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Episode 4 Transcript

Nomads at the Intersections – Episode 4
“Creative Black Resistance” with Alvin Hall

Original air date: February 19, 2021
Hosts: Noami Grevemberg & Anais Monique



Noami:

Life on the road can look like so many things, but ultimately it needs to look like home. Uniquely your home. That’s why we love our sponsor for this episode Gnomad Home. gnomadhome.com is a free online resource to help you get started or learn more about vanlife and living nomadically . Founders, Jayme and John have used their own lived experiences as van lifers, to bring you to tools you need to find and create your very own home on the road. Dreaming of vanlife is one thing, but I know how overwhelming it can be when you’re looking for answers to the big and small questions. Trust me, I’ve been there. Gnomad Home can provide accessible help with decision-making and putting your vision into action. You can visit their vanlife how-to page to get you into the mindset of a nomad. Match up your desired version of a nomadic lifestyle with the proper vehicle and build by understanding the pros and cons of each choice. Then make sure you know your options when problem solving, finances, solar power, where to park, hygiene and beyond. There’s endless information to help you build your journey. Y’all head over and check out gnomadhome.com to peruse the wide range of information to help you get started with your build today. That’s G N O M A D home.com

Noami:

Diversify Vanlife presents Nomads at the Intersections podcast.

Noami:

Hello everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Nomads at the Intersections podcast, Noami here, and I’m really excited about this month’s episode. It’s February, and we are celebrating the blessing Holy month of Black History. And, you know, I live at the intersection of Black and immigrant. So for me, Black history month is an opportunity to dive deeper into Black American history and to honor and celebrate those Black Americans who paved the way for me to come to this country and thrive, to be able to use my voice and my platform to amplify the stories and experiences of other Black nomads travelers and outdoorists. Just this Black History Month comes at a time when we’re unable to attend events and connect with one another in person, but through social media and the internet, we have countless opportunities to immerse ourselves in and celebrate the Black culture past and present.

Noami:

We’re able to see so many incredible people, Black history right here, and right now, and we get to experience that in real time. How incredible is that? And for us Black people in the nomadic and outdoor community, we’re making history as well, never before have we seen so many Black people represented in these spaces. Through the BIPOC van life movement and with Diversify Van life and events like Black Nomads Meet, we’re able to build community and create our own safe spaces. We’re standing up and declaring, we out here, we’re making Black history and living our ancestors’ wildest dreams. So, I mean, I couldn’t be more proud to be a Black woman broadcasting to you during this Black History Month and sharing this space with my amazingly talented cohost Anais Monique who is right here with me as always. What’s up Anais. Happy Black History Month girl.

Anaïs:

Hmm. Hey Noami. What a great welcome into this episode. Happy Holy month of Black history.

Anaïs:

I really love what you said there. And I like also what you said about learning about Black American history as a Black immigrant. I would also enjoy seeing the inverse happening, you know, of Black Americans diving into what global Blackness looks like. Because even though Blackness was theoretically born here out of slavery. Yeah. We need to understand what Blackness means in the modern world.

Noami:

Before we move forward, I feel like I need to take a moment to acknowledge something. There’s been a lot of racist violence and attacks on the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, which has escalated even more in the past few weeks and months and has been largely ignored by the mainstream media. Which is why I feel like it’s important for us to use our platforms and our voices to speak up. So as we center the voices and stories of Black people this month, we must also recognize that in the fight to dismantle white supremacy, we mustn’t allow the oppression of other marginalized communities to continue to be drown out. All of our freedoms are inextricably tied and ending oppression requires us to be in solidarity with one another. And at Diversify Vanlife we stand in solidarity with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. And for those of you listening, I hope you’ll join us in condemning all acts of violence, including harmful rhetoric.

Anaïs:

Yes. I’m really glad that you said that that has really been at the top of mind with our Asian community, with our Asian family. It should be solidarity always. That has been our Black history in this country. And also globally. We need to, um, be more aware of my friend, Ari was on an IG live recently. She’s an Asian American nurse fighting on the front lines. And, um, she said something really powerful. She was like, we are in this historic moment where we’re literally trying to rebuild our connections to each other. Our communal connections is like, this is our history. You know, it makes me think of Yuri Kochiyama when she like literally held the head of Malcolm X as he was dying. Like that is a powerful image that we need to hold. Do we need to hold our Asian family close to us? And yeah. And then my friend Ari, she was like, there’s going to be discourse. There’s going to be arguments. There’s going to be, it’s going to be uncomfortable, but we’re literally rebuilding our connections. Um, so thank you for that acknowledgement.

Noami:

And thank you too. We have to remember these things.

Anaïs:

How are you, and also just to celebrate you again, you recently, you finally announced actually you finally announced that you are writing a book like daily. How does that feel? Has it sunk in?

Noami:

Yeah, honestly. LOL! Thank you for acknowledging that. And, and thank you for asking. It’s funny, but it’s not funny, you know, it’s, it’s just been a learning curve for me being a first time author. It’s really uncharted territory for me. And to be honest, it’s something I’ve always dreamt of doing like someday, I’m going to write this book and it’s going to be amazing, but I just never thought it would happen so soon in my life, let alone that I would get paid for it. And you know, and that’s huge as a first time author. I mean, but anyway, to, to give a little backstory last summer, an editor from a major publishing company reached out with an idea for a book that they wanted me to write and just saying that out loud, I’m just like, wow, that’s real. So yeah, it hasn’t really sunk in yet, but to be honest, I was really stunned. My partner and I were actually broken down, sitting in a mechanic shop somewhere in California feelings.

Noami:

And I got this call and, you know, that’s just the epitome of the roller coaster that was 2020. And you know, like at my lowest broken down somewhere and this incredible opportunity just presented itself. And yeah, like I said, I, it took a while for it to sink in. I honestly don’t feel like it has really sunk in yet. Maybe when I have the actual hard copy in my hand, it might sink in, but, but you know, imposter syndrome. At the same time, you know, I’m just like reminding myself that yeah, you know, this happened and this is happening and I deserve it. And also being really super grateful for the people in my life who keep reminding me of this as well. But anyway, back to the learning,

Noami:

Yeah, we gotta talk about that learning curve. As a van lifer and digital nomad, it’s been just, you know, it’s really challenging. I mean, you know, really challenging to like find a routine on the road. That’s been half the struggle let alone like inserting like this huge project, like writing a book. I live in a van with another person, a big dog. So we’re always up in each other’s space, like 24/7. And I really had to take a step back and recognize and call attention to this and work to find a way to create the kind of environment for myself with this project. And it turns out like my muse for writing a book is being a bit of a hermit. I need silence. I need solitude. And I need a lot of elbow room. I just got to spread out. So my partner and I decided we would get an Airbnb for the winter while I write the first draft of the manuscript.

