academy Museum

While in Los Angeles last summer, we decided to spend half a day exploring the city before moving from our hotel at Universal Hollywood to our one in Anaheim. We spent half the day at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is amazing if you love movies.

While in LA last year, we spent half the day at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is amazing if you love movies.

Not only do they have a whole exhibit dedicated to The Godfather movies, but they also have one of the surviving prop sharks Bruce from Jaws. There's even a large portion of an exhibit that celebrates the movie Casablanca.

The best temporary exhibit, of the few they have in their 3 floors of art, was one called Regeneration, an exhibit of Black entertainers through history, much of which included a lot of racist tropes and images. If that is too much for you, this exhibit may not be for you, but I greatly appreciated the story of where Black entertainers started and how they defied the odds to become stars, against all odds.

click on this pic for full res - all of these people deserve all the recognition

There is a whole wall of entertainers that performed in something called "soundies", which were 3-minute musical films that were projected on a machine that looked like a jukebox, but was more like a TV. Between 1940 and 1947, businesses that owned a Panoram machine got 8 new soundies shipped to them to be played on their machines. Each week they would get new ones, and though soundies that featured Black stars were put at the end of the reels, it was still great exposure for them to be seen by a wider audience beyond clubs where they may only been seen otherwise.

Balcony Seating Only, by Gary Simmons

You'll find some artwork interspersed with film posters, costumes, and other props, like the above sculpture that is an actual staircase that was inspired by a photo of a segregated theater in Alabama. It is part of his series of "erasure paintings", and serves of a reminder of spaces that divided along race lines and isolated Black spectators and even performers from others. I included another piece of artwork in my last post. A piece that that speaks of the racial disparities during the Civil Rights era, by using denim, wood, and firehose. At the time, Black people were being sprayed with fire hoses, while white people were dancing shoeless, so as not to scuff wooden floors of the school gym floors. The denim represents the overalls worn by the students involved in the civil rights struggles. 

There's an entire section devoted to Miss Josephine Baker, who moved to Paris to fulfill her dream of becoming a bigger star than she was able to become in America. The awards section extends up here, too. You can see Sidney Poitier's award as the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. There's a small tribute to Hattie McDaniel, who played the part of Mammy in Gone With the Wind. She went from playing vaudeville with her family to moving to Los Angeles and becoming the first Black actor to win a competitive Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

I watch a lot of old movies, but through this exhibit, I found out about a lot of movies I'd never even heard of. There was even a big portion on blacksploitation films. I've heard of some and watched some as well, but learned quite a bit about why they are important and was able to sit down and watch a portion of some of the movies that were crucial to the movement. The director Melvin Van Peebles made quite a few influential films during the 60s and 70s.

an outfit worn by Sammy Davis Jr

zoot suits worn in Stormy Weather

If you are like me and enjoy historical textiles and costumes, you'll find a lot of these at the Academy Museum. The Regeneration exhibit had a few, like these amazing costumes above. 

Also in the main exhibits, you can still see props/costumes from some of Hollywood's biggest Black entertainers, including Halle Berry's Oscar dress from 2002. Though she's had so many iconic looks, this is the dress you immediately think of when you think of the Halle Berry look. Also on display is a baseball uniform worn by Richard Pryor and facial prosthetics worn by Zoe Saldana. 

I found the permanent exhibits just as interesting as the rotating ones and I could have easily spent several more hours there, reading about each Academy Award and watching more acceptance speeches. Make sure to plan for at least 3 hours. If you spend less time there, you an eat at the restaurant on-site, which I thought was quite good, or hit up the Los Angeles County Museum of Art nearby. There are plenty of outdoor places to eat right outside as well, and you can park in the garage for a fee, so you aren't driving in circles looking for street parking.

While you may not be able to visit this particular exhibit on Black entertainment history, you never know what you may find at museums of all kinds on your travels. I'm almost always pleasantly surprised when I visit museums, so I definitely encourage you to give different ones a chance before deciding it's not going to be fun or interesting.

