Being Black and traveling can be pretty interesting, especially when I travel to places that aren’t accustomed to seeing people with dark skin and curly hair. I have been stopped on numerous streets around the world and asked to take pictures with people and I quickly realized that people aren’t being rude, they are just really amazed to see someone like me in person because they have never seen a Black person before.
That concept may be a bit hard for some people to grasp because maybe where you live it is common to see someone whose skin has been permanently kissed by the sun, but for many people it is in fact, a once in a lifetime occurance. This happened to me several times while in Russia. I literally had people stopping and staring at me on the street, stopping me and asking me to take pictures with them, and Russian men openly ogling at me. In St. Petersburg, I did not see another Black woman for the 6 days I was there. Not one. In Moscow, I saw two African women, but we looked completely different and I think people can tell the difference between a Black American woman and an African woman.
My first morning in St. Petersburg I was walking around our neighborhood because my friend was still sleeping, it was early and I didn’t want to stay in the apartment. As I was walking over the canals, enjoying the view two Russian (well, I think they were Russian, they didn’t speak English and what they did speak sounded Russian to me) stopped me and started asking me questions. I was a bit apprehensive after what happened in Paris (I will talk about that later, but it was very traumatic so I haven’t been able to write about it) so I grabbed my purse a little bit tighter and had my guard completely up.
They pulled out their camera and one of the guys came over and stood next to me, and his friend took the picture. They were smiling and being very friendly, so I wasn’t upset at all, I knew what was going on because this has happened several times over the years. They kept smiling and looking back at me as they walked away and I kept in moving. Sometimes I wonder where these pictures end up, and the conversations they spark.