Cuba: The Iron Curtain is drawn

The Soviet Union was commonly called the “Iron Curtain” back during the height of the Cold War, so certainly Cuba can be thusly called the “Palm Curtain” due to its forbidden fruit image, tropical allure and Communist perspective on this island of 11 million people. The capital of Cuba is Havana and the second largest city is Santiago de Cuba in this country struggling for redevelopment after America’s infamous embargo and the fall of the Soviet Union, yet it has both a high life expectancy and literacy rate even as it is considered a developing country. As I arrived at Jose Marti International Airport in Havana Cuba, thoughts of how this Island was such a pivotal place in world history, one feels as though they have stepped back in time as I ride toward my hotel in one of these classic cars as my skillful driver maneuvers this drop top 57 Chevy in a parade of other classic cars navigating congested Havana. Cuba’s diversity is reflected in the faces of those as I pass the iconic Revolutionary Square, where the Jose’ Marti’ Monument resides and the place where Fidel and Raul Castro would speak for hours to millions facing another iconic image reflected by the face of Argentinian Ernesto Che’ Guevara on a building nearby, who remains a lasting hero of the Cuban Revolution.

In 1959, Castro and his band of revolutionaries inspired by their July 26 Movement that marked the first attempt by Castro to overthrow the government of Fulgencio Batista, he would meet Che’ and others exiled in Mexico to depart there for a journey that would change the course of world history with the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, that literally brought the world to the edge of a nuclear war. Historically, Cuba under Castro was a major contributor to anti-imperialist wars in Africa, Central America and Asia. Castro sent tens of thousands of troops to Angola when Apartied South Africa was invading Angola. Historically, Cuba is the only minor developing country to have projected influence on the world stage that has a characteristic of a major global power. Present Cuba is contrast with some revamped hotels and classic cars that remain relics of days of old and the current infrastructure has very little importation of new products. The population of Cuba has very complex origins and intermarriage between diverse groups is general. The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami say that 62% is Black which is interesting. The Cuban people are known to be friendly and courteous but one is taken by surprise to learn the most popular foreigner that Cubans take great interest in is Americans. Around Havana, one notices many monuments to The Revolution in 1959 but very little images of Fidel and Raul Castro only Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos who remain martyrs with Che being assassinated October 9, 1967 in Bolivia and Camilo dying in a plane crash October 28, 1959 shortly after the Revolution. There is a monument to Afro Cuban hero Antonio Maceo, who was a key figure in the war of independence against Spain and was commonly called, “The Bronze Titan” as an almost a mythical icon on the level of Jose’ Marti’, the central person in opposition to Spain’s colonization of the island and iconic hero of Fidel Castro.

Between me getting rest at Hotel National, where Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner and many others graced its hallways, I loved seeing Old Havana which has a historic colonial splendor about it with the old buildings, plaza, cobblestone walkways and those wonderful Afro Cuban sisters wearing colorful decorative dresses, smoking those Cuban cigars, certainly I helped myself to a few during my visit. In Cuba, along with other parts of the Caribbean and South America, the Santeria Religion is very popular. This religion is considered a syncretic Yoruba based religion of West Africa with elements of voodoo, Roman Catholicism and Christian nomenclature. Cuba is official a secular state and religious freedoms increased during the 1980s. Cuban culture is influenced by its melting pot of cultures, primarily those of Africa and Spain. Cuban music is very rich and is the most commonly known expression of culture. The cuisine of Cuba is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean influences. Though the US embargo has affected all Cubans, the free health care, education and overall literacy programs instituted by the Castro government seemingly has made Cuba a highly literate, healthy society. Despite tremendous economic hardships, Cuba does seem to be making a great effort to equalize opportunity for all which has been the lasting testament to the Revolution- behind the Palm Curtain.

Malik Ismail is an international traveler and activist. He’s explored many cultures in Africa including Ghana, South Africa and Egypt. He’s traveled to Cuba and South America. This year he visited Rio de Janeiro and Salvador Bahia, Brazil including the favelas of Rocinha and Cidade de Deus (City of God) in Rio. His writings have been featured in the L.A. Watt’s Times, It’s About Time Newsletter, Rolling Out Magazine and The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service.