Tell me your favorite awards speech(es) from the shows you've watched over the years.

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Apps to Learn Back History On Your Travels

I don't know about you, but I try to support and learn about local businesses in my home city and wherever I travel. I want small businesses to succeed and in particular Black-, Asian-, and women-owned businesses are at the top of that list. I seek those out at home and when I'm when I'm on vacation, so I know my money is going into the local economy instead of some big conglomerate. I also like to be entertained and learn new things, and download great podcasts for my plane ride.

For Black History Month, let's talk about the apps that can help you find Black businesses, learn  Black History, and celebrate Black culture.
Some Remember Sock Hops, Others Remember Riots by artist Theaster Gates

For Black History Month, let's talk about the apps that can help you find Black businesses, learn more about Black History, and celebrate Black culture:


This app features Black-owned restaurants and eateries. It's how we've found amazing places to eat near home and also close to accommodations when we've traveled. It's not exhaustive, but it's pretty good and worth the space it occupies on my phone. Bonus: you can get more Black-owned restaurant recommendations and learn when Black Restaurant Week is around the country on Black Restaurant Weeks


The app that helps travelers connect with others to share experiences while out in the world. While you can use it to find others who want to do the same tours or museums as you, there is a whole section called Global Black Diaspora History and Culture collection that allows you to learn more Black History on your travels and share those experiences with others who are also traveling at the same time.


If you're hoping to travel to other countries to learn history and culture, you may want to learn the language spoken there. Limited to some of the most spoken languages in the world, Babbel can help you prepare for your trip. For example, there are lots of countries with large Black communities that speak Portuguese as a the official language. Just a few of these are Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde.

A temporary exhibit at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

More Than a Mapp

Wherever you go, you can find points of interest and historical markers for Black history. Set you location in the app and then you can use the interactive map to point you to important places and then learn about what makes them significant through words, links, photos, and videos. (So far this is only available for Apple devices.)


This app, by CAma Marfo, a Black entrepreneur, helps make travel easier and more affordable for you by allowing you to pay an up-front fee and then pay off your trip in installments, ensuring that your trip is paid for before you leave and you aren't left in travel debt and not being able to to again for a long time.

Chizoba Anyaoha wants everyone to travel, so they made this app to help you plan your solo travels more easily and help you connect with others, all while feeling safe and creating awesome memories. They know solo travel planning can be daunting, and almost half of people surveyed said that creating a good itinerary was the hardest part of travel. You choose your interests and TravSolo can help you plan a trip in as little as 3 minutes. Let friends and family follow your trip in real time and feel secure meeting up with new people who are also traveling solo and/or share your interests.

This app, designed to help you find more black-owned businesses, was created by New York comedian Jon Laster. Discover restaurants, clubs, boutique shops and more where you can support the community either at home or away. You can also order items from black-owned businesses that sell everything from art to beauty products. 

Black History Quiz

Got some time to spare? Test your knowledge and expand what you've already learned through quizzes. You can't move on until you get the correct answer, so you can easily learn what you don't know. What a great way to "waste" time.

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

The Root

Support Black writers by exploring the day's news in all genres, but also listen to podcasts, watch slideshows and more, right from your phone, all by prominent Black journalists that may give you a new perspective of current stories.

Honorable Mentions: National Parks App

While this app doesn't explicitly give you Black and African American historical information, the National Parks have been preserving Black history and stories for visitors. With over 400 parks, each having a rich backstory featuring Black culture and notable points in history, you can get outside and also learn more about this country's past with elevated multi-generational Black stories. Learn more on their website.

The podcast Fanti

Not an app, but part of an app you probably already have on your phone to listen to other podcasts you love. Fanti is a pop-culture podcast run by Black hosts who talk about fandom and other relevant topics that they enjoy, but effect the Black community and fans in an entirely different way than it's white audience (i.e. when you love the art, but the artist is problematic, or vice versa). The episodes are great for downloading and listening on long plane/train/car rides.

