Travelling Womanists Commutes, Pt. 3: DC Chillin, SD Chillin, IE Chillin…Tired of Chillin?


Sitting here in the MLK Memorial Library a couple of things cross my mind as I wait to get on the bus.  It fascinates me how wonderful and peaceful a public library is, especially on a day when it is so cold, rainy, and dreary outside.  Another thing that fascinates me is the overwhelming diversity of people who I observe in the library.  Everyone moving slowly through the main entrance, occupying their own space, time and mind.  Some people definitely fit the profile of someone floating between the lines of societies reality and their own personal universe.  Others seem to be inside killing time while they wait for the bus, a friend or maybe even the opportunity to enter an entirely new universe through the pages of the volumes stacked so neatly in their homes on the shelves.  I marinate to the smooth jazz sounds of christmas music played on the piano.  It is within all of this that I find some serenity.  I am connected to the many human experiences that surround me and am offered an opportunity to really just reflect on the ridiculous “commuting schedule” that I have survived over the past two weeks or so.  I have travelled over 4,000 miles in a little over 14 days and am feeling a bit exhausted.  All of the trips were related almost entirely to professional commitments but were still quite fun.  I relaxed for a couple of days with my growing, inquisitive, insightful and energy filled  cousins in the smoggy valleys of the Inland Empire in Southern California; flirted with the sun-kissed sky as I filled my belly with fish tacos and my brain with collaborative opportunities in beach lined San Diego, California; briefly embraced the chilled winds of New York’s JFK airport; then briskly moved to the rich history filled streets of irony in good ol Chocolate City.

It was not until I entered my hotel in Washington D.C. that I noticed something (a sort of trend) in the hotel staff.  I was fascinated by the ethnic makeup up the staff here there and everywhere that I had recently travelled.  While I am aware that all hotels are not created equal, I did start to notice groups of people who seemed to be in the majority and minority as I travelled from city to city.  The concurrent theme was that I always noticed my black and brown sisters and brothers in positions like the porter, door person, or other positions that related directly to serving people in very specific way.  Granted every once in a while there would be a person at the front desk or in what seemed like a management capacity but for the most part it was pretty much the same thing.  This hit me when I entered a certain hotel in DC and I almost felt like I had been transported to a hotel in the 40’s or 50’s.  Black and Brown men were available to help carry my bags, open the door and a man from somewhere in the African Diaspora even played christmas tunes on the piano for a bunch of holiday party attendees.  I guess it was just too much for me.  I thought, what has really happened for people of color since the civil rights act, since the election of Obama and move into a post racial america (you know this is a JOKE), or even the “liberation” of african nations in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  It was quite a lot to process and I’m sure something will come to me as I move through my regular day-to-day activities in the near future.  It always takes me a little while to reflect on the many levels of reality that I am taking in at any given point in time.  It also made me think of all the disparities that I often read through everyday in my work life.  It always fascinates me at how disparities look to the average person.  You know, how each person really perceives the gross inequities that are often attributed to race determined without the assistance of a statistical significance test, the control for factors by using a complicated statistical equation or whatever tools we use to understand the world we live in.  This is what employment looks like for people of color in 2010. I think back to the statistic that looms over many of us.  Unemployment is at 9%.

As I move through these cities I think about two things: (yes, I know this seems like a mini rant but I promise you that it will all come together at the end of this paragraph) homelessness & hotels.  What do these things mean?  I see people of color in two capacities (especially black men) while on my trips.  I see them as homeless or wandering souls on the streets of the gas lamp district in San Diego.  In DC I see them in a service capacity in the hotel that I stayed in.  Now this is not meant to characterize a group of people in any particular way.  This is meant to be an observation about a trend that I noticed while travelling.  A trend that left me sad but hopeful.  My perception does exclude all of the many people who I noticed while moving through the streets, in shopping areas or moving through daily life.  However, these reflections and perceptions left me thinking about the overall way that I move throughout my daily life.  It made me think about the trends and people I see.  I began to ask myself, even  more often than usual, where are the people who look like me?  Why do I see these people in two capacities in these places that I travel?  How do these people perceive me and do they wonder why I am in these spaces they occupy in a different capacity? I will probably never know the answer to thes questions but will continue to think about the way I move through the world.  But this is the point of this entire blog.  I am excited to share my experiences and hope that many of you will share yours too.  This travelling womanist looks forward to the many lessons to learn and the opportunity to commute again, again and again!

Peace B. Still,



~ by travelling womanists on December 12, 2010.

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