Photo Credit: Photo by Pedro Serra
Meet Ernest White II: The FAMU Grad Behind The Travel TV Show 'Fly Brother'
To enlighten, educate, and inspire– these are three things that Jacksonville, Florida native Ernest White II aims to do through his blog turned television series, ‘Fly Brother.’
Since childhood, White has had an interest in geography, maps, and learning about cultures around the world. While his parents and people in his community continued to spark that interest, the defining moment for him was when his then pastor’s wife gifted him with a book called ‘Free Stuff for Kids.”
Through this simple gift, White learned that he could “order” pamphlets, brochures, and maps from tourism boards across the globe. The materials only heightened his curiosity of seeing and exploring the world. So much so, he asked his parents to sign up to host a foreign exchange student.
“Instead of them [my parents] getting a foreign exchange student, they told me that I could sign up to be one,” White told Travel Noire. The summer between his junior and senior year of high school, he traveled to Sweden which really set him on a path to love travel.
White went on to attend Florida A&M University (FAMU) and later American University in D.C. for his Masters. While in D.C. he took advantage of the many international events that were hosted around the nation’s capital. These events were the confirmation he needed to eventually move abroad. After completing his Masters in Fine Arts, he decided to take a job as a professor at a college in Colombia. .
“While living in Colombia, I started the Fly Brother blog. This was around 2008-2009. It was a combination of my personal experiences around the world while also providing tips for others when they visited those places.”
Around 2011-2012, the site really gained traction, and White began building close connections with some of the top travel bloggers and influencers of that time. His blog served as a place where Black travelers could see someone who looked like them, navigating places they dreamed of going.
Although Black people have always traveled, it has only begun to surge within the last 7-10 years, largely in part to the internet and travel blogs like White’s becoming more common.
“I addressed everything in my blog,” White said. “From being a Black American traveler to a gay Black traveler, and my time living abroad. I tackled colorism and instances of racism all while educating my audience through literary resources.”
After his four years in Colombia, he went on an around the world journey for a year before landing in Sao Paolo, Brazil. He started out working as an English teacher before moving into journalism full time with a publication there.
“Sao Paolo was an incredible experience. I was really living my best life.”
He then bounced from Germany and South Africa and is now primarily based in San Francisco.
Fly Brother made it’s way to the television world after a friend from FAMU called to ask for travel content for a new startup network. Although it wasn’t a paid position, White had already made the friendships and connections needed to get the show off the ground. The network even allowed White to seek out other networks to pick up the show if he wanted.
“My good friend, Dr. Yvette McQueen was instrumental in getting the show off the ground. She invested in my vision and now even serves as executive producer for season one.”
That network unfortunately was forced to shutdown, but that wasn’t the end for White and the Fly Brother brand. He formed a partnership with Public Television that led to an agreement to air the show on its networks.
Fly Brother, the series, is currently in its first season with 10 episodes to be released. The show follows White’s connections and friendships that he’s formed with people all over the globe. Friendships that span over 25 years.
White’s friends take him to their favorite places within their respective communities. From restaurants and unique street food stalls, to samba classes and pride festivals.
“I want to show my audience that we are all connected. The world is our tribe and at the end of the day we all want the same thing in life, to be cared for and to be around people who allow us to be just who we are, as we are.”
Although filming for season 2 has been paused due to COVID-19, White does plan to continue producing the show as long as he can. This summer the series will expand to Create T.V.. You can check local listings for airing days and times in your area. The show is currently airing in the D.C. metro area, The Bay Area, and Southern California. It is in the works to begin airing in other cities and states very soon.