Immersive tours and events offer an enriching understanding of Black culture, both historical and modern.
These immersive experiences across the U.S. provide a firsthand look into the vibrance and diversity of Black communities and culture today. Here are a few experiences groups will love — and ideas about how to make the most of each one.
Charleston, South Carolina
Members of South Carolina’s Gullah community are descendants of West Africans who were enslaved on relatively isolated plantations along the state’s coast. Because of this isolation, the culture retained many African traditions that other enslaved communities did not and developed its own unique language, music, food and art. The Gullah language was spoken by the first Black residents of South Carolina’s low country and is still spoken today.
Gullah Tours offers a window into the important landmarks and cultural touchpoints of the Gullah Community in Charleston. Alphonso Brown, author and owner of Gullah Tours is a Gullah speaker who introduces groups from around the world to the culture.
“The most common question is, ‘where are the Gullah people?’” Brown said. “And I say, ‘all around you.’ If we go to the marketplace, we may hear Gullah people talking, but as soon as they detect your presence there, they speak English. Lots of people don’t understand that Gullah is not bad English; it’s a different language.”
Rather than “bad English,” Gullah is its own distinct and widely studied language. “[The culture] will never be forgotten because so many people are writing about it now and inquiring about it,” Brown said. That includes researchers, documentarians, and of course, travelers. Groups can take two-hour tours with step-on guides on their own motorcoaches or aboard the 25-seat Gullah Tours bus. Guests will see important Gullah historic sites around the Charleston area, including locations that inspired the musical “Porgy and Bess.”
Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo
The historic American West was far more diverse than it is depicted in the movies. In reality, Black cowboys were a central part of the West’s formation and history. The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo was created in 1984 to honor that fact and to encourage future Black cowboys to carry on the tradition. The idea for the rodeo was born when founder Lu Vason took an interest in the Denver rodeo scene in the late 1970s and didn’t see a single Black cowboy in the ring. He set out to change that with the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, named after the iconic early 1900s Black cowboy who invented a key rodeo technique called “bulldogging.”
The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo has been making magic ever since. Many participants have been with the rodeo for generations, introducing their children and grandchildren to the community and the craft. After Lu Vason’s passing, his wife, Valeria Howard Cunningham, took up the helm to run the rodeo. She is the only Black female owner and promoter of an African American touring rodeo association circuit in the U.S.
“The rodeo showcases the contributions of Black cowboys and cowgirls to the history of the American West,” Cunningham said, noting that the rodeo helps counter the common misbelief that all cowboys were white.
Groups can watch rodeo pros strut their stuff in several cities across the country. The rodeo has many events featuring some of the highest skill levels in the world, but Cunningham particularly recommends the Peewee Barrel Racing Event, which “steals the hearts of crowds.” The event features kids as young as 3 years old riding horses and showing the world what they can do. Guests may learn a new thing or two about history. And at the same time, they’ll get to see some of the top cowgirls and cowboys in the country show off the very best of their craft.
Black Wall Street Tour
In the years after World War I, the city of Tulsa became nationally known for its Greenwood District, a wildly successful Black-owned business district that was dubbed Black Wall Street. But in 1921, most of the area was decimated in the Tulsa Race Massacre. Local white rioters burned the district down, destroying 35 city blocks and injuring more than 800 people. Initially, 36 people were believed to have died in the massacre — today, historians believe it could be as many as 300.
Many families lost everything, and Tulsa’s thriving Black business community lost its beating heart. Survivors have continued to fight in court for justice to this day. Hughes Van Ellis, one of three remaining survivors, was still expressing his hope for justice when he passed away in October.
The Real Black Wall Street tour takes groups on a journey through the streets of the Greenwood district and through notable locations of the 1921 massacre. The tour begins and ends at the Greenwood Cultural Center, which features enriching exhibits on the history of Greenwood. Groups of 25 or more also have the option to choose a custom tour itinerary.
Crucially, the Real Black Wall Street Tour is owned and operated by a descendant of the massacre. In 2003, owner Chief Egunwale Fagbenro Amusan saw his own grandfather fight for justice in the court system. He was denied due to a statute of limitations.
Between the time Amusan spends educating and leading tours, he continues to advocate for the justice and respect that the Greenwood District deserves. Despite his tireless work, Amusan isn’t lacking in energy.
“Hope is not a subject for me,” Amusan said of his work. “Hope leaves too much space for doubt. I am determined. The only thing that I consider draining is the energy it takes praying that the [Tulsa Race Massacre] survivors do not pass without justice. When a survivor passes, we feel the weakening of the shoulders we stand on.”
Travelers come away from this tour with a whole new understanding of Tulsa history — and U.S. racial history at large — as well as a view of the resilience of Greenwood today.
“It is a privilege to honor the dignity of those who built the most self-sustaining Black district in the U.S.,” said Amusan. “It is an honor to be a product of that greatness. Emotionally, it is a passion founded on pride.”
Deelightful Roux School Of Cooking
Louisiana Cajun cuisine, which historically combined West African, Spanish and French flavors, dates back to the 17th century. Louisiana creole cuisine, another treasured Louisiana food tradition, combines influences of Caribbean, French, Spanish, African and American tastes. Both are important hallmarks in Black Louisiana culture. And of course, both are delicious!
At the Delightful Roux School of Cooking in New Orleans, students can learn the art of both these two cuisines directly from an accomplished chef. This popular cooking school is the first African American-owned cooking school in New Orleans in more than eight decades.
“Teaching has always been a passion for me,” said owner and instructor chef Dee Lavigne.
With easy insider tips, students learn quickly and gain confidence in a flash. Lavigne treasures teaching students about the culinary traditions she was raised on and often works with private groups. By teaching these traditional recipes, “sharing stories, and the historical context behind certain dishes,” Lavigne said she and her colleagues enable students to appreciate the profound influence Black culture has had on the culinary scene for hundreds of years.
Bronzeville Art District Tour
Bronzeville is a Black neighborhood and creative hub in Chicago that’s often called the “Black Metropolis.” Its influence on Black creativity and civil rights dates back to the early 20th century, when musical, artistic and intellectual visionaries called it home.
Today, the Bronzeville Art District is home to several galleries of innovative art and affordable live/work spaces for Chicago creatives. Groups can take step-on driving tours or walking tours of the area. Important stops include the Blanc Gallery, Faie Afrikan Art Gallery, Gallery Guichard, the Bronzeville Artist Lofts, the South Side Community Art Center and the Harold Washington Cultural Center.
Don’t forget to fuel up after exploring at a local restaurant.
“Across the intersection from the cultural center is a great local café called Peach’s Restaurant,” said Lynn Osmond, president and CEO of Choose Chicago.