“No free negro shall come, reside in, or be within this state… [T]he legislature shall provide by penal law for the removal of all such negroes and their exclusion from the State.” -Oregon State Constitution, 1857-1926
In 1956, New York college student Patricia Banks counted herself among the first cadre of young black women to finish flight attendant training school. Sadly, like those other young women, she found it possible to gain employment with any of the major airlines, unlike her white classmates.
“…one of the chief hostesses from Capital [Airlines]…she saw me…she said, ‘Pat, I can’t see you go through this anymore.’ She said, ‘The airline does not hire Negroes.’” “It really never came to me that New York was just as racist as the South. I grew up when the South was having such terrible problems, but I had a thing inside of me…this just can’t be, not in New York!” “It was emotionally upsetting.” “But then I vowed, ok…you’re not gonna do this to us. I’m not gonna let you do this. And I decided that I was going to go with it all the way. I don’t care how long it took. And whether it was me that got hired, or somebody else, somebody was going to get hired.”
Ms. Banks sued, and in 1960, the New York State Commission against Discrimination ordered Capital Airlines (which merged with United a year later) to hire her, two years after Mohawk Airlines hired Ruth Carol Taylor as the first black flight attendant. But she knew that while the legal fight may have been over, the internal struggle was just beginning.
“I was very, very excited, very happy about it, but I also knew that it was going to be a challenge. … Because here I was, this black woman on this magnificent airline traveling all through the South, so I had to be … perfect. … I knew if I made any mistakes, they would be magnified and I would ruin the chance for other black people.”
See Ms. Banks’ entire interview below, then discover other black aviation pioneers at American Airlines‘ excellent Black History in Aviation website.
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- Online travel emporium wejetset takes a look at all the urban delights megacity Tokyo has to offer.
- National Geographic will be honoring fly sista Tracey Friley as one of its “Travelers of the Year” for her Passport Party Project, which helps fund passports for young girls. (Ceremony is February 6, 2014 in Washington, DC).
- Native American activist, author, and attorney Gyosi Ross calls out racism and white privilege while traveling.
- Matador Network considers the courage it takes to stay in one place.
- Young, forbidden love gets mixed with contraband and street hustling in the heady heat of Havana in Cuban drama La Partida (The Last Match).
- The Miami Herald follows four inner-city high school football players as they learn all about life’s possibilities while playing for a small college in North Dakota.
- Writer and adventurer Rogue Priest lets an inquisitive young traveler know that the universe cannot be relied on to “provide.”
- Delta Air Lines celebrates the 1980s with its new, hilarious inflight safety video, featuring big hair, leg warmers, Alf, and First Officer Murdock.
São Paulo and I were together for two years. She was high-maintenance from the start; this, I knew going in. She would order the most expensive thing on the menu, sometimes flirt with other guys, and make me pay dearly whenever I didn’t call at the exact time I said I would. She knew her worth and she played with my heart, but I knew deep down, she loved me: when we were in sync, when our energies mixed and we danced and played and reveled in each others’ company, we knew we had a good thing going. I won’t lie; the sex was volcanic. And be it in her brand new Mustang or her little red Corvette, we rode fast and wild, and I would always end up broke, spent, and sprung – she was The One.
But I couldn’t afford her and, one day, she let me go. And I was bitter for a while, heartbroken and rejected.
The next time we saw each other, a few weeks later, she welcomed me back to dance and play and revel. Over a cafezinho at Bella Paulista one Sunday morning, she looked at me and admitted that every once in a while, she envied what Berlin and I have because we were marrying for love. But in the very next moment, when I asked her to marry me, she just stared out the window and said nothing.
I paid for our coffees and we walked out into the bright sun, our feet hurting from the previous night’s debauchery and still a little lightheaded from the party favors. She kissed me deeply and passionately before getting into her car with a tchau, disconnecting and leaving me with only three reais to catch the bus home.
I see her less frequently these days, though our rendezvous are no less intense. Neither one of us has brought up the m-word again, especially since we’re each married to someone else.
But what if…?
My friend and São Paulo-native Rodrigo Pitta loves that damn place so much, he’s filmed three music videos in his hometown. Here’s the newest. I’m already booking my flight back down to see her.
