hello, my love
In the summer of 2013 I was on my way up north from New Orleans. I stopped in Memphis for a few days but finally boarded a bus for the long, overland, overnight journey to Illinois. It dropped me off in Champaign, just shy of a few hours south of Chicago, where I was headed.
I took a train the rest of the way, and by the time we were pulling into downtown it had begun to rain. I took a photo of Willis Tower through the window, and though it was dotted with blurry raindrops, I posted that photo to Instagram anyway. I first came to Chicago in 2002, and it immediately made my list of favorite cities in the world: an ever-expanding list that includes all of my very greatest loves. And over ten years later, arriving at Union Station, I was just so struck by how thrilled I was to be back.
Like so many black travelers before me, arriving in Chicago meant I had just completed the famed “Jazz Alley” route. The very same one that so many Jazz musicians traveled from New Orleans, in Jim Crow America, playing gigs along the way.
I mention this because there is nothing new or impossible about black travel. We have accomplished this and so much even when folks told us we couldn’t. When I was a child, I was told that this life was a pipe dream, but I dreamt of it anyway, often with a dog-eared copy of a yellow-bordered National Geographic tucked under my pillow. And I honor that girl with who I am now.
Now, after years of this strange life, my favorite thing just might be returning to a city I am fond of. And when I do, I tend to greet them in kind.