Noami:

So we’ve been hunkered down for a few months now and I’m really, really glad we made that decision. I feel like, yes, I do, I thrive on movement and travel really stimulates my creativity. But for me writing this book, I’ve realized that I needed more structure and consistency in my every day. You know, I need to block off like a certain amount of time, sit in a comfortable space, light, some incense, put on some low-fi beats, turn off my notifications and just write. And that’s been really difficult. That was really difficult because I tried it for like a month in the van when I started the manuscript. And it was really, really hard because I’m in your living room is your bedroom, is your kitchen, is your office. And anything that happens within that space, infringes on my physical and mental space. Being in the van, writing this book, just wasn’t conducive for the kind of structure that I needed.

Noami:

So I guess what I’m saying is that my learning curve was just finding routine and balance as well as figuring out like what type of conditions or settings that work best for me, that will help trigger my creativity while also providing me with a conducive space. And also just like to seek out and implement like some, I like to call it practical tools that helped me feel grounded and help me like focus and be productive. Also saying no to a lot of things. I’ve had to say no to so many opportunities and so many fun things that I would normally just run with, you know, and dive head first into. And, and that’s okay. You know, like right now I have to reserve my creative energy for writing this book. And even still, there are times when I just feel like I’m bordering burnout. It’s, it’s really been kind of a challenge, but you know, I feel like I’m finally getting into some kind of, I guess, routine with it. So, but it’s been exciting overall.

Anaïs:

Yeah. Well when you said it right there, like finding routine and boarding burnout, like, I feel all of that in a real way, but what I will say about you writing this book, it feels like, I don’t know, like, there’s this saying? If one person in the hood gets a drone, everybody in the hood got a drone.

Noami:

You know it! lol!

Anaïs:

And so it, you know like in our little like Diversify Vanlife community, it’s like, Oh my God, we’re all writing a book, but not really. We’re so proud of you. And it just feels, it just feels really good. I don’t know. It just feels really good. Like the glow of, of energy coming off of your aura is, is tangible. And where you are with writing this book and you know, how it came to you. Like you are like the epitome of preparation meeting opportunity. So I know it probably feels scary, but like outside looking in, it’s like, are you got this.

Noami:

I really feel that from like our community, like, everyone’s been just so supportive and. And yeah, no, I hear you. I feel like, yes, this is my book. LOL! But I don’t want to give away too much. Everybody listening, going to have to wait. I hear you. Thank you for saying that. That was, that’s amazing.

Anaïs:

[Laughter]

Noami:

How about you though? Like, I mean, you are newly full-time on the road. How has that been?

Anaïs:

Yeah, I just hit my three month. Well, no, I past my three month mark. I’m almost at four months now, so yeah, I’m still super new, fresh green, wet behind the ears. Full time has been interesting. I will say that. I think, I mean, you mentioned it earlier, like finding a routine is so crucial, like finding access to all of your necessities and in a panini has been a rough, like, I don’t even know how people are doing this out here. Like shout out to like Our Paper Trails, shout out to Lovelle and Paris who do like exclusive, well, I don’t know if it’s fully exclusive, but like they live, they are urban camping, like almost exclusively. I have been urban camping, almost exclusively, actually. No, a hundred percent exclusively since 2019. And, and for the past four months of full-time and it is, it is a challenge. It feels kind of a bit of a blur to be honest. Cause it feels like you’re just always running errands. That’s what it always feels like. You’re just always like taking care of things and getting it done. But you also feel super comfortable. I don’t know how to describe it. Because running errands, like as like a non van lifer, right is not comfortable. You’re away from home. You just want to go home or like you want to be done. And it’s like, you know what? I just did my laundry. I think I’m going to take a nap in the parking lot.

Anaïs:

Or I just got mail, let me go, like, let me go make myself a sandwich and then maybe I’ll take a nap. I don’t know. And it’s just, it’s just interesting. It’s very interesting. But it does feel like a bit of a blur. I’m realizing like, I haven’t really made time to pay attention to myself because there’s like, you know, so much that I’m trying to get done and juggle and find routine, in living in a van, like full time, especially in an urban setting. I don’t know how it is in a nature setting, but it feels like the world is so big. It feels, the world feels bigger now.

Anaïs:

Am I sounding wild right now? I don’t know.

Noami:

I feel you I’m like smiling, giggling here because I hear you. Okay.

Anaïs:

Yeah. So I’m just trying to process all these things. I hosted my first guest In the van. Yeah.

Noami:

How was that?

Anais:

I mean, now I need therapy. So there’s that, I literally need therapy. Thank God for BetterHelp, shout out to them.

Anaïs:

But you know, we’re creating like a little world at Diversify Vanlife while I’m having this experience. So it’s also kind of shaping a lot of my movement, I guess, in a way. And it’s informing a lot of my decisions in a way that, you know, I think if I had been full-time prior to this date, like when I, when I first started building in 2018, I would have stumbled a lot more. So I mean, I’m really grateful for our community. Um, and also I’m still building, like it’s on, I’m on my five millionth day now.

Noami:

Yeah. lol

Anaïs:

And I’m constantly like moving my furniture around. So it just always feels a bit chaotic and I sense, um, but it’s nice also on the flip side to really curate my space and like. Oh, this was good on paper, but in actuality it should really go here because I’ll save six inches or whatever the case. It’s just, that’s been really, really cool and also frustrating. But, um, I, I want to be more intentional going forward about when it comes time for me to really have time off. I want to be intentional about planning time that doesn’t involve friends or family or lovers or obligations, and just really taking the time to pay attention to myself, you know, like. Oh, I can really, I can really spiral when I am not like looking within doing all the things for self care, et cetera.

Noami:

How have you been with like your routine? Are you able to put things in place and figure out some sort of groundedness?

Anaïs:

You know what I’m, I’m getting there? I am, I’m starting to realize because like the world feels bigger. Like I just have to treat it how I did, honestly, when I was a flight attendant. So I, my optometrist was in Chicago. Uh, my primary health physician was in Atlanta. The ones that I really liked. I would get my nails done in certain places, like certain nail techs and Chicago and Miami were like the bomb I was getting my nails done all the time for work. But just knowing like how to run your errands more effectively would be really helpful, especially for like, you know, some of the things that we have to do specific to the van, like dumping waste and filling water and things like that. So just realizing that, you know, your space is bigger, so just, you just have to navigate it differently and plan, but it’s a lot, you know, I haven’t found my spots yet.

Noami:

Yeah, it is a lot. Dustin and I, we used to be running into town all the time when we first started. Oh, we need this. Oh, we forgot to do this. Now we just plan everything in one day we dump trash and get water. We get groceries, we get gas, like everything is in one day. So, and it’s a pretty hectic day and pretty exhausting day and frustrating at times. But yeah, that’s, we’ve found that that’s the best way for us to do that.

Anaïs:

Yeah, no, I hear that. And I think once I’m really like moving in a, in a solid direction, cause right now I’m just floating around LA. So, so once I head in a solid direction, I’m going to take that advice for sure. But we’ve talked about like burnout before on the, on the podcast. How have you been able to navigate that with all that you’re working on and finding balance on the road?