Other podcasts you might enjoy are Heat Rocks, Black People Love Paramore, and Minority Korner. Heat Rocks is hosted by two minorities, one a Black woman, who talk to guests about hot music right now. Black People Love Paramore features Sequoia Holmes talking to other Black people about things we don't think are that interesting to non-white people, like the show Boy Meets World, the band Fallout Boy, and tattoos. 

I hope some of these will help you travel more easily, plus educate yourself while having fun traveling. I know that they can really be a great addition to trips and help you fill in time with something educational, important, fun, or tasty. Minority Korner is hosted by self-proclaimed black nerd James Arthur M as he talks with other minorities about pop culture, news, media, and history. 

Share your favorite travel apps with us. Bonus points if they are Black-created or celebrate Black culture.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Where to Travel for Black History

Black History may get a whole month, but you can actually learn about Black History all year and traveling is a great way to do that. I've learned so much by just doing things I normally do on vacation: enjoying art, architecture, fashion, and food

Black History may get a whole month, but you can actually learn about Black History all year and traveling is a great way to do that.

If you're looking to specifically learn about Black History when you travel, there are great places to do so. 

Atlanta, Georgia - There are lots of things to do in Atlanta, including eat delicious food and walking along the river, but the city also played a large part in both the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. Auburn Avenue and Peachtree Street are famous streets in the city and you can find the majority of landmarks there. Auburn Avenue, famous for Black enterprise, has been called “the richest Negro street in the world.” APEX Museum gives you a look at Black contributions throughout America, Auburn Avenue Research Library is the first in the SE with research dedicated to the study or African-American culture and history, hit up the visitor center of Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park before venturing out to explore, and The King Center not only houses the tombs of Dr. King and Coretta Scott King, but exhibits about Dr. King. Take a tour down the street at the birth home of MLK, Jr.

Charleston, South Carolina - Once America's largest slave port now is an exciting city with tons of history. The International African American Museum just opened last summer. It sits on the former Gadsen's Wharf, where almost half of enslaved people entered this country, and has been turned into a memorial garden. While you're in the city, plan to visit McLeod Plantation that is a Gullah-Geechee heritage site, the house of blacksmith Phillip Simmons, Charleston City Market, Cabbage Row - where freed slaves lived, and Old City Jail, the slave jail known as "Work House".

Indianapolis, Indiana - Though you wouldn't think of them first, Indianapolis has a rich history of early Black settlements, stops along the Underground Railroad, and those that helped make the city what it is today. They are still making their mark on the city through murals, restaurants, and even this Black woman-owned vegan winery. Head to Indiana Avenue, a historically Black neighborhood, which at one time was home to 33 jazz clubs, where jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole performed.

New Orleans, Louisiana -  The Big Easy is steeped in Black history, both past and present. You'll find a long list of Black-owned restaurants run by some of the best chefs in the country. Visit the Louisiana Civil Rights Museum, take a historical walking tour, learn about Mardi Gras culture at Mardi Gras Indians, House of Dance and Feathers, and the Backstreet Cultural Museum, view Black art at The McKenna Museum, and check out Le Musée de f.p.c., a house museum dedicated to the legacy of free people of color. Visit Congo Square on a Sunday and enjoy some live music, and walk along the Mississippi to read markers regarding the slave trade and prominent Black New Orleanians. 

Washington, DC - I never really thought about our Nation's capital around the time we became an actual nation, but in 1800 just about a quarter of the residents were enslaved Africans, and by the year 1830, most of them were free people. As you stroll the National Mall, you'll find a ton of historical buildings and museums, but don't skip seeing the carousel, as it was one of the first places to get rid of segregation, which just so happened to coincide with King's I Have a Dream speech. His speech took place in front of the Lincoln Memorial, but you'll also find great places to learn about other Black history at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and The African American Civil War Museum, both of which offer free entry.

This is by no means a full list of places to visit on your travels, but some prominent cities where you can view a lot of important places in a few days or throughout a longer trip. Keep an eye on my Facebook and Instagram for more travel suggestions during the rest of Black History Month. 

