Photo Credit: Queenie
Traveler Story: 'In Kenya I Didn't Feel Black, I Just Felt Human'
Arizona native Chanice a.k.a. Queenie is a New York State agency employee and the CEO of Fly With Queenie, a company specializing in curating worldwide experiences for travelers.
The 32-year-old mother of one is of Jamaican heritage and has traveled all over the world. Her most recent trip to Nairobi and Mombasa, Kenya however, has been her most memorable trip to date.
“My first experience in Africa was in Morocco, but I didn’t feel like I was in Africa and I didn’t get that feeling of connection when I was there,” she told Travel Noire. “I spent a week in Kenya, where I saw animals I’ve never seen before on the safari, ate delicious Swahili food, and swam in beautiful clear water.”
In Kenya, Queenie also visited a Maasai tribe in a remote village about a four-hour drive from Nairobi. There she had the opportunity to learn about their culture and daily lives.
“I learned that Masaai men have multiple wives and got to meet all three wives and the husband, which was pretty cool. It’s funny because although the family dynamics are very different from how we do things in the United States, when it came to marriage everybody was happy. The wives and all the kids were just so happy.”
“The Maasai people rely on very little to survive, which taught me the importance of simplicity. Unfortunately, the Maasai are a dying tribe. The dry seasons in East Africa are becoming longer due to climate change, and they are suffering from droughts and drying crops.”
Queenie encourages others to visit the Masaai tribe and support them to aid in their survival. A conscious traveler, she also visited an orphanage during her time in Kenya.
“I feel like there’s no way I can be blessed and not bless others, especially, in the land of my ancestors and where my brothers and sisters reside. I wanted to do an act of kindness so the kids could know that they are loved. It really takes a village and I want to be part of that village. Meeting the kids made me feel complete in a sense.”
“I danced and sang with the children and gave them lots of hugs. I told all the girls how beautiful they were and how nice their hair and skin was. Little Black girls often struggle at some point with their self image, so I wanted them to know that they were absolutely beautiful. My friends and I passed out items we brought with us from the States, like toothbrushes, toothpaste, toys, school supplies, hair items, candy, and more.”
Queenie returned home feeling like she needed to do more for the children. After receiving many messages from people who also wanted to give back to the orphanage, she decided to do a fundraiser.
With an outpouring of love and support, Queenie and her friends raised over $1,000 within 72 hours. This was enough to pay two months worth of rent, and purchase food and personal hygiene products for the children.
Queenie says one of the reasons she loves Africa is because of the sense of belonging she feels there.
“In Kenya I didn’t feel Black, I just felt human. I blended right in and I didn’t have things like people and systems constantly reminding me every day that I was Black. I could just exist as a human being.”
She encourages all Black people to visit Africa to learn more about their history and to dispel any misconceptions they may have about the continent by seeing and researching for themselves.
“When you mix the controlled media with the lack of true education in the school system you get ignorance. People are sponges who listen to the media and believe it because they assume a news outlet must be telling the truth. The failure to take initiative and do one’s own research is the reason people are so miseducated.”
As someone with a passion for studying and learning about Africa and Black history, Queenie was well aware that Africa was not what the Western media portrayed it to be long before she even booked her flight.
“I was just excited to showcase Kenya’s gems and show people that it is a luxury travel destination and more than just slums. To be honest, though, I never knew ‘hakuna matata’ was a real Swahili phrase. I thought it was a phrase that was made up for The Lion King movie.”
That is part of the beauty of traveling. You learn more about not only the world, but yourself as well. Queenie says she never realized she had a soft spot for animals until she experienced the Kenyan safari and saw animals such as zebras, giraffes, and warthogs up close.
For this year’s travels, Queenie plans to focus on seeing more of Africa. She has a trip every month and is most looking forward to exploring Ghana in August. You can follow her at @flywithqueenie.