It’s a new year. Now’s the time to embrace your goals, your desires, your dreams and passions and make them reality. For me, 2014 is all about authenticity. This means that my actions and activities will involve engaging my own interests and talents – not ignoring my responsibilities as a son, partner, and friend, of course – but building a life with maximum fulfillment and minimal regret, on my own terms. It won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth the effort.
In 2014, make magic in your own life.
“Unite rhythm with words, and they will unlock to empower you.”
-Ms. Tebbit, Were the World Mine
In this video, I discuss what went well and not-so-well in 2013, and talk about my goals and aspirations for the coming year, including a kinda big reveal (well, the word should be revelation, but who says that anymore?).
Sorry about the length. :-/
Despite its setting amid a flat, wildly sprawling car-topia, Miami International Airport is an aviation geek’s dream. Airliners from places as far away as Moscow and Buenos Aires or as close as Key West and Nassau, cargo planes all the way from China, the Airbus A380 – the world’s largest passenger aircraft – riding heavy over Biscayne Bay on its way across the Atlantic; if you look in the sky long enough, you’ll see it all. And unlike most big-city airports relegated to the boondocks, MIA is right in the heart of town.
Vantage points are everywhere: you can catch the afternoon arrivals from Europe at the LA Fitness on Northwest 12th Street, the planes so low you can almost touch them – Iberia, Alitalia, Virgin, Swiss, and British all in a row. Commuters on the Dolphin Expressway course alongside the south runway, sometimes racing TAM to Brazil, LAN to Chile, or Copa to Panama. Delta and United and Avianca and TACA and FedEx and UPS skirt the towers of downtown Miami throughout the day. But all-day, everyday, it’s American – old American, new American, big American, small American – it could be to Tallahassee or Tegucigalpa, somebody’s going somewhere on American.
Nearby Fort Lauderdale might have the most dramatic landings in the region, jets just barely missing the tops of the semis speeding up and down I-95. But Miami’s got the most diverse range of aircraft, airlines, landing patterns, and striking silhouettes of any city I’ve ever lived in.
So if you’re driving past the airport and see someone creeping along on the expressway at 5 miles an hour trying to snap a shot of a departing AirBerlin jet on their phone, it’s probably me. I really have to stop that; it’s just not safe.
Oh…and is anybody else but me excited that Qatar Airways will be flying here come next June?! Nobody? Bueller?
Once a standard-bearer of glamour and adventure during the Golden Age of jet travel, Brazil’s Varig brand will cease to exist by next April. That’s when Brazilian low-cost airline Gol, owner of the brand, will officially dispense with the iconic logo and name that it acquired when the original Varig stopped flying in 2006, repainting the remaining Varig-branded planes in Gol’s fluorescent orange livery.
Founded in Porto Alegre in 1927 as Viação Aérea Rio-Grandense, the airline known as Varig once connected Brazil with destinations as far-flung as Copenhagen, Tokyo, Maputo, and Toronto, carrying with it idealized exoticism, the promise of sun and sex south of the equator. Jet-setters, when not flying Pan Am, flew Varig down to Rio. Even the plucky Holly Golightly adorned the walls of her Manhattan apartment with Varig’s eye-catching posters as she dreamt of a new life in Brazil in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Sadly, as air travel became more accessible to the masses, Varig’s stellar service waned, as did its profits, and by the 2000s, the airline found it hard to compete against nimble competition in a stormy economic environment. After an embarrassing bankruptcy in 2006, with planes repossessed at JFK and soccer fans stranded in Germany during the World Cup, competitor Gol snapped up a few bits and pieces of the legacy carrier, hoping to bank on Varig’s international brand recognition and global image. Subsequently, as archrival TAM has taken up the mantle as Brazil’s de facto flag carrier and Gol has steadily built its own brand awareness through aggressive advertizing and solid service, Varig’s name proved irrelevant and, come next April, will be consigned to history, alongside Pan Am, TWA, Swissair, and a few other paragons of 20th century air travel.
