@American_Latino Expedition Looks To Bring Diversity To National Parks

In an effort to increase diversity in America’s national parks, the American Latino Heritage Fund of the National Park Foundation has announced a nation wide search for bloggers to take part in an exciting new adventure. Yesterday, the ALHF launched the @American_Latino Expedition, which will explore three parks this summer while simultaneously raising awareness of the contributions of American Latinos to each of those locations.

The @American_Latino Expedition project will focus on education, park stewardship, outdoor recreation and exploration inside Olympic and Mesa Verde national parks in Washington and Colorado respectively, as well as the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area located in Arizona and Utah. With that in mind, the ALHF is looking for groups of bloggers to visit each location and share their experiences with readers. That includes using outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to creatively engage their audiences as well. In exchange for their efforts, all expenses – including airfare, lodging and most on-site excursions – will be completely covered.

The deadline for applying to take part in this program is June 14, and the ALHF is quick to point out that you don’t have to be Latino to be selected. Any group with an active social media following, or even adventurous families, are encouraged to apply. To find out more about the project and to download the applications, click here.Engaging minorities in outdoor activities is a bit of a hot button topic at the moment. A disproportionately small number of visitors to the national parks are from minority groups and this project is hoping to change that to a degree. In fact, the ALHF says that there are now more than 54 million Latinos living in the U.S. and yet they make up just 9 percent of the visitors to the parks on an annual basis. The @American_Latino Expedition looks to increase that number accordingly.

It should be noted that the ALHF has partnered with both Aramark Parks and Destinations and outdoor gear retailer REI on this project. Aramark will handle lodging and other accommodations while traveling in these parks and the selected bloggers will also be fully outfitted for their adventure with some great equipment from REI.

Arab American National Museum examines legacy of 9/11

With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 just two days away, the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, is examining how the Arab-American community has been affected by the terrorist attacks.

U.S. Rising: Emerging Voices in post-9/11 America runs from September 8-11 and is a series of forums and events both in Detroit and Dearborn. On the actual anniversary of September 11, the museum will offer free entry all day.

In an interview with Art Daily, museum director Anan Ameri said the attacks were a “wake-up call” that showed just how little most people knew about the Arab-American community and how many bad stereotypes were out there. One response has been the virtual exhibit Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes. This looks at the origins of various stereotypes and compares them to the reality.

Starting on Veterans Day, November 11, the museum will host the exhibition Patriots & Peacemakers: Arab Americans in Service to our Country. This exhibit will focus on the community’s role in the U.S. army, Peace Corps, and diplomatic service.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

The n-word, the g-word and the hidden perils of travel

Living in Spain, I get a lot of questions about the United States. One of the most common, and certainly the most disturbing, is if it’s OK to use the N-word.

Let me just say from the outset that I think the term “N-word” is silly. By using it you immediately think of the word I’m trying not to say so, in a sense, I’ve actually said it. On the other hand, if I actually used the word n—–, Gadling would fire my ass, and they’d be right to.

N—– is getting more and more common on American TV shows that get broadcast here. The Wire uses it in almost every scene. Most Spaniards realize it’s a bad word, but are confused to hear it used on TV by whites and blacks alike. I’ve had to explain on more than one occasion that it hasn’t become OK. At least it isn’t OK with this white boy. I don’t think it’s OK for black people to use either, but they’re probably not interested in my opinion.

Now anybody with two brain cells to rub together knows TV isn’t reality, but if you’ve never been to a country before, TV is probably the main way you know about it. The average European has spent far more time watching American TV than talking to actual Americans. Like the guy I met in a bar who was about to go to the U.S. for the first time and used n—— during our conversation. He wasn’t a racist, he just thought the word was OK now. I’m glad I got to talk to him before he got his butt kicked.

I had a similar experience when I spent two months living in Harar, Ethiopia. I was researching a book on Ethiopian history and kept coming across a name for a tribe called the G—-. This word appears in many English-language books about Ethiopia, including many modern ones. One day I was chewing qat with my friend Mohammed Jami Guleid (harartourguide @gmail.com) a local guide and historian, in a small village near Harar. Casually I asked him, “Who are the G—-?”

Mohammed gave me a look like I had just farted in a mosque.”Where did you hear that word?” he asked in a low voice.

“It’s in a lot of books. Some mentioned that the G—- live around Harar.”

“We’re in an Oromo village!” he said, eyes wide.

“So?” I said, confused.

Mohammed shook his head and explained, “It’s an old term for Oromo given to them by the Emperor Menelik. Don’t use it. It’s very insulting. It’s the most insulting thing you can say.”

So insulting, in fact, that I’m not writing it here. Of course, Gadling wouldn’t fire me for using the G-word because the Oromo don’t have any political power in the United States, but respect is respect.

Menelik conquered Harar in 1887 and proceeded to starve the surrounding Oromo clans into submission. About half the population died. Needless to say, the Oromo don’t think very highly of Menelik, even though he’s a hero to many other Ethiopians because he smashed the Italian army at the Battle of Adowa in 1896. Different people see history differently because they experienced it differently. Something to remember the next time Black History Month rolls by.

So when preparing for a trip, it’s important to do your homework and understand the different ethnic groups in that country, otherwise you may inadvertently cause offense by saying something you heard on television, or in my case read in a bunch of history books written by people who should have known better!

If you’re going to Ethiopia and are worried about the G-word, drop me a line privately and I’ll fill you in on the word you can’t say. And if you write out the full word for n—– or G—- in the comments section, I’ll delete it as soon as I see it.

[Photo of Ice-T, who uses the n-word waaaaay too much, is courtesy Steve Rapport]

International festivals: Celebrate the love

This weekend has one of the best events in Columbus, I think. If it’s not the best, it’s pretty darned good. The Columbus International Festival pulls together people from all over the world in two days of food, dance, music performances, displays, and a parade of nations. The groups that come aren’t just local, but from various parts of the world. Sure, it’s one way to see just how diverse Columbus is, but it also captures the richness of the people who call the U.S. home. The people who go are as diverse as the people who are vendors and performers. (This Flickr shot by a. feng is of an African dancer at the Columbus festival. I love the colors.)

My best time to go is right before it closes on Sunday. Prices are slashed so if you have a feasting spirit, you can take away truckloads of food if you want. My problem is deciding if I want to head to Denmark for a dose of frikadeller of to load up on Indian and Greek fare.

Columbus isn’t the only city to throw an international festival in November. I found three others.

Hair Around the World

Let’s take a moment to touch on personal spaces. I’m not the type of person to throw a punch or lunge out at another individual if they get within a certain range of my personal bubble, but it shocks me how comfortable people are at poking, prodding and sticking their hands where they just don’t belong. Sometimes people ask permission, but for the most part others just plop their hands down where they have no business being. Don’t tell me its never happened to you! Okay, let me just get to the point here – I have an afro and unless you’re my hairdresser you shouldn’t be patting my hair. Yes, it’s soft and fluffy looking and all those other things, but please don’t paw at my head! Sure -I’m down for letting a bright-eyed young Romanian child who has probably seen few African-Americans or Africans in their lifetime experiment with touching my funny looking hair, but some of you Americans know better!

Breathe, sigh, relax. Now that I’m done ranting I saw this cool little children’s book called Hair Around the World and in my own personal opinion I think a book like this should be read by adults as well. These are cultural jewels and reads at their finest. The book highlights children’s hairstyles from all over the world including places like Ghana and India. It also helps in letting children see how others live their lives in different parts of the globe. I say pick up the book, understand what’s going on in the world of hair and then think about some of the hairstyles seen here in the states. Oh, and don’t feel as if someone is going to curse you for wanting to understand the differences in texture and style, but just remember the bubble and to ask before touching.

The book can be purchased at Oxfam Publishing.