Share your favorite city or cities for history, of all kinds, from your travels in the comments.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Black Travel Trends

I read quite a bit about Black travel, including the obstacles people face traveling, how they constantly do more research than the rest of us on the safety of destinations, and where they're going on tours. It's interesting to read about their travel trends as well.

Black travel trends are interesting. I like to know where and how they travel considering the obstacles many of them face including safety and racism.
I follow a lot of travel influencers and probably half of them are people of color, because I find that they have more interesting content and have a different perspective on even the most popular destinations. I feel like it gives me new  context and viewpoint for travelers who aren't me or like me.

Do you follow great Black travel influencers? Share links to them in the comments.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

At-Home Lunar New Year Celebration

Happy Lunar New Year! It's the Year of the Dragon. Those born during the year of the dragon are said to be popular, happy, clever, compassionate, but also over-thinkers. They attract abundance or wealth, and the year is said to bring wealth and good fortune to all. Let's hope that's true, because we can all use a good year. 

We have done a mix of home Lunar New Year celebrations and outside activities this year, and continued with our at-home feast.

We have done a mix of home celebrations and outside activities this year, since more places are doing things. I have loved doing our at-home feast though, so we continued with it this year. 

I used this year as an excuse to buy a new sparkly gold table cover and a fancy dragon table runner, which can be used every year.  It has a lot more color than the usual red and gold, so it goes with everything and gives a bit more interest and depth. I also found these gorgeous plates on sale through Crate & Barrel. They have the sign for "fu" in the middle, which can mean prosperity, fortune, good luck, blessing, or happiness in Chinese.

World Market always has a small, but beautiful Lunar New Year line of products. A few years ago I purchased the tea cups for Year of the Ox, so this year I bought the matching ones with dragons. They had a new line of jade green items, and I picked up the dragon chopstick rests (they also had tea bag holders and jars for your loose-leaf tea). You may recognize the juice glasses I bought another year. While I was there picking up my order, I also grabbed this year's Harney & Sons tea, which is delicious and a set of 3 decorated sugar cookies for dessert. (If you missed out on the chopstick rests, check out this metal set or this wooden set)

Unlike with other destination dates, I didn't order out for this dinner. I actually picked everything up from Trader Joe's (and one thing from Uwajimaya, a local Asian market). They have a wonderful selection of Asian foods of all kinds. I try to do something different each year, but still stick to the traditional foods. 

Our spread included Shrimp Boom Bah, spicy breaded shrimp with a sweet and spicy dip, chicken egg rolls, garlic noodles, and ube bao (not from TJs), then we had milk tea boba. You can buy the boba kit at TJs. You just open the packet and microwave, then add to your fave beverage for boba. They come with straws, if you don't already have them. There are 4 packets, enough for 4 beverages, but I split one between the two of us, because there are quite a lot in each. 

A staple for a traditional new year table is a whole fish. Well, I am probably never doing that, so instead I snagged this awesome gold fish platter. It was the perfect addition and size for the shrimps and dip. I also found the hammered gold bowl and platter from Home Goods. (You can get something similar on Amazon: platter/tray, serving bowl, soup bowls)

Round foods are abundant on a Lunar New Year table, including mandarins and dumplings, because they resemble coin purses, so I added a plate of mandarins to our spread, and another with some takoyaki puffs. If you find those, they're delicious. I also just tossed some gold coins that I always have on-hand around the table, for a little extra flair and wealth manifestation.

To cap things off, I put up a Lunar New Year garland and some light-up lantern firecrackers, plus we had to have headgear, so I found these funky dragon boppers that "breathe" fire. So fun! (I got mine from Oriental Trading, but these are also fun.)

When the meal came to an end and we were eating cookies, we also did some scratch-off fortunes. I love that they are in the shape of a dragon. 

This is an easy at-home celebration to pull together, whether you have 2 of you or 10 of you. It's also affordable, especially if you use things you already have around the house. You can see my last Lunar New Year celebration where I used more of my own things or our 2021 celebration that was a little more involved.

