From Brooklyn to Bogota: Mi Primer Día en Colombia Como Una Mujer Negra

By Dominque Howse, DEED ’12

Its official! We are in Colombia! Yes indeed mis amigos, the beautiful blue skies have danced on-top of my eyelids and the clouds have wrapped themselves around my heart. Of course, everything you saw on television (outside of the talk surrounding drugs, guns and gangsters) is REAL

The birds fly high here, the people shine brighter than the sun and the food is just as good as your Mother’s Sunday morning breakfast. Truthfully, it seems as if Colombians in Bogota were specifically designed to make the rest of the world smile. My first day as a traveling (black) student living in Brooklyn, New York was truly satisfying. Unlike most international spanish-speaking cities I’ve been to in the past, I automatically felt embraced. From the flight to the time I hopped on the bus to the next city, I felt like a human being. I felt aligned with my ancestors and proud to be part of the international african and indigenous experience. Bogota made me smile. d

Smile, laugh and smile…

I’m making the assumption that most readers might not know what it means to be so excited to feel human and to smile. Well, mi gente, it means everything. It means FREEDOM to give and receive smiles. It means celebrating your history through eye contact and the sounds of drums. It means not being discriminated against, talked about or weirdly looked at because you’re black (and wearing an afro). It means standing tall, firm and sure about your presence.

It was amazing to see that in Bogota, graffiti graced the walls of the city, local children sang on the streets for pleasure, and golden brown elders smiled and greeted in gratitude. Bogota for an instant, had become the escape I needed from gentrified and racially tense Brooklyn. For a little over 30hrs., Bogota was a place that I’d only imagined in my mind, where black, brown and red people could love again…LOVE each other again — without fear, stop and frisks and an Anglo-Saxon critique.

Bogota, gave me the escape that I needed from the rest of the world…

And then I woke up.

Yes, from Bogota to Brooklyn, the struggle remains…



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