Kids should be exposed to different cultures; exposed to different experiences.Laneka Leatutufu
Being a black woman who grew up in an urban neighborhood of Philadelphia, traveling was never at the forefront of my mind. Hell, I took my first flight at the age of 25. The world of travel can be a foreign concept to most young, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) where “the block” is all they will ever know and the furthest they will ever go is wherever their bus pass will take them. Mother, Juvenile Probation Officer, and first-time author Laneka Leatutufu knows all too well how the color of your skin, the environment you live in, or just not having the resources can determine if you ever get to see whats beyond your front porch.
While working in Juvenile justice system, Laneka noticed that many of the children she worked with have not experienced being outside of the Bay Area. To most, this may not equate; however, travel is a luxury, not afforded to most kids living in the inner cities; let alone being able to travel from city to city. Kids are like sponges and eventually absorb what they are exposed to. Laneka started to notice that lack of exposure to different experiences left these kids to be “part of dismantled broken systems.”
Being a mother to a black boy, Laneka knew it was her responsibility to expose her son Ehsan to different cultures and different experiences. Laneka wanted to do the same for the children who are not fortunate enough to travel right now, but wanted them to believe that it is possible and attainable. Although Laneka could not do this physically she is definitely taking children around the world with her new series “Ehsan Goes to Paris,” which was inspired by the trip she took her son Ehsan on for his first birthday. “I want to normalize Black children exploring and traveling abroad. There are not enough fun children’s books with Black males as the main protagonist. She continued, “I am raising a Black and Sāmoan son. It was imperative that I be the person to write the book I wanted to see on the bookshelves.”
According to an article on AFAR.com “Black Americans spent an estimated $109.4 billion on leisure travel in 2019, representing roughly 13.1 percent of the U.S. leisure travel market.” So, if we make the travel industry so profitable, why are we underrepresented? Why are there so many microaggressions around people of color traveling? Laneka even noticed that there is a discrepancy when it comes to showing representation in books its always one-sided; “BIPOC often appears as the backdrop to white stories, they are portrayed as safari guides, chefs, and spectacles of diversity, but never as travelers themselves. With such images being portrayed in media, books, and television, it is important for Black travelers to share stories and write books like “Ehsan Goes to Paris” to show children as they research and learn about geographical locations, they can be travelers and not the subservient host.”
“Ehsan goes to Paris” is one of many books that we will get from Laneka; the series will continue to follow Ehsan on his real-life travels across the country. I can’t wait to see where he goes next. Laneka is dedicated to “amplifying black voices” and exposing the world to “black joy and black families enjoying life.” Be on the lookout for an “Ehsan Goes to Paris” coloring book.
Visit Women for the Culture on Instagram to watch my full interview Instagram Live with Laneka… full of good vibes and positive energy. We talk in-depth about the juvenile system, and breaking generational curses by unlearning and relearning. Laneka is also a sound bath facilitator, so we learn more about the practice and why she is all about bringing black women into different spaces that were once dominated by white women. This past weekend, she hosted a Sound Bath Meditation Event, and titled it, “Release That Shit!”