Noami:

Well, like I said, I got off the road. You know, the burnout lately by just stepping the heck back and acknowledging the things that I need to help me find balance. In the van it’s really hard. Like, you know, you mentioned it earlier about not really practicing self-care okay. It’s, it’s been almost five years for me on the road and I still haven’t figured it out. I had to get off the road to find some balance here lately.

Anaïs:

Have you gotten like itchy feet?

Noami:

A little bit. Like this past week I have. This past week, I’ve been feeling a little antsy for the road, but remembering that I’m writing this book and I want to have at least a rough draft of the manuscript done before we get back on the road. But you know, we have, I have everything that I need right now. And it’s been really good to have like electricity, running water, speedy Wi-Fi, a shower. And let me just say, there’s a tub here. So it’s, you know, I’ve been indulging myself and it feels really good. And, most importantly, I feel like it’s been a really good environment and a good space for me to develop, you know, some kind of routine because on the road, routine per se, isn’t something that actually happens in van life. You know, I feel like over the past almost five years, I’ve been able to develop tools and implement tools that would help me feel grounded.

Noami:

But even if I’m, you know, sitting in one place in the van for an extended period of time, like no two days are alike. And if I’m being honest, I didn’t get into van life to sit in one place. You know, I want to travel. I want to explore, you know. When I’m bordering burnout, I’ve learned that I just need to take a step back. And even, even though we’re in a house at the moment, my van is still like my home 90% of the time. So I have to be able to find balance on the road, which is something that, like I said earlier, I’m constantly working on. And I’ve also realized that it requires a mindset shift away from the toxic grind culture birthed by our capitalist society. And, in my previous life in the corporate world, thank God I’m out of there. I used to be really consumed by the idea that time is running out. And this is something that we talked about in our team meeting on Monday.

Noami:

I think that that many people operate that way, but the idea that time is this linear and finite thing is, is a construct of white supremacy anyway. So for me finding balance on the road and in any lifestyle is about rewiring that conditioning and redefining what productivity means to me. And like I said, I really love that, on our team at Diversify Vanlife, we’re able to openly discuss these things where envisioning and creating what a different culture means to us and prioritizing people over the productivity. And I feel like it’s a reminder for me. Like every time we have a team meeting or every time I speak to someone on this team, I feel like, yeah, like we’re really working to challenge the dynamics of our social conditioning and the status quo. So in a sense where reclaiming certain parts of ourselves that are normally stolen from us by the capitalist grind culture under the ruse of work-life balance, you know?

Anaïs:

Mmhmm, there, there is a quote and I’m going to butcher it, but it was to the effect of, “they will brainwash you to believe one thing and then give you free will so that you can choose wrong”. Right? And it’s just like those sentiments that, you know, our education system is really preparing us for how people used to work in factories, you know? And it’s just all about how fast, how much production, you know, how little can you pay these people? How can you even exploit them? Like before they were labor laws, right. We’re still set up that way. As a society, we work more hours than almost every other developed country in the world. We have the least amount of time off. Some people don’t even get time off. So I really appreciate the environment that we are really discussing, and developing at Diversify Vanlife. It feels, it feels radical all the time, in the best way.

Noami:

[Laughs] It really does.

Anaïs:

And I don’t know if I’m abusing that word in this moment, but it really does for me. Um, and I feel like we’re always pushing ourselves to see how far, how much further can we take this, you know, this time. So, yeah, I’m really grateful for that because navigating burnout for me is still a process right now. You know, like I said, it’s just, you know, recognizing you mentioned tools at the top of the conversation and yeah, it’s just, for me recognizing all the pieces of what burnout looks like. So what I can start to recognize it, you know, and then recognizing all the tools that I have available to me so that when I start to spiral, I can grab one of those tools and, you know, reach out to somebody, journal. How about combing your hair even? Cause like, I think people don’t realize how important, like the self care aspect of it. That’s essentially like an extension of the physical touch, love language, like touching yourself. I do this oil cleansing of massaging my face for like an hour. Sometimes it just feels good to be touched. Like even if I know it’s just me, like my body is, is receiving that as, as loving myself. So I think right now, you know, navigating burnout, is it more looks like me just staying afloat, keeping my head above water, definitely setting more boundaries because clearly I have none.

Noami:

That’s a huge one for me.

Anaïs:

So I’m always trying to set boundaries.

Noami:

Yeah. That’s so important. Yeah.

Anaïs:

Well, let me lead us into our journal prompt for this episode. The conversation with Mr. Alvin made me realize how privileged our road experience is in comparison to Black Americans during Jim Crow. However, we as van lifers of color, still face a lot of barriers to entry. Noami, what do you want to see changed to make the van life lifestyle more inclusive, safer, and more equitable for BIPOC?

Noami:

Let me bust out my list,

Anaïs:

Right? Where do we begin?

Noami:

All right, first I have to say this. Not everyone lives this lifestyle by choice. And this is a conversation that I feel is so, so important for us to bring to the forefront. I mean, we cannot be inclusive if we only focus on those with the privilege to choose to live this way. Many cities across the United States are enacting vehicle habitation laws, which make it illegal to sleep in your vehicle. These laws are inherently racist because they disproportionately affect BIPOC. I feel like within the vanlife community, and I’ve seen this throughout my time in the vanlife community, like there’s this line that we draw, like there are vanlifers. And then there are houseless people living in their vehicles. And that separation is elitist and very, very problematic. It creates this hierarchy of like who, who can be a van lifer, who, who can be considered a real vanlifer.

Noami:

And by not having this conversation and not acknowledging the problem, we are neglecting the most vulnerable in our community and it has to stop. The second thing for me is that we need to, we need to stop perpetuating this idea that becoming a vanlifer is expensive. The narrative itself often perpetuated in the vanlife road travel community is that you need to have like a $60,000 rig in order to live this lifestyle comfortably. And that’s simply untrue because it creates a barrier to entry for most people. And personally, I know people who have done builds for like as little as a thousand dollars and are able to get into van life. But these stories are not being told. They’re being drowned out.

Anaïs:

The luxury of it all.

Noami:

Yeah. The luxury, the romanticization. Yeah. And the people who are simply living this lifestyle, inexpensively, their stories are drowned out, you know, because they don’t fit that, that romanticized luxurious, stereotypical mold. Yeah. And we need to change that. We really do.

Anaïs:

You just gave a word to the congregation, let everyone say amen. Cause I, uh, people are not talking about that enough. There’s even something too, you know, how even our families, you know, I interview a lot of people in the community and how our families view us as vanlifers is so important. It’s also reflective of what their neighbors think and what that outside circle things. And the extension of that, like what that community, how they’re looking at people in their vans and you know, how our families are viewing us through this lens of, Oh, they’re homeless, you know, what are you doing with your life? Or, you know, things like that. So thank you so much for bringing attention to that. And really speaking, um, power. San Diego in particular is a beautiful place, but it is a hell hole of a place to be as a vanlifer. It is horrible. They have outlawed it to extinction.

Noami:

Yeah. How about you? Like, what are some things that you would like to see changed to make this lifestyle more inclusive, safer and equitable for, for BIPOC?

Anaïs:

For me until women and non-binary people and trans people, non-men, until we can feel safe in this world, I don’t really see myself being any more inherently safe than a trans person on the road in particular. I was listening to our playlist that we have for this episode on the way to the parking lot, where I’m recording right now and I was jamming, but I was also like sobbing, like as I was singing the words, just thinking about the young women of that time and the people of that time in Jim Crow, you know, consent was not a thing back then. You know, I don’t know how I would have been able to successfully live vanlife or live in my vehicle back then, without consent. Without that little piece, that’s scary to me, that’s really, really scary because for me, consent is sexy

Anaïs:

For me, consent is respect cause I really don’t care necessarily what you think about me, as long as you respect me, you know, as long as we can have that basic human understanding that I respect your spirit, your mind and your body and you respect my spirit and my mind and my body. My great aunt was my mom’s favorite aunt. And she, um, she was actually a weekender when my mom was little. So that is like the only reason I think that I really had it in my mind, just in the back of my mind that this was possible for me to be a solo woman on the road. You know? So this episode in particular makes me think of people like her, who did it at like against all odds. She was just in her RV going fishing whenever she wanted to solo with my mom until like that’s powerful. Um, but I want, I want all of us to be able to do those things and be safe too.

Noami:

Anaïs that’s a powerful story. And I also think it’s a great segue to jump into our special Black History Month episode. For all you listeners out there, in this episode, Anaïs sat down for a fascinating conversation with Mr. Alvin hall, an award-winning television and radio broadcaster, a bestselling author and a renowned financial educator to talk about, “Driving The Green Book.’ I was moved to tears listening to this episode. So y’all be sure to listen till the end because Mr. Alvin drops some incredible gems.

Anaïs:

With all that 2020 has put us through, from illness and loss, to injustice and loneliness, we could all use someone to talk to you. This is the first step to taking care of our mental health, whether you’re living a nomadic lifestyle or not, and thanks to BetterHelp, an online professional mental health service, you can access therapy from anywhere by scheduling secure sessions, via phone and video. Plus y’all, they have text and chat services in a safe and private online environment. Sign up and get connected with a licensed professional counselor in less than 24 hours to design your plan for therapy together in a confidential online setting, BetterHelp has over 3000 US-licensed therapists across all 50 States who specialize in things you might be feeling right now, especially things like depression, stress, anxiety, that’s me, trauma relationships, anger, trouble sleeping, family conflicts, grief, and self-esteem. You decide what qualities are most important to have in a therapist. It’s totally up to you so that you can get matched with someone you’re more likely to feel safe and comfortable with from the start.

Anaïs:

So let me just say this. Getting started with counseling can feel… Awkward to say the least, but it’s really something that can help! And with BetterHelp, which takes affordability into consideration, you can get started today, even if you don’t have an insurance plan that covers mental health services. Okay?I know I’m excited too. And baby, don’t worry. I got you “Nomads At The Intersections” listeners get 10% off your first month with discount code NOMADS. That’s N O M A D S. So to get started, go to betterhelp.com/nomads. Simply fill out a questionnaire to help them assess your needs and get matched with a counsel you’ll love. So you can start feeling better inside out, visit betterhelp.com/nomads and use promo code NOMADS for 10% off.

Noami:

You are listening to Nomads At The Intersections podcast.

Anaïs:

Our guest, this episode is Alvin hall. Alvin is an internationally renowned financial educator, television and radio broadcaster, and best-selling author. Alvin is also host of Driving The Green Book podcast. It’s an amazing audio journey that documents the 12-day road trip Alvin completed in the summer of 2019 alongside activist Janee Woods Weber. Their journey from Detroit to New Orleans was inspired by the historic travel guide, “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” Along the way, they stopped to interview a number of people who shared power for stories and reflections about the Green Book and the context of the time in which it was created. Mr. Alvin, thank you so much for joining us today at Nomads At The Intersections. It is an honor to speak with you. Um, and I was like literally in tears driving to my grandparents’ house to record this. And we really couldn’t have asked for a more fitting topic or guest for Black History Month. So thank you.

Alvin:

Thank you. I’m honored that you’re recording from your grandparents’ house because it means a lot to me because they lived this experience and they know this world that we cover on the podcast series. This is such a joy.

Anaïs:

Yes, yes. I’m I’m in my grandpa’s sweater, I’m in their attic recording. Like it’s a whole vibe for me right now. So your podcast “Driving The Green Book” is, is really insightful and it’s an amazing look into an important and illuminating artifact of Black history. So for the benefit of the listeners who may be unfamiliar with the Green Book, can you just give us like a brief breakdown or background about the Green Book or about the Green Book and the driving, the Green Book podcast?

Alvin:

The Negro motorist Green Book was created in 1936 by Victor Hugo Green, who was a postman who worked in New Jersey, but lived in Sugar Hill, in Harlem. He and his wife Alma would often drive to the South during the summer to visit her family. And on that drive, they could not buy gasoline in some places, they could not use bathrooms. They certainly could not buy food or go to a hotel. And this frustrated Victor, so he and Alma got together and created a guide that would help people find safe harbors and services while traveling on the road during segregation and Jim Crow. The first publication was in 1936 and it only covered the New York area and it’s fascinating to look at that because it showed that most of the businesses were, were, uh, at 125th Street or above. There were none in Midtown Manhattan, for example, because there was de facto segregation in New York city over the years, the guides expanded to cover the entire United States.

Alvin:

So in every state African-Americans could travel on the road. They could find the services they wanted everywhere from restaurant hotels, pharmacies, tailors, beauty salons, guest houses, motels, the array of Black owned businesses in this guide is amazing. I first read about this guide on a plane flight from the US to the United Kingdom. And I thought this would be a great idea for a television show or a radio show or a podcast. At the same time, unbeknownst to me, a man in Wales in the UK, his name is Jeremy Grange. He had read about this too, and thought you would make a great idea for a radio documentary for BBC radio four. So he and I were introduced by a producer. We did a documentary about the Green Book called “The Green Book”, which you can still listen to on BBC radio four, when that show aired, it was widely praised, but the only country in which that program was not broadcast was America.

Alvin:

We were surprised to never figure out why we didn’t know, but no one picked it up. I found that frustrating. So I decided to take that frustration and turn it into this podcast. So I wrote up an idea to do a podcast. And then I was thinking one day, where should we start? And I was at the museum of modern art in New York city. And they had an exhibition on Jacob Lawrence’s great work called the migration series. And in that exhibition, that was an infographic on the wall, and that infographic showed different cities in the North had changed, especially their African-American populations during the great migration in 1910, Detroit had an African-American population of 1.2% by 1970, it was 43.6%. And we decided that was one of the largest increases in any Northern city in America,` that would become the beginning of our road trip for driving the Green Book. And that’s how it came about.

