I have a theory that no matter where you go in the world, there are two people you will always run into:
1. The New Yorker who’s more than ready to let you know they’re from New York. In fact, if you’re ever lost in a place, don’t speak the language, and really just need an immediate ally, yell out, “is New York in the house?!”
2. The Howard University Alum or someone just as excited about the school as an Alum.
This day, mostly because I paid $20 for it, and I’m extremely cheap when it comes to clothes so I refuse to not wear it since it was so expensive, and a little for my having been a proud pseudo Bison (it was grad school. I’m a very proud Bethune-Cookman Wildcat for life), I wore my Howard shirt through the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
While rocking out to some Afro-Latin sounds at Pedro do Sal and gauging my emotions, I finally look over to the maybe 65-year-old, Black, short lady drinking a beer, swaying back and forth because she’d been looking at me for at least 3 minutes. Our eyes connect, and she aggressively motions me to come to her. Mind you, there are at least 1000 people out here jamming, and getting to her wouldn’t be a small feat, but I made it.
“Howard,” she repeats over and over. I catch on that the speaks little English, and immediately tell her “I speak almost no Portuguese.” Everything about her was my grandma, Irene Jones; even how she held her mouth when she was just swaying. She told me, “You are Black. This area is Black. This music is Black. It is yours. Welcome to Little Africa.” She called over everyone she knew to tell them I went to Howard University, and to tell them I am also a fighter.
In my head I’m asking “Who told her I was a fighter?” But I am.
“Thank you,” I told her, holding my hands to my heart then grabbing her hands. She keeps going. “I am part of Black Lives Matter here! Revolution. I support the fight in America! Keep fighting!”
She wasn’t an Alum, but she recognized the power. I created a scenario in my head: She saw something in me that she sees in herself, and in the other fighters she knows, and she called me into the fold. And even though we both had several drinks and could barely understand one another, we vibed and built something there on the rock where Slaves would be sold.
“Ashe,” she said, gripping my hand after telling her it was time for me to run to find a bus to get back to Leblon.
One of the greatest travel moments I’ve had.