A trip to the Great Wall of China

Munson and Christina Steed

Flying into Beijing, China, the anticipation to see the Great Wall was overwhelming. We stayed at the St. Regis Hotel where we met with our translator Michelle. Getting to the Great Wall is a 2-3 hour long trip. Along the way, we stopped at a traditional Chinese restaurant that offered farm fresh vegetables. Our translator Michelle was more than happy to answer questions and provided a wealth of knowledge that only a native would know.

Upon our arrival to the Wall, there is a tran-rail that takes you up to the beginning of the Wall. There is a market there where you can purchase trinkets, souvenirs and even Obama apparel. It was a surreal moment standing on that Wall. I had seen it on television and read about it but in that moment, I became a part of history. I was standing on a part of Chinese legacy of greatness.

The world is full of places that remind us of greatness and power, go to them. Travel to a place where you can reflect on a bigger you and a bigger tomorrow.  The trip to the Great Wall was worth the 16-hour Delta flight and the three-hour journey through the majestic landscape. I became a part of history, a part of something greater than I could have imagined.


Obamas returning to Martha’s Vineyard for summer vacation: 5 fun things to do

President Barack Obama and family typically visit Martha’s Vineyard every August. This year, the Obamas plans to arrive on August 10, and remain until August 18, says the White House.

Here are five fun things to do while vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard.

1. The Run & Shoot Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival – was designed to provide an upscale platform dedicated to showcasing and honoring emerging filmmakers in a relaxed environment. The dates are August 6-10, 2013.
2. Satisfy your cravings at Chilmark Chocolates – These chocolates are hand-dipped or handmade. 19 State Rd, Chilmark, Mass. 02535 (508) 645-3013 Hours: Thu – Sun, 11:30am – 5:30pm; Closed late December – late January.
3. Visit the lighthouse – There are five to choose from, listed above is the Edgartown Lighthouse. Opened in 1828, it marks the entrance into Edgartown Harbor and Katama Bay.
4. Eat and party at Hooked, a beach house wannabe serving up wow-worthy cocktails, rounds of lawn games, raw bar, lots of lobster, and an expansive menu.
5. Enjoy The Inkwell- visit the Oak Bluffs Beach – also famous for the filming of The Inkwell with Larenz Tate and Jade Pinkett-Smith.

SkyView Ferris wheel is Atlanta’s newest attraction

The much-anticipated 20-story SkyView Atlanta Ferris wheel, hailing from Paris, is scheduled to open on Tuesday, July 16 in Atlanta’s Centennial Park. It was constructed for the 1996 Summer Olympics. SkyView Atlanta was erected in Paris near the Louvre Museum before finding a temporary home in Pensacola, Fla. Now Atlantans and tourists have the pleasure of enjoying the attractive amusement and taxpayers don’t have to bear any burden. It’s a gift to the city from private investors and it will reside on private property. It’s anticipated that the revenue will be comparable to the London Eye, which attracts 3.75 million visitors a year.

It has 42 gondolas (including one VIP) that hold up to six people and offers stunning views during the nearly 15 minute ride – four revolutions.

Price Menu:
Adult – $13.50+tax ($14.45)
Senior – $12.15+tax ($13.00)
Military – $12.15+tax ($13.00)
Child – $8.50+tax ($9.10)
(Each Gondola must have an Adult riding with the children)

VIP and Group Pricing are separate.

SkyView Atlanta is located at 168 Luckie Street, NW, Atlanta, GA, 30303.

Chasing Waterfalls in Paraná, Brazil

Breathtaking! The Iguaçu Falls in Paraná, Brazil, form where the Iguaçu River rolls over Paraná Plateau branching out to form more than 275 smaller waterfalls and cataracts. One of the seven wonders of nature, the falls sit on the Brazil-Argentina border. Paraguay even shares some of the fun.