Anaïs:

Wow. Like that is a very powerful story. I’m excited for my grandparents to listen to that because they were a part of the great migration.

Alvin:

Where are they from?

Anais:

My grandmother is from New Orleans, a small town called Palmetto, in Louisiana. And my grandfather is from Beaumont, Texas.

Alvin:

Yep. Yep. This is amazing, amazing. Leaving the rural South and all of the problems associated with life there. The terror that was widespread during that period of time. And they moved North for greater opportunities, not only for themselves, but for the next generation, and the generation after that.

Anaïs:

Yeah. Um, and, and some of, uh, their family did move to other places like North, but they decided to come West to California. So where they ended up and we all appeared after that.

Alvin:

If you’ve read Isabelle Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns”, you’ll recognize that movement from Texas and Louisiana to the West coast and California is one of the great migration routes from that period.

Anaïs:

Yeah. So tell me, you know, we, we create a podcast sort of on the road nomadically, right? You all, I mean, one of the episodes I listened to you were recording in a car cause it was raining. Tell me what that was like to sort of create this audio journey just spontaneously, as you were meeting people on the road,

Alvin:

We had to be very specific and very organized about this. We had a budget of X amount of dollars. We had an amount of roadway and mileage we had to cover in a period of time. So we mapped out that journey all along the way. We typically did three, sometimes four interviews in a single day, we would stay overnight and then head to the next location. So we could do those interviews and we kept the schedule with some flexibility because some people we were meeting, we had organized that in advance, but then those people might refer us to someone else who had more information or different information or could add different textures to the story. So it was always every day getting up, getting on the road, doing the interviews, making sure everything was recorded and some of the interviews would just be amazingly moving.

Alvin:

And so when we finished them, it was, it was so caught up in the moment and in the stories, and then the recollections of the people that you had to take some time to recover and, you know, get your mind back into journalist mode as you move to the next one. So I would say every day was a new experience, but what we did, we built in pleasure every day. And the pleasure was eating at different Southern restaurants on the way down. So Janee and I, we would look at where are we going to eat tonight? And our field producer, Kenny was there too. So the three of us would always plan out the restaurants because that would be our treat because normally we wouldn’t be eating that type of food given where we live.

Anaïs:

Mm. I love that. Were there any like particular landmarks that like really stuck out to you or surprised you along your journey?

Alvin:

Yes. I would say when we were in Columbus, Ohio, we talked to one wonderful lady called Mary Ellen Taiez and she told us about the high-end Black resorts of Idlewild, Oak Bluffs. And she talked about the life that they had there, that the husbands would come and drop off the wife and children, and then go back to their homes and work until their vacations came about. And she described this idyllic, bucolic life in these high-end Black resorts that I had never heard of. I knew about Oak Bluffs in Massachusetts, but I had never heard of the rest of them that she told us about. That was memorable. I would say in Birmingham, Alabama, where we met a lady who was responsible for the restoration of the AG Gaston Motel. That was brilliant because I did not know that it was built on the model of the Holiday Inn, which at the time was the premier hotel for people traveling on the road.

Alvin:

And he thought that Black people, AG Gaston thought that Black people should have this type of luxury when they travel. And just standing in that place where Martin Luther King used to stay, to see the war room where they planned out the boycotts and the various protests. It was so moving and just touching. And then to see all of the empty lots along the major streets, every city in America had what was known as a little Harlem, whether that was very street in Jackson, Mississippi, Walnut street in Louisville, Kentucky, every city had one of these and to drive along that street today and to see how little of it was left, how little of that thriving Black environment still remains was sad. But when people had survived, they had managed to hold onto the land that showed how resilient, creative, and determined Black people were. So there was always an uplift. We always found an uplift in every city we visited.

Anaïs:

I love that. I remember taking my aunt. I was living in Atlanta at the time and she was coming to visit and I took her to the MLK center that’s there. In the museum or center they have like a little movie theater that you can go and, you know, watch like Black and white film about Auburn Avenue and the historical Black area where they would stay and eat and dance. And it was thriving. Then it’s just like, Oh man, that like, that looks amazing. Like, can we drive down Auburn Avenue? I was like, we did to get here. It’s not the same anymore. I mean, it’s, you know, now it’s trying to pick back up. People are seeing the importance and they’re rallying to bring it back and intentionally bring Black businesses there. But I really, I was thinking about that as you were talking to certain people about how those communities changed. Did you see any common themes across the different communities that you saw in how they changed over the years or was it very different?

Alvin:

No, it’s very similar. One of the factors that affected all of them was the building of the interstate highway system. And almost every case, the interstate highway system was routed in a way either to go straight through the thriving Black business area or to isolate it, make it much more difficult to get to therefore forcing Black people to shop in white areas. And that’s the way they were able to transfer dollars from Black hands to white hands. We interviewed this great tour guide, Jamal Jordan in Detroit at the beginning of the trip. And he talked about how in Detroit, the Black dollar would turnover in a Black neighborhood 10 times. And he gave a beautiful description of it in the, in the podcast. But in Detroit, the mayor at that time, his last name was Kobo, deliberately routed the interstate highway system to destroy Paradise Valley, which was the Black business area.

Alvin:

Black Bottom was the Black residential area. And that story plays out in city and city across America. The other thing that we saw was urban renewal, which in every city people would pause and go, you know that really meant Negro removal. That’s what it was about. They would declare, the government officials would use eminent domain to take over a Black neighborhood. Because of segregation most white people didn’t know that a lot of these areas were middle-class upper middle-class Black areas, but the narrative was that they were underprivileged or ghetto or slum areas, but many of them were not. You see this, particularly in Nashville where the interstate highway system was deliberately routed to reduce the value of Black ownership and deal a blow to Black economic development in city, after city, across America.

Anaïs:

The more I learn about Black history and then also like the histories of other peoples, I just start to see so many parallels, like with the indigenous experience and how their land was just taken over. And they were moved out. They were deemed Savage when they weren’t, they were very calm. They had a very complex society. They had language, they had culture, they had all kinds of traditions, everything they had built roads, you know? But they were also, the same way that Black people have been for generations, moved out of their land as well. As someone whose lifestyle really has revolved around solo travel, both abroad and domestic, safety is always at the top of my mind. And in the US in particular, there’s a significant amount of anxiety that I feel as a solo Black woman on the road. Can you talk to me about that anxiety that Black motorists felt and how that translated in the time of the Green Book to now?

Alvin:

Yes. So in the time of the Green Book, everyone would prepare for a trip thoroughly; tires properly inflated, the tank full, extra gasoline in the car, all of the foods you could possibly want for the trip in the car. Or you would drive through to a relative and the relative would refill the car with more food. And you were mindful of the road that you were on and you watch the road because that person coming towards you could look at you the wrong way, that white person, and they could stop you. Many States permitted any white person to stop any Black person for any reason whatsoever. So you had to be very cautious. You could even pull into a gas station and want to buy gas and have somebody pull a gun on you about that just because they didn’t like the way you look.

Alvin:

So during the time of the Green Book, this was quite devastating to Black people and it created both mental and I call it gut anxiety. And Black people developed ways to deal with that. Not traveling at night, or if you did travel at night, you’d make sure that you just drove, drove, drove, drove, drove because more than likely the cops would not be on the road during that period of time. So we developed all these work arounds. It’s interesting. How much of that still exists today. In one of the programs with Dr. Noelle, Trent, who is director of engagement and education at the National Civil Rights museum and the Lorraine Motel, she tells a story about how her parents are still leaving at like three and four in the morning to get on the road. That was considered protective. And you would get to wherever you were going before sundown because of the existence of sundown towns at the time.

Alvin:

So these things still exist. Now, this was so interesting. So when I did the BBC program, we were very conscious of the fact that the driver Jeremy Grange was white. So I never offered to drive all the time because I thought, “if they stop us it’ll be a white man driving.” And there was myself in the car and professor Jonathan Calm from Stanford university, who was a part of that first road trip. For the road trip to do Driving the Green Book, Janee did most of the driving. We never talked about this at all, but we recognized that if we got stopped with a Black man behind the wheel of a nice car, it could escalate very quickly. Now, remember, we were three Black people, two females and one male in a car, Janee figured this out that it would be better if she were behind the wheel instead of myself. So this was a concern. We never talked about it a lot, but we were careful how we drove. And we were always mindful of what was going on around us.

Anaïs:

It’s almost like just an unspoken understanding of some things. Did you feel that?

Alvin:

Yes it is because you can never tell what’s going to happen when you’re on the road. You could pull by somebody, they could read it the wrong way. What they call road rage becomes even more intense and more specific when you are Black on the road. And it’s scary. It is scary. So we were very much aware of that. I don’t think we ever drove at night, the entire trip.

Anaïs:

I realize how much I’ve taken for granted growing up in the generation that I have. You know, at one point I was working in Florida, so I would drive all the way up and down Florida by myself at all hours. Like, and, you know, I would stop off at rest stops and just sleep in the car, like how you’re saying. But I was not as prepared as say how my parents still approach a road trip. I mean, they are packing up the whole backseat with food and snacks. I’m like, we don’t need all of this stuff! But we’ve never talked about like where that comes from. And hearing, uh, you know, driving the Green Book. I had heard about the Green Book. You know, I read a little bit about the Green Book. I had boycotted the movie when it came out. But the podcast for me really brought all of that to life and made it so real. And it gave me more insight to the way that my parents travel now and how my grandparents probably also traveled.

Alvin:

That means a lot to me because I’m sort of the generation of your parents or grandparents, probably the generation of your grandparents, more than likely because I was born in segregation. In putting the show together, one of the key elements was that I wanted people from different generations of the Black experience. So I was born in a small Southern town in segregation, grew up most of my life in segregation until I went off to Yale summer high school in the late sixties. Janae who is more than 20 years younger than I am grew up in a New England town. She is biracial, her mother’s white, her father’s Black. And so she didn’t even know much of this history. Although her father was originally from Birmingham, Alabama, she had no idea about most of this history because her father moved back and there was very little contact. And then Kemmie, who was our field producer is of African descent raised in Illinois in a very small religious community. I think she’s originally Nigerian. So she had a completely different point of view about this. Often she was discovering things that she had no idea about that are a part of African-American history. And it was this that I think gave us the sensitivity that we needed to have this podcast appeal to multiple generations.

Anaïs:

Yeah. Yeah. I felt it. I felt it hit me. It hit me hard. Something that really stands out about the Green Book is how it fits into history as like this example of the collective action that Black people would take back then, especially in, in the way of combating institutional problems. And in listening to your podcast, I drew a lot of parallels between the Green Book and the underground railroad, you know, with them both having this network of safe havens. And I really want you to speak to the point of how Black people create their own mini ecosystems, where they can sort of navigate around these different challenges that they have. I guess the easiest way for me to ask that is, how can my generation and future generations not lose that collective action?

Alvin:

Your question is really good. And I’m going to start by giving you three words, refusal, resistance, and creativity. What the Green Book and the businesses in it represented was the refusal to accept the limits of the status quo. Segregation and Jim Crow said, you will only live her, you can only have this. And you had people like AG Gaston, who said, no, we deserve better. And I will find a way to get access to the money to open this motel. And then I’ll figure out how to build an insurance company, how to build a funeral home, how to take care of the needs that African-Americans have that society says we shouldn’t have, or we should only have second or third quality of this. The refusal to accept that led to the creation of the Green Book. And I think that was a real motivating factor for Victor Hugo Green.

Alvin:

The resistance part of this is, the publication came out every year from 1936 to 1967, except for a couple of years during the war. And by keeping this going and expanding it, by bringing in new businesses, even though Jim Crow was strong, Black people resisted by starting new businesses. In many ways, the Green Book is a collection of the entrepreneurial spirit of African-Americans and the face of segregation, in the face of Jim Crow. And that’s resistance, right? We’re going to create these businesses and we’re gonna hope that they’ll thrive. We’re going to serve Black people. And when they don’t, we are morphed into something else. And the creativity to me represents how the communities change over time. Yes, they may have started out with a small restaurant and their few places there. But as the economy changed people saw ways to gain access to capital, they were able to be creative and come up with new ideas and enter new businesses.

Alvin:

And when walls of segregation began to come down, people then used that to gain access to other information. Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of listening to a talk by Jeffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone, along with George Khaldoon, who was involved and Stanley Druckenmiller who was involved as the board chairman and funding the Harlem children’s zone as an educational initiative that changed things in America. President Obama talked about expanding what Jeffrey had done at the Harlem children’s zone across America. Jeffrey represents that type of creative thinking. From his parents, moving up from North Carolina to New York, and then out to wine dance. He went off to college, he got an education, but he saw it as an opportunity to make the world better for African-Americans. And he thought, and came up with an idea and used his creativity, connected to his friends, Rosouley Lewis, George Khaldoon and Stanley Druckenmiller to create this new opportunity for us. So I think refusal, resistance, creativity. And as you think that it gives you that ability to have an elastic mind and elastic imagination. So you can stay in touch with the creativity that’s necessary.

Anaïs:

Whew! Thank you. That hit me. I’m getting a little teary eyed over here. That was very powerful! Thank you.

Alvin:

I believe this deeply, in every part of my body. It turns out that Jeffrey and George and I went to Bowdoin college in Brunswick, Maine. So I’ve known them a long time. But I’m just awestruck by their creativity. I have another good friend Tawanna Cook who lives in Pittsburgh. And Tawanna said to me, sometimes creativity, Alvin, occurs one person at a time. Not all of us can be a Jeffery Canada or George Khaldoon. We can’t be a Stanley Druckenmiller with his billions of dollars, but we can in our own ways, refuse, resist, and be creative one person at a time.

Anaïs:

I’m really gonna take that with me. Thank you. That was very powerful. As we continue to see our historically Black neighborhoods gentrified and displacement and people everywhere, globally, even. It’s harder for these safe spaces for at least in my opinion to exist. There was a woman that you spoke to who had created the post-racial Green Book.

Alvin:

Yes. Jen in Louisiana.

Anaïs:

Yes. Do you think it would be possible for like, uh, cause hers was referred to as like a reverse Green Book. Um, do you think it would be possible for like a true modern Green Book to exist today?

Alvin:

Yes, I do. I think it exists as websites. I think a lot of people create websites. So if you’re using Airbnb there’s Airbnb Noir, right. Which is a version where Black people can get fair treatment when they want to rent places. I think these things are possible. And I think these networks are good for us as Black people and Brown people to know that we can join and share this information. Before the Green Book, a lot of the knowledge that was in the Green Book existed via word of mouth. Where did Victor get all this information? He couldn’t travel across America in those days. He was a member of the postman’s union and their annual meeting, who would know in each city where the best places to stay were. So at that annual meeting, the postman would tell him what were the best places. And those became the early listings in the Green Book. So that word of mouth existed all this time. Victor Hugo Green took that word of mouth and put it in the Green Book. As he moved across America, people would share that information. Then he had agents who would work to bring in those businesses. The Green Book stopped publication in 1967, but still we share that information by word of mouth. Now with the internet and websites, we can share that information In a different way so that we all benefit, whether it’s traveling in the US or traveling abroad, we’ll have that knowledge from other people’s experiences. And that’s where wisdom comes in. My grandmother used to say to me, and I heard this all the time, especially in the current political environment, watch what people do to other people, because they’ll do the same thing to you. And the other one is, you don’t have to make the same mistakes as other people. Watch and learn and be wise.

Anaïs:

Yes. I love that. The latter is something that has been said to me and I really, I really have to live by that. Cause I’m like… I don’t nee to experience, everything to know that it’s not good for me.

Alvin:

Exactly.

Anaïs:

So I just want to switch gears a little bit because you are a very accomplished financial advisor and educator, and you literally wrote the book on money management and investing. So I am curious to know your thoughts about what’s happening recently on Wall Street with particularly with the game stop short squeeze situation and what it means for the future of retail investing. And is it the first step in a sort of revolution where a collective action against these big institutions? Or is it just the fluke? Um, like what should we, what should we take from this?

Alvin:

Oh, that’s a very good question. So I teach a course called the history of the US securities markets. This concept is not new. But it’s not really investing, it’s short-term speculation. Investing is buying something and watching it grow over the long term. Speculation is for these short term ups and downs in the marketplace. Game Stop did not have the financial to support the price that it achieved. That was just driven up by speculation. I think this is a situation that is opening the door to a new type of short-term investing. But the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission has to worry about whether or not this disrupts the concept of a fair and orderly market for the average person in the US. That’s the underlying issue here. Is this not a form of crowd manipulation of a price? That’s the thing that they need to make a decision about.

Alvin:

I would say for people who want to invest, you still look at it as a long-term prospect. You buy companies that have good earnings, good growth opportunities. But chasing these short term bets for everyone out there, that’s going to be a corresponding loser. So you need to be very careful. Yes. Did they bring down a hedge fund? They almost caused it to collapse. However, that was one hedge fund. And everybody talks as if they could do this with all hedge funds. It would be pretty difficult to pull that off, because that’s a lot of shares to buy. And a lot of these hedge funds are a lot richer than these people are collectively.

Anaïs:

I’m not super well-versed in any wall street talk, but the way that I received the information, it was just like, Oh, they don’t want regular average people to have access to these easy wins. You know, that’s how I took it.

Alvin:

Yeah. But there was no easy one here. This was created by people talking up the stock. The concept of an easy win is just not that true. And not that pervasive in the marketplace. It never has been. In 1990, you could have bought a hundred shares of Cisco Systems for $4,000 total. By 2000, they would have been worth somewhere in the range of over $300,000, $350,000 I think. That would have been an investment. That’s a nice return. But to chase these two day returns, four day returns, you have to be on the market. You have to be sitting there every day. Do you have other things you want to do? Do you want to be watching the stock ticker all day long? Yeah. So easy returns are a mess. You have to devote yourself to it. And I think most of us have lives to live that involve other things. If you look at all the images of the people involved in this that have been in the media, they’re all sitting there with their screens in front of them. Right. They’re all dressed casually and they are mesmerized by the screen and money. The screen, money. Is that your focus in life? I don’t think so. Yeah. So you have other things to do. You’d have to devote too much time to it for the average person to make this kind of money.

Anaïs:

Yeah, it’s interesting that you made that connection because the community that we, and like our podcast is a part of a large part of them are vanlifers. So people that via dwell in their vehicles. And it’s this modern day nomadism that kind of represents like an active divestment from certain systems or situations that people find depressive. Like take something, for example, like rent. Rent is generally going to be a lower income person’s most costly expense. And so people in our community often make it a point to eliminate that by vehicle dwelling, right. Just to achieve a certain level of financial freedom, because either you’re going to increase the amount of money you’re making, or you’re going to just drastically decrease the amount of money you’re spending. So, you know, what kinds of things should Black people and, you know, other BIPOC be looking to divest from outside of like say rent or banks.

Alvin:

I have a mantra that I say to myself all the time; cash in the bank saves you, things don’t. I think when you’re talking about the divesting yourself of things, you have to, and it will be different for everybody, you have to think of those things in your life that you really don’t need. You know, do you need to go out and buy five Gap Sweater when you can wear two and be happy and then replace them later on. Do you need to have, you know, five sets of glasses or that sort of thing. I think people get caught up in this material world. I believe you make a decision about what’s important to you. You’ve thought it through. And if you can live without the rest of it and live on the road, then that’s great. But not everybody’s capable of doing that.

Alvin:

I for one have to have a place. That is important to me. And I’ll nest, but I don’t mind if that nest is minimal. I will have made a decision that I have a place when I travel around the road, I like to have a place to come back to. That’s the key to my emotional happiness. But for other people, I would say, sit down and remember, cash bank will save you, things won’t. And as you make a decision about what things you have in your life. Make sure that having that thing gives you some gratification. It’s not just an object to throw away. It’s something that contributes to your overall happiness.

Anaïs:

Yeah. I, you know, that’s also something that’s very important to me to have somewhere to come and be after I’ve had like a full day, like when I was a flight attendant, I had never heard about vanlife. And so I was literally moving across the country, like every six months. And it was just like a lot. I didn’t have like a solid place to be. If I had known about van life then where I could literally create my own little tiny home in the back of where I’m, you know, driving, I would have done it then, but, you know, and, and so now it makes me think, okay, so what other things are not really for me outside of like say investing in white financial institutions and instead investing in to a Black financial institution, like I’m thinking about things like that. And I’m starting to learn like other divestments that I could make, like the connection between some Ivy league schools or private colleges that are investing in private prisons. So it’s just like, I have to be aware of where my money is actually going.

