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tpoc-logo-wbMark your calendars to join the Travel Professionals of Color (TPOC) on May 13th- 17th, 2015 for the 13th Annual Conference and Trade Show at the beautiful Crowne Plaza Atlanta Airport Hotel in East Point, Georgia. Located just minutes from Atlanta, East Point offers all the amenities of the bustling city and convenience of being minutes away from the airport, Georgia International Convention Center and Atlanta attractions. Enjoy exceptional accommodations, dining and shopping in East Point with easy access to Atlanta. The pre-conference heritage tour will be held on May 13th.

East Point will welcome more than 200 of the world's most influential tourism industry professionals for the 2015 Travel Professionals of Color (TPOC) Conference.  High-profile bookings such as TPOC reflect East Point and Atlanta's reputation as a tourism industry leader.TPOC attendees will include top travel executives, travel agent owners, managers, sales staff, industry suppliers, hospitality professionals and students.  TPOC is dedicated to equipping African American, Asian American, Hispanic and Native American travel professionals with the tools they need to thrive in the industry through education and networking.

The conference will come to East Point on the heels of new attractions like the Center for Civil and Human Rights and College Football Hall of Fame, as well as a new streetcar linking the MLK Historic District to the downtown tourism hub of Centennial Olympic Park.  East Point's central location to this area and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport makes it a smart and exciting location for this group.

A TPOC Conference is all you need to get your business off the ground or up and moving forward again!

THE FIRST INDUSTRY CONFERENCE OF ITS KIND THAT FOCUSES ON THE NEEDS AND EDUCATION OF TODAY'S TRAVEL PROFESSIONALS OF COLOR!!

 A GREAT OPPORTUNITY AWAITS YOU:  

  • Network with hundreds of Travel Professionals
  • Learn how to direct the Minority Travel $$ to the Minority Travel Agents
  • Learn how to market to all Minority communities including the African American, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American Travel Community
  • Learn how technology today affects the travel business
  • Meet and hear top Industry Speakers and Workshop Presenters
  • Meet industry vendors at the Trade Show
  • Enjoy exciting entertainment

 

For more information and to register, visit tpocassociation.com.

 

     ugandI was beyond excited to be going to Uganda.  I had been to Africa several times, but this was my first visit to East Africa. Even though Uganda is a relatively small landlocked country (bordered by Kenya, Sudan, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania), there is so much to explore and experience. During my first visit, I got a taste of the many things the country had to offer. I had heard so many good things about Uganda and I was anticipating a real treat. I will tell you that the country lived up to, and even way past my expectations.
 