I hope you have a year full of happiness and good health. Follow me on Instagram for more celebration pics and tips. What's your favorite non-American holiday to celebrate? 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, I may be monetarily compensated. It's free to you to do so, and it helps me keep this blog running, to bring you more useful travel tips.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Stroll Through An Unusual Paris Neighborhood

"EVERYTHING is jazz:

snails, jails, rails, tails, males, females,
snow-white cotton bales."
- James Emanuel, poet

Paris has so many cool neighborhoods, but an unusual and unofficial neighborhood resides inside the walls of Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Paris has so many cool neighborhoods, but an unusual and unofficial neighborhood resides inside the walls of Père Lachaise, the city's biggest and most visited cemetery. We have gone two out of the three times we've visited Paris and are always in awe of the gorgeous tombs. And yes, while you can visit Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison, you can also visit some of history's most notable Black authors and artists there.

Père Lachaise is so large, you can pick up a map showing you where everyone is buried. It has streets and I was even able to use Google Maps to find gravestones I was particularly interested in. We stayed for several hours on each of our visits and didn't cover the same steps, nor did we see the entire cemetery. If you want to see particular resting places, it's important to make a bit of a plan, because you probably won't just stumble upon them while walking around. You can also join a tour, including one entitled Black Paris Pilgrimage by Entrée to Black Paris.

Black history is around every corner, so here are some notable names you might want to pay a visit to while you're there:

Richard Wright - An American who moved to Paris and called it home, Wright wrote novels and short stories with racial themes. He began writing at 15 years old and was an influential writer, especially for other young Black men. Critics believe he helped change race relations in the mid-20th century. You won't find him on an elaborate tomb or even a not-quite-as-fancy headstone. Wright was cremated and entombed in the cemetery's columbarium in niche 848.

William Gardner Smith - An American novelist who was thought to have written the first Black militant protest novel was born in Philadelphia and moved to Paris, just like Richard Wright. He, too, was cremated and placed in the columbarium, but his family did not renew the lease on his resting spot, so his ashes were exhumed and scattered in the Jardin du Souvenir, Division 77. 

Victor Séjour - Born Juan Victor Séjour et Ferrand in New Orleans, Victor spent most of his career in Paris, where his fiction and plays were written in French. He is credited as being the first African-American to publish a work of fiction. You'll find him in section 15, where a book is sculpted at the foot of his tomb.

James Emanuel - Known by some as one of the best and most neglected poets of the 20th century, Emanuel was born in Nebraska and wrote and published more than 300 poems, alongside books, an anthology, and an autobiography. He created the new genre of jazz-and-blues haiku, which was often accompanied by music. You can find him in the columbarium in niche 16412.

Patricia LaPlante-Collins - A traveler of the world, Patricia finally settled in Paris, where she hosted African-American Literary Soirées, introducing like-minded people  to each other and notable French figures, like Black poet and filmmaker Sojourner Ahébée. Her ashes were scatterd in the Jardin du Souvenir of the columbarium. 

Patrick Kelly - Born in Mississippi, Kelly was a fashion designer that infused exuberance, humor, and Black folklore into his pieces. He was the first American to be admitted into the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode, the governing body overlooking the French ready-to-wear industry. In his short decade of commercial design, he dressed a myriad of famous people, including Goldie Hawn, Bette Davis, and Cicely Tyson. You can find his tomb in Division 50, where a Black caricature and a red heart button artwork decorate the top, with the sentiment "nothing is impossible".

If you're looking for more Black artists in Paris, outside of Père Lachaise, you can find jazz trumpeter James Arthur Briggs in Montmartre Cemetery, the master painter Henry Ossawa Tanner in Sceaux Cemetery, Sidney Bechet - one of the greatest soprano saxophonists - can be found in Garches Cemetery, painters Beauford Delaney and Hugh Lawrence Potter can both be found at Thiais Cemetery (Potter's ashes were scattered in the Jardin du Souvenir). 