Alvin:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And these are things I think that differs for everybody. I think your comment is incredible. Your social justice consciousness is spot on, and some people don’t have that, that moral core. They don’t have that center, but I think I give everybody enough room to find their own. I know what’s important for me. And it may not be the same. I always say, when I hear about people being on the road, I hate to drive.

Anaïs:

You know what? You and I have that in common. I know that’s like so weird because I literally live in my vehicle, but I don’t like to drive.

Alvin:

I find it so boring. And what I did find I fall asleep. I find my mind drifting. So that’s why having a place is important for me. I always say that if I had to move to a smaller place with less rent, as long as the water glass that I use everyday was a water glass that I loved, and the plates were something I ate off everyday that gave me pleasure, that would be enough for me. I wouldn’t need much more than that because those things are key. That’s what I discovered during lockdown. You couldn’t see your friends because of the restrictions. I’d go for 5 and 10 mile walks with one friend, and that was it. But I spent a lot of time in this apartment by myself. And what I came to understand was, yes, I could scale down all of this stuff. I could put it on eBay and I would be happy without a lot of it because I came to understand what made me happier and the things I could give up to keep my expenses low and reasonable. And if I need to take them lower, I know I can do it.

Anaïs:

So I just have one more finance related question, going back to like the collective actions. What do you think about cooperative wealth? And what’s your perspective on people setting up what’s called a sou sou, like a pool of money. Yeah. And what do you think about that?

Alvin:

I think these things can work, but you have to be very careful because money is closely tied to people’s emotions and you must make sure that there is emotional mesh between everyone; that you get along, that you’re moving in same direction, that you essentially want the same goals. It’s like in a relationship when you’re dating or about to get married to somebody, their money personality may be quite different from yours. So I think anytime when people are thinking about pooling money, they must be clear about their dreams, what money means to them, the risk that they associate with money or the security that they associate with money, what things can people do with money that they would be grossly uncomfortable with, or really comfortable with. Those are discussions you have to have upfront. If you are not in sync on that, then there is potential problems down the road. So I like the idea, I’ve always liked these ideas of commune and people pulling money to help each other. But you have to remember not all everybody’s on the same page with these things. Think about a family. Think about a family and often one child may want this, the other child, they feel entitled to that. One child may be a spender, the other one may be cautious with money. And that’s a family. Imagine people who are strangers. I think it may be easier actually for people who are strangers.

Alvin:

Don’t come with all the emotional baggage associated with a sibling or relative so they can talk more honestly and put money together. But I do think that’s a way to help people who get along, build communal wealth, share ideas, talk about investments, talk about lifestyles. I’ve been reading in the paper about all of these people who during COVID bought these houses and small communities and are all living together. I’ve been reading those and it interests me because it goes back to a 1960s, 1970s idea. You know where you live on a commune in Vermont and New England. You grew your own food and you had your chicken with eggs and all of that. By the way, footnote to that: I was raised on a farm so that commune living was not something I wanted to do because to me it was like farming. But I think those ideas are always good. And I think they’re expanding beyond going back to the earth, but bringing people support in different ways, emotional financial in terms of your dreams. I think that’s good. I do think it’s good. But people just need to have some really honest talks upfront to make sure that everybody is functioning from the same page and have the same goals.

Anaïs:

That’s very eye-opening. Thank you for those questions to be sure to ask when you’re in that kind of situation. So before we go, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions that we’re asking of all of our guests, the season on Nomads at the Intersections. But I have to say just again, and I don’t want to gush all over you, but this is, you have literally exceeded all of my expectations. Like I told you, I literally cried on the car ride over here. This has really been an honor to hold this space with you. So thank you.

Alvin:

Thank you for asking great questions. Thank you for being honest. I’m so glad you did this at your grandparent’s house. When you told me that, I just got chills because there’s a lot, that connection, that’s a spiritual connection.

Anaïs:

Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know if you know of the comedian Amanda seals, but she has she has this affinity for LaVar Burton and I’m kind of, I kind of have that vibe with you right now, I have an affinity for you.

Alvin:

Thank you.

Anaïs:

So the first question is, what strengths have you felt yourself tap into in 2020?

Alvin:

The strength to be found in being contented? I did not try to make myself happy during COVID. I tried things that I knew would keep me emotionally stable, that would make me happy day to day. So I cooked more. I focused on eating healthy foods and I gave myself little things in my diet that gave me a great sense of calm and peace. So I think I tapped into my contentment.

Anaïs:

That was very nice. Thank you. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. Okay. And the second one, and fair warning, cause this is very open-ended, but I’d like to ask you what you think a truly inclusive world would look like. Because you know, the Green Book for me, it was not only about collective action, but it was about this intentional inclusivity of our people and making our people safe. So if you could finish the following statement. In a truly inclusive world _________.

Alvin:

I would not have to walk down the street or drive the roads of America and be constantly reminded of my Blackness. I’ve had the advantage of living in places around the world where I could walk down the street and not have to think about being Black, not have to see micro-aggressions, not have to see people simply not recognizing me. People I know who don’t even recognize me because they don’t see me. They see my Black skin first and everything else disappears in that. So I’m not sure that world is ever really possible, but I was lucky enough in my own family and the area where I grew up in as a child to have that as a day-to-day reality. And it made my life within my family group of 52 people, a joy. Even in segregation, being raised around all these people, my cousins on my mother’s side, my great uncles, my great aunts. I didn’t think about being Black everyday because we were all Black and we were happy.

Anaïs:

Yes. I feel that too. In communities of color I feel insulated, protected, safe. Don’t have to think about it. You just exist.

Alvin:

And if we could just take that out into the rest of the world, but I know it’s hard. I know it’s hard for people because many people come with preconceived ideas and they are not willing to let those ideas go. So even though people may be students in my class or they may be people I know very well, if I am not in front of that classroom and they see me on the street, they don’t recognize me. That’s quite shocking sometimes. But to me, the inclusivity would be just to be able to walk down the street and have that not be a worry, but I know that’s not possible in America today.

Anaïs:

Thank you for tuning in to Nomads at the Intersections podcast. We are so happy you joined us. We’ll return with a full episode in your podcast feed in one month. But we got you covered until then. Connect with us on Instagram @nomadsattheintersectionspod and @diversify.vanlife for exclusive extras you won’t see anywhere else. Also, check out the show notes for our favorite quotes from this episode, as well as a few journal writing prompts. We even created a playlist for our nomads out there. Y’all, it’s a whole vibe. If you haven’t already, hit that subscribe button and follow our hosts and social @irietoaurora and @anaismoniq.

Noami:

Nomads at the Intersections is a Ravel Media production. With special thanks to Busted Slate Media. Music by Smart Monkey Music. If you enjoyed this episode, leave us a five star rating on Apple podcasts or Google play and mention Nomads at the Intersections or Diversify Vanlife in your review.


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