     A new wave of tourism is continuously rising in Uganda, and I would be among the first to witness it. Known as the Pearl of Africa, the country offers an adventure in all types of tourism, and it has some of the most magnificent sites and natural resources that you ever could imagine. Uganda is also home to one of the tallest mountain range in Africa, Mount Rwenzori, the continent largest lake, Lake Victoria and the world's longest river, the River Nile. I would get to explore all of these natural wonders.   
eqakit     Uganda is also one of the few countries in the world through which the equator crosses. The imaginary line that divides the earth into two halves, the equator runs through Uganda at a point situated south of Kampala along the Kampala – Masaka road where two cement circles marking the equator line are located.  
       Uganda is also a very safe country to visit and easy to explore. Home to 10 national parks and three UNESCO World Heritage sites, it is no wonder that travelers are visiting the country to explore some of its grandeur.  I was going to Uganda for the 39th Annual African Travel Association (ATA) Congress. 
      Upon arrival, I found that the people were so friendly, and quick to welcome and embrace visitors from all over the world. The locals made me feel so comfortable and right at home. We checked into the beautiful  Speke Resort Munyonyo whcih was the host hotel for the ATA conference.  This one-of-a-kind upscale resort  offers the ultimate in luxury accommodation and leisure facilities. It is an excellent choice for any type conference, business meetings or specail event.  Situated in Munyonyo on the shores of Lake Victoria, we had the option of enjoying the  Olympic size swimming pool, equestrian centre, 5 star restaurants, gymnasium and sports facilities. I really loved this hotel and service was great.   
moun      We enjoyed a three day tour of Uganda before the ATA conference began. One of the first things we did was to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park as a part of a safari tour.  Located in western Uganda, the park is about about 234 miles from Kampala, Uganda's capital and largest city. Since we were at the Speke Resort in Kampala, we had to get up early the next morning to make the journey to Queen Elizabeth National Park.  The trip proved to be well worth the long drive.  The 764 square mile park  gave us the unique opportunity to view the scenes that it is most famous for, including its mountains, volcanic cones, deep craters, and mineral  crater lakes such as the Katwe Craters, from which salt is extracted. It was quite an experience observing the beauty of the lake that seemed to turn from a relaxing blue to a serene green. The park consists of a great savannah grassland of roaming animals and scattered euphorbia trees growing everywhere.
      I was truly blown away by the beauty of the park's countryside, the mountains, greenery and serene lakes.We took in spectacular, breathtaking sceneries that almost seem to put you in a trance. Very exciting on the tor throughout Queen Elizabeth Park was the stunning view of Mount Rwenzori. The mountains range, located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the ugCongo supports glaciers and are the source of the Nile River. The highest Rwenzori peaks are permanently snow-capped and it is a mystical experience to see the mountain with a snow white top when it is hot  on the ground.  These mountains are good for hiking activities. We got to drive around them and get out for a short hike and look out at the magnificent views of the jagged range of mountains that included the famous Mitumbe Hill where you can look out to the Congo. It seemed surreal viewing through the mountains to get a glimpse of the Congo!vic
     Queen Elizabeth National Park is where you get to see what is known as the "Big Five" in Uganda. The big five are among the most dangerous, yet most popular species that the big game hunters used to hunt. Now tourist come to observe the Big Five in their natural habitat. In Queen Elizabeth National Park we got to see all five of the Big game animals on almost the same day. We saw the elephant, lion, buffalo, and the hippo. It was kinda of scary seeing lions prowling the open plains. But we did not dare get out of our jeep. We did not see the leopard. The leopard is one of the hardest to spot so the guide told us. We would get to see the leopard at the Ugandan Zoo on the last day before we left.  Around the lake is where we saw the buffalo roaming and the hippopotamuses swimming and dipping. It is reported to have about 100 mammal species. So here you can see any animal imaginable. In addition to the Big Five, it was a real adventure to see the antelopes, giraffs, different types of monkeys and warthogs.
     girafAfter the game watching and scenic two-hour drive along the Kasenyi plain, we did a boat cruise where we sailed along the Kazanga Channel. This was very relaxing and we got to view hippos and sea animals  basking in the water.  We stopped along the way and had lunch in the town of Mbarara, at the Agrip Hotel. I was glad to take breaks and rest time along the drives. At the end of the day, we did not dare take the long drive back to Kampala. We stayed in a Mweya Safari Lodge where we had checked into when we got to the western part of Uganda. 
 
After  the ATA conference, we got to visit another great park, Murchinson Falls National Park. This is Uganda's largest park that is known for it's beautiful scenes and concentration of game also, as well as birds. Here is where you will find the magnificent Murchinson Falls, where the park derived its name. We spent the night at the Samiya Safari Lodge. Arising early in the morning, we ventured to view the falls by way of the Nile River that runs through the park. Our  ferry boat tour down the Nile allowed us a spectacular view approaching the roaring Murchinson Falls. The lush greenery around the falls was a site to behold. The sun shining on the falls is a scene that I will never forget. Needless to say, there were many photo opportunities. Along the Nile we observes very large size hippos and exotic fish. And yes, we saw a very large scary looking crocodile on the banks opening and closing it's mouth! Upon return that evening, we were entertained by the Mubako Community Group Artist with homemade musical instruments who perform daily at the ferry embarkment.  

ugaThe parks of Uganda are real tourism draws because they are natural wonders to behold in and of themselves.  Even if there was nothing else to do in the country, it would be worth a visit to go to one of the ten national parks located there. Uganda's vast bird population of more than 1,000 species makes the parks a birdwatcher's paradise. We did a little bird watching at Queen Elizabeth National Park where it is said to have over 500 different species of bird flying around. In addition to Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchinson Falls National Park, Uganda is home to many other great parks including Kibale Natioanal Park, known for it 13 species of primates; Lake Mburo National Park, where you will find Lake Mburo and four other smaller lakes and Bwindi National Park that is well-known for its Mountain gorilla tracking.  
 