It's a thunderous display of nature's mystery that is complemented by an urban legend:

A serpent-like god named Mboi planned to marry Naipí, a member of the Caingangues tribe and the daughter of the chief. She fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In retaliation, Mboi sliced the river to condemn the lovers to an eternal fall.

Legend has it that Naipí is one of the rocks below the Falls which is constantly pummelled by the waters and Tarobá became a palm tree on the bank inclining over the river. Beneath this palm tree is a cave where Mboi watches eternally over the young lovers.

Iguaçu Falls is also called Iguazu Falls, Iguazú Falls and Iguassu Falls – in some circles, it's known as the Devil's Throat.

Jay-Z and Beyoncé did it! 3 Reasons Why We Want to Travel to Cuba too

In 2009, Black Meetings and Tourism reported African-Americans spend a whopping $30 billion to $40 billion traveling each year. This includes cruises and traveling to the Caribbean to islands like Saint Lucia, Bahamas, Jamaica and Aruba. However, due to government regulation, Americans, black and white alike, have to bypass the largest island in the Caribbean, the Republic of Cuba due to an embargo and travel ban instituted in 1962, often referenced as the Cold War. It's the only country Americans are forbidden to travel to unless approved.
Earlier this month, entertainers Jay-Z and Beyoncé were given a license by the U.S. Treasury Department to travel to Cuba under the provisions of a "cultural exchange." It's where they spent their wedding anniversary. Major outcry by media and political pundits followed because it appeared the couple was on vacation. How dare they take a break and appear to have fun eating, smiling at fans, dancing and meeting regular people, [gasp] non-celebrities!

We must admit, the travel ban and the flak that our hottest hip-hop couple has caught for spending their money traveling to Cuba to celebrate their anniversary has you a little curious and intrigued about Cuba.

Here are three things we are missing out on in this Caribbean paradise.

1. Havana, the capital city, sits on Cuba's northern coastline where the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean meet. From Beaux Arts to Art Deco, the architecture is remarkable. If this were fashion, it'd be fitting to say the modern and vintage pieces complement each other well.

2.  Santiago de Cuba is the most African city on the island. So, it should not surprise you that it's a music hotbed. It's the home of Carnival in July. Mountainous, Santiago is where Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara launched his movement in the 1956, known as the July 26 Movement.

3. Meeting activist Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army who has been in exile since 1984. An activist all her life, she refused to be tortured and not granted her right to be free from "cruel and unusual punishment." She escaped the oppression at the American prison, Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey, and today there is a $1 million bounty on her head and the FBI has her classified as a "domestic terrorist."

Bahia Beach Puerto Rico: The St. Regis

The St. Regis Bahia Beach Puerto Rico has to be one of the best direct destinations to luxurious trappings that deliver day in and day out during your entire stay. The St. Regis Bahia Beach Puerto Rico has a caliber of service that denotes a noble and aristocratic approach to guests delivering royal service. It distinguishes itself by the careful training that obviously each staff member has received to deliver impeccable service. The total immersion of quality and value exudes from the front desk and bellman to the servers at the property’s restaurants. Excellent service, continuity of the landscape and texture of the experience are ratified by the idea of dreamland and memorable experiences. Two to four days is the perfect getaway time for achieving peace under rejuvenation. The entire St. Regis Bahia Beach Puerto Rico resort compound’s offerings require no need to leave the facility during such a short stay due to the many options like golf and kayaking found on the 483 acres fantasylands.

The grounds of the St. Regis Bahia Beach are phenomenal. The meals delivered poolside give you a feeling of Hollywood. Every aspect of dining measures up, in service and the preparation, of a luxurious resort. The Starwood property highlights the value of being a member by affording you upgrades based on your membership. If you are able to go to such a special destination, be sure to pack adventure clothing and swim gear. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway that gives you and your loved one beautiful memory with the absence of noise, but the presence of serenity and tranquility, the St. Regis Bahia Beach Puerto Rico is just that destination.

5 Islands of Africa

Cape Verde

When we think of traveling to Africa, the first activities that top our itineraries involve safaris in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa; visiting the Sphinx and the Great Pