One Man, One Hundred Countries, & a One-Track Mind: A Conversation with Dr. Runoko Rashidi
Scholar, historian, author, and lecturer Dr. Runoko Rashidi credits Black Class Press Director W. Paul Coates with providing the inspiration for his latest book, My Global Journeys in Search of the African Presence(Black Classic Press, 2016). “I’ve worked with BCP in some capacity or another since the 1980s,” he said, “and I have been writing travel notes since the 1990s. So when Paul suggested compiling them, I was open to the idea, and I’m curious to see what the response will be.”
“The book was compiled on the occasion of my having visited 100 countries,” he continued. “Since then, I’ve been to 20 more countries and had many, many travel experiences that I haven’t written about as extensively.”
It was Rashidi’s “love of writing” and “unapologetic love for black people” that led to his collaboration with BCP. “It’s not about the size of the press,” he explained. “You want your work to be professional when it’s published, and I always thought BCP did quality work. Global Journeys is my first book published in the U.S. in about 10 years.”
Rashidi also noted the breadth of the new book: “It’s global in perspective. As a Pan Africanist, I always want to do work that expands our vision or understanding of the world to help us grow as Black people and as humans.” Much like traveling historian and journalist J.A. Rogers, who inspired him in his youth, Rashidi is committed to bearing witness to the presence of Africa around the world. In the exchange that follows, Rashidi shares additional insights on his life and work.
In what way does the book contribute to your field and Black Studies in general?
In general, it’s a window into at the life of a traveling African with an unabashed love for African people. The book is an important part of my legacy and will help others see what I do as a traveler and researcher firsthand. My hope is that it will inspire them to continue the journey by traveling more themselves.
Why did you choose to publish Black Classic Press?
I love books and African history. I am particularly interested in the preservation of works by people who write about Africa in a positive light. What’s written about the period after the Transatlantic slave trade is especially negative, and BCP has emphasized the works of those few who wrote about Africa from a positive perspective at that time.
What’s your best advice for people traveling internationally?
Leave America at home. Don’t be the Ugly American. We don’t realize how Americanized we are until we get outside U.S. Don’t approach travel with an arrogant attitude because you come from a powerful country. Don’t think that you’re better than others because of where you come from. Be open to learning something new.
What’s next in terms of your research, future plans, etc.?
The most exciting thing is my goal of visiting every art museum in the world that has a significant collection of African art. For example, I spent much of January visiting museums in Germany. Berlin has one of the greatest Egyptian collections in Europe. I’m fascinated by museums.
In addition, I’m now focusing more of my writing on children and beginning readers. I’ve selected 50 of the greatest Black people of all time for inclusion in a book that will be published in English, Spanish, French, and an African language. African scholars have a tendency to forget about who needs the information they have the most. We write to try to impress other scholars with what we know. At this stage in my life, I want to have a broader audience and disseminate the information more widely.
Rashidi’s journeys continue with stops in Namibia and South Africa later this month followed by a 12-day tour of Cuba. Learn more at http://drrunoko.com/category/tours/.