Jardin du Souvenir

I can't speak for the beauty of the other cemeteries, as I never made it to Montmartre and I had not heard of the other 3. I'm also positive that you will find even more notable Black artists and historical figures in each of these if you do a bit of research, but I wanted to give you a good starting point for a place that can double as a romantic day out and also allow you a look into American and Parisian Black history through figures who may have even been influential to you.

Have you ever taken a romantic stroll through a cemetery? Which one? (We actually first visited Père Lachaise on our honeymoon while we were in Paris for a few days.)

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Destination Date Night: Parisian Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is already next week. If you haven't planned anything yet, it's okay, there's still time to get the most coveted reservation, the one at home with your sweetie. If that doesn't sound all that exciting to you, what if I told you that you'd be taking them to Paris (or really any city they've been dreaming of)?

If Valentine's Day snuck up on you, I'm going to show you how you can pull together a romantic staycation over this week, if you get on it right now.

In 2022, we took a vacation to Paris, and it was awesome, but not every year can be a Paris year. In fact, I know I'm privileged to have been to Paris once, much more than that. So, if Valentine's Day snuck up on you, I'm going to show you how you can pull together a romantic staycation over this week, if you get on it right now.

This is one of those times I decided to make all my own food, which is unusual, because I like to get a meal delivered, and you might want to, too, but if you don't, following is the list of foods I made. I wanted as much to be heart-shaped as possible and I wanted to do a tea time spread, as that is one of our favorite things to do:

  • Mini Hasselback potatoes: loaded version
  • Radish tea sandwiches - I cut the bread into hearts and froze and I also added a little radish heart on toothpicks
  • Cucumber flowers with dill butter - I did these as open-face and cut both the bread and the cucumbers into flower shapes
  • Sweet pea and leek tartlets - instead of using big tart pans, I used heart-shaped baking tins from Michael's
  • Salmon petits toasts - I made the filling for this and instead of toasts, I spread it on tortillas, cut them into strips, and then rolled and used toothpicks to shape them into a sort of heart shape
  • Curry chicken tarts - I actually purchased a container of curried chicken from Trader Joe's and put them in phyllo cups I had in the pantry
  • Savory peach tarts - I couldn't find fresh peaches, so I used canned peaches that I dried off between paper towels, and used hot honey instead of cooking the peaches with chili flakes. I also cut my puff pastry into heart shapes

I set my coffee table with a pink sequin tablecloth that was actually a curtain panel, added a heart runner for an interesting look. I also got a 3D travel-themed Valentine's Day card, in place of my usual flower centerpiece. All my tablewear (runner, tiered tray, heart dessert server, heart plates) came from Target. I used red napkins I already had, mismatched teacups from my cabinet, and my bird teapot. We drank a chocolate raspberry tea that I received for my birthday, and I also had a mini bottle of rosé prosecco.

If you can't find these items at your local Target, don't have a local Target, or don't want to use what you already have, here are some items you can sub in and get before V-day:

As a background, I picked a Parisian river view with the Eiffel Tower behind it. If you've followed my destination date series, then you know I usually do two backdrops, and this time I did, too, but used the second one in a different way. I wrapped our TV stand with a rose garden backdrop, because we watched a few videos of a Seine cruise. 

You can pick up fun things like these ring pops or Valentine head boppers or glasses at your local dollar store. These glasses Eric has on are actually blue, which you can see in other pics, but somehow came out green in the pics where he's wearing them. Mine are pink, but almost disappeared in pictures.

I probably spent the equivalent of a fancy dinner out on this destination date, but I didn't have to hear a bunch of people's conversations, I didn't have to dress up (you can), and I didn't have to drive anywhere and wait for my table to be ready. We had a fun time and it was a nice, relaxing, and romantic evening in. I hope this gives you some good ideas for your own romantic evening in. If you want more tips for things to do outside of your home, here's my post on how to do a romantic staycation on a budget. 

Have a wonderful Valentine's Day, if you celebrate. All of these ideas can also be used for a Galentine's or Palentine's celebration. Cheers!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, I may be monetarily compensated. It's free to you to do so, and it helps me keep this blog running, to bring you more useful travel tips.

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