I only flew Varig once, round-trip from Miami to Salvador da Bahia via São Paulo. It was my first trip to Brazil. The seats on the Boeing 777 were cramped, the flight attendants on the international legs mostly surly, middle-aged men. Our return domestic flight was late and an agent had to rush us through the concrete maze that is São Paulo’s airport to make our connection to Miami and as I approached the door, one flight attendant smiled at me and asked, “Baiano?” “Não,” I responded, flattered to have been mistaken for Brazilian, “americano.”
Varig, you will be missed.
Sometimes, you end up someplace and don’t exactly know why. Obviously, a series of events happens that leads you somewhere, but it’s the existential why, rather than the literal how, which leaves you questioning the reason behind a move. Since repatriating at the beginning of the year, I’ve been wondering what the cosmos had in store for me back in the USA and, particularly, in Miami. Pleasant weather and an oft-fulfilling university teaching position had been the only identifiable high points in a place with soul-sucking traffic and a large proportion of plastic, soulless people. Throw American political asshattery and Trayvon/stop-and-frisk/Oscar Grant on top and all I could think was “why hast Thou banished me to this forsaken land, especially when there’s always Paris?”
A couple of weeks ago, the why revealed itself to me unexpectedly whilst visiting the fair capital city of the Republic of Ireland: Dublin.
At the beginning of October, I participated as a speaker at the world’s largest travel blogging conference, Travel Blog Exchange, or TBEX. Held twice a year – once in North America and once in Europe – TBEX brings together travel bloggers, journalists, entrepreneurs, tourism bureaus, travel tech companies, and the like. As with most professional conferences, TBEX attracts an odd combination of earnest, open-minded participants seeking useful knowledge and meaningful interaction, as well as navel-gazing, self-important douchebags who only crack their mouths or make eye-contact if they think there’s something to be gained materially by demonstrating even the scantest bit of home training, and everything in between. While the Dublin edition did have its share of the latter, I found the overwhelming majority of the participants to be pleasant and engaging, and at the close of every day, nay, every session, I felt all the more inspired and motivated to further develop Fly Brother as my brand and myself as a writer.
During the four-day conference, I spoke twice: once about cultural awareness in travel writing as part of a pre-conference writers workshop (with a powerhouse trifecta comprised of Christine Cantera, David Farley, and one of my longtime travel writing heroes, Leif Pettersen), and then all by my lonesome about the importance of fact-checking and sourcing. While my sessions involved imparting some level of expertise to the attendees, I feel that I gained much more in terms of positive feedback, constructive criticism, meaningful networking (including starting new and deepening old friendships), and, most importantly, the sense that I’m indeed on the right road to greater things.
On my way back to the USofA, I realized what I should have realized from the beginning, but was too paralyzed by reverse culture shock to recognize: that the cosmos brought me here to Miami, at this moment, for personal and professional growth.
The university job, aside from being a phenomenal résumé-builder, lets me use my talents as a communicator to show people desirous of growth how to break through self- and community-imposed barriers. The stability that the job provides allows me to undertake – and complete – my doctoral research studies. The geographical location of Miami puts me closer to my family and friends in the States, places me within a half-day’s journey to three continents, and lets me utilize my hard-won Spanish and Portuguese skills, all with the Atlantic Ocean a mere two blocks away from my apartment. But most importantly, Miami provides me a visible yet accessible base from which to launch Fly Brother as a business in a way that living in São Paulo and Berlin didn’t necessarily provide me, with those cities being exotic enough to render me out of sight, out of mind. From here, I can get to conferences, I can get to coffee meetings with editors, I can get to book signings, and I can get to after-church barbecues with my folks quickly and easily. In other words, I can get to it.
But despite a gang of friends and family members dutifully and repeatedly telling me these things over the last few months, it took going to Dublin and experiencing the tremendous friendliness of our Irish hosts, fellowshipping with a couple hundred amazing, like-minded travelers who think of little else, and soaking up collective inspiration to light the necessary fire.
So, thank you TBEX, Failte Ireland, and my TBEX cronies, old and new, for reminding me of why I’m here. See you next time!
Here’s a look at the opening night reception, thrown by Failte Ireland at the iconic Guinness Storehouse. Unauthorized candid at 0:29.