From the very beginning of my visit to Uganda, I was captured by its beauty. From the snow-capped peaks of Rwenzori Mountains, to the excellent safaris, fantastic birding opportunities and beautiful scenic national parks, the country had already lived up to its reputation before I continued my tour. I had not even done the capital upbeat city of Kampala yet and I was in love with Uganda!
 
Also Read:
Visit Uganda (Part 2): Explore Jinja- the Source of the Nile River 

 

Located at the edge of the mining belt in South Africa, Soweto is an urban area in Johannesburg. The area is well known for its historical significance during the pre and post World War Era. However, the region came to limelight with the outbreak of the Soweto Uprising in 1976. The movement was a turning point how the black African Racial community would be viewed in the world and led to key events like the death of colonization in Africa and the rise of the ‘Black Power’ in Africa. Soweto today is a popular tourist destination in Africa and is known to be the birth place of World icons and Nobel Prize winners Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. In many ways the uprising in the country is similar to India’s struggle for Independence and makes Soweto a place which is a must visit for Indians who visit Africa. Here are some reasons why Indians should visit Soweto.

1. Nelson Mandela

nelson-mandela

 

 

 

Considered as the ‘Father of the Nation’ by South Africa, Nelson Mandela is often seen as what Mahatma Gandhi was to India. Nelson Mandela was a former resident in Soweto till he was imprisoned in 1962. His house is still present in Orlando west and is one of the popular tourist attractions in Soweto. The house contains several articles used by the Mandela family andd a guided tour will help you get a better knowledge about the life and times of the great leader.   

 

 

 

 

2. Tuk Tuk

tuk-tukThe Tuk Tuk is a variant of the auto rickshaw which is a popular mode of transport there. Unlike the auto rickshaws found in India, the Tuk Tuks in Africa have doors and are surprisingly manufactured bythe Indian Bajaj Auto Company. Various tours around the town in hired Tuk Tuks which cover few of the most important historical sites in Johannesburg. The auto rickshaw is considered as a luxury mode of transport in Soweto and other parts of Africa and the special tours attract a huge number oftourists to the region.

 

 

 

 

3. Fair Trade Travel

This nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing responsible tourism in South Africa and also has a branch in Soweto. The organization’s prime goal is to promote the tourism and to make sure that the people who provide the various tourist facilities in South Africa reap the most benefits. The Fair Trade Travel tours will make you experience the most breathtaking landscapes and the most important historical monuments and provide detailed information about all the places you visit. Soweto is a small urbanized area of the Johannesburg region but has a rich historical significance. The place is considered to be the place where the Dark Continent and the Black People saw their rise to being a world power and the various monuments and attractions in the town are a must visit.

fair-trade-travelAbout the Writer

Rohit Agarwal is a keen travel blogger and likes to discover new places and experience the different cultures in the world. He also owns and maintains Trans India Travel. http://www.transindiatravels.com

Top Photo Credit of Gandhi-Mandela: Belén Morales 

 

DEDICATED TO IVAN VAN SERTIMA (1935-2009)

 

afromexIn mid-July of 2014, I had the pleasure of leading a group of twenty-three people on an African heritage tour of Mexico. The group was largely composed of African-Americans but also included a Black man from Guyana, a Nigerian, a young African woman from Niger and a Latina.  The purpose was to explore Mexico's African legacy.  It was a short tour of only seven days but it was a wonderful, intense and fun trip during which we visited the Catedral Metropolitana (the national church of Mexico where we got to see a splendid statue of a miraculous Black Christ), the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadeloupe (the most visited shrine in the Western Hemisphere), the pyramids at Teotihuacan, the town of Yanga (named after the African liberator of early Mexico--Gaspar Yanga--where we had a libation ceremony), and the beautiful ancient Mayan city of Palenque.  

 

But the real focus of the tour was the civilization called the Olmec. The Olmec civilization is universally regarded as the parent civilization of the Americas and the most outstanding and visible feature about the Olmec civilization are seventeen massive stone heads with African features.  On this tour I got to see and photograph fifteen of these heads and gathered much information to supplement that which I already had.  And the conclusion that I came to is that not only has there been a pervasive and influential African presence in Mexico from the most ancient times, but that at the height of the Olmec civilization in ancient Mexico there reigned a dynasty of African kings. 

 

Yes, I realize the magnitude and implications of what I am saying.  I know that it goes beyond the parameters of what we are led to believe about African people in the Americas.  I know that it goes beyond the realm of slavery.  But the evidence is indisputable that African people were well established in the Americas, particularly Mexico, both before Columbus and long before the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.  

 

I don't say such things lightly.   ;I worked under and had a close relationship with Dr. Ivan Van Sertima--the world's leading authority on the African presence in early America--from 1981 until his death in May 2009.  I have studied African history for more than forty years. In the last fifteen years I have traveled to more than a hundred countries, colonies and overseas territories in search of the African presence, have taken thousands of photos and engaged in relentless research.   I was staggered by what I saw in Mexico and so my real question is why is this information not well known and why it had not penetrated the popular imagination.   Such knowledge can even be healing.  

 

With the great divide that exists between the Mexican-American and African-American communities in the United States such information about the African presence in Mexican history can even be healing.  For it tells us that we have a long history of interactions.  

 

To state that African people played a prominent role in American history from the very beginning is not an attempt to seize Native American and Mexican history and civilization.  But it is an undisguised attempt to set the record straight and that record states that African people have a history second to none, including a remarkable history in pre-Columbian America--and it is a history that deserves to be shouted to the world.

 

Olmec civilization began about 1500 BCE and lasted until near the beginning of the Christian era.  It profoundly influenced all of the Meso-American civilizations the followed, including the Maya, the Totonac, the Zapotec and the Aztec.  It is the parent civilization of the Americas.

 

The name Olmec was coined by archaeologists in the 1920s and means "people of the region of rubber."  The first great Olmec center was San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan, which flourished from around 1200 BCE to about 950 BCE.  Following San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan in Vera Cruz state the Olmec civilization blossomed again around La Venta in the Mexican state of Tabasco.  The final vestiges of Olmec civilization were at Tres Zapotes in Southeastern Vera Cruz.    

 

The Olmec seem to have been the first people in the Americas to move large objects in stone, to have calendars, to build pyramids, to engage in astronomy, even to play organized sports.   But mostly what stands out about the Olmec is a series of seventeen massive stone heads--all of which look Africoid and some of them extraordinarily so.

 

This is not new information.  The first was these heads was identified in 1862 by Mexican scholar Jose Melgar, who described it as "Ethiopian."  Harvard professor Leo Wiener wrote about them beginning in the 1920s in a three-volume work entitled Africa and Discovery of America.  But Wiener thought the heads represented slaves.  Apparently Wiener, though remarkably advanced in some ways, was still a product of his times in that he was prepared to recognize the African characteristics of the heads but would not allow himself to give this African element a prominent position in the Olmec world.  For Wiener, the colossal Africoid heads among the Olmecs only represented slaves.

 

In the 1930s and 1940s European-American archaeologist Mathew Stirling did the most advanced research among the Olmec civilization and unearthed most of the Olmec heads.  Indeed, it was Stirling who unearthed the Olmec head with the African braids at Tres Zapotes.  

 

At the end of the 1960s African-American researcher Legrand H. Clegg II began writing about the African presence in ancient America, including the Olmec.  Even the great anthrophotojournalist from Jamaica J.A. Rogers wrote about the Olmec heads.

 

But the great breakthrough for the Global African Community regarding a prominent African presence in the Olmec world occurred with the publication in 1976 of Ivan Van Sertima's hallmark work They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America. From this point the genie was out of the bottle for good.  

 

We must also look at the work of three African-American women scholars who have done great work in the field.  They are Paris Williams of Seattle, Alice Windom of St. Louis and Dr. Toni Humber of Los Angeles.  We should examine the writings of Alexander von Wuthenau, Clyde Winters, Paul Barton and David Imhotep.  

 

But it was Ivan Van Sertima who did the most and best work on the subject and who immortalized himself with his writings, his lectures and the inexhaustible endeavors to bring awareness to the African presence among the Olmec.  

 

The most prominent aspect of Olmec Civilization are the massive stone heads, the largest of which weighs forty tons.  These heads are in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, the Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa, Parque-Museo La Venta, the Regional Anthropology Museum in Villahermosa, and two isolated heads--one at San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan and another at Tres Zapotes.  Tres Zapotes seems to have been the last great Olmec center and may have existed until the beginning the Christian era. It was also at Tres Zapotes where the first of the known Olmec heads was found in 1862.

 

What became of the Olmec civilization and its elite African element?  There are no certain answers.  Perhaps, after a thousand years, the environment could no longer support them.  Perhaps the land of the Olmecs was invaded and the Olmec succumbed. There is an Olmec figurine in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts of an Olmec man being tortured and perhaps even castrated.  The bottom line is that we simply don't know what happened to the Olmec.  We only know of the enormous contributions of the Olmec to ancient American civilization.

 

We also cannot say with certainty who and what the Olmec heads represent.  Leo Wiener believed that they were slaves. But who would carve a forty-ton head for a slave?  Others, because of the helmet gear that adorns each of the Olmec heads, have expressed that they were great athletes.  But one has to ask the same question.  Who would carve a forty ton head for an athlete, even the greatest of athletes?  And remember that the stone used to carve these heads came from many miles away from the ceremonial sites where the heads were eventually placed.  

 

Could they have been priests?  Perhaps they were deities.  But, for me, the answer is clear.  For hundreds of years ancient Mexico was ruled by a series of African kings.  And the massive Olmec heads of which we speak are the depictions of these kings--this African dynasty in ancient Mexico.

 

It is important to know that African people did not begin their history in the Americas as enslaved people.  They arrived as masters of their own fate and the arbiters of their own destinies.  

 

Runoko Rashidi is a historian and anthropologist based in Los Angeles, California and Paris, France.  He regularly coordinates African heritage to the famous and not so famous corners of the world.  For more information and updates on his tours please write to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , call Runoko at (210) 232- 7272 or visit his web site at www.travelwithrunoko.com. 

a 9milelogo3dshine copy191x196The Annual 9Mile Music Festival, which many consider to be South Florida’s favorite musical event, has just announced the first performers in its line-up. The Marley Boys, Stephen, Damian and Julian, will also be joined by Stephen’s son Joe Mersa Marley along with Soja and Jessie Royal, with more acts to be named soon.

The Festival celebrating One Love will be held on a special Love holiday, Saturday, February 14, 2015 – Valentine’s Day – at the Miami-Dade County Fairgrounds, 10901 Coral Way in Miami. Tickets are $52.83 for General Admission and $178.74 for VIP and are on sale now at www.9milemusicfestival.com. Additionally four cans of food/person must be brought to the Festival on the day of show to gain admission.

The Annual 9 Mile Music Festival, now in its 22nd year, is an all day event honoring the life and philosophy of the legendary reggae star, Bob Marley and featuring top musical acts from around the world as well as popular local performers. People travel from around the United States, Canada and the Caribbean to attend this yearly event. Reaching across all divides and embracing an international community, the 9 Mile Music Festival draws the young at heart and encourages everyone to come together. The 9 Mile Music Festival began as a labor of love, pioneered by Cedella Marley Booker. It takes place every year in the warmth and sunshine of Miami, Florida.

Over the years the festival has had other names including “The Caribbean Music Festival.” It finally evolved into what is the “9 Mile Music Festival” today, named for the village of Nine Mile, the birthplace and final resting place of the legendary Bob Marley. It exemplifies the foundation and heart of our family. For this reggae music festival is more than just your average “concert”; it has a commitment to doing good and spreading love. The 9 Mile Music Festival is responsible for collecting over two (2) million canned goods over its 22-year span. In an effort to continuously give back to its community, four canned goods are required for entry along with a purchased admission. The canned goods that are collected are then distributed to shelters in Miami.

Tickets are $52.83 for General Admission and $178.74 for VIP and are on sale now at www.9milemusicfestival.com. Additionally four cans of food/person must be brought to the Festival on the day of show to gain admission. For more information call 877-440-8499 or go to: www.9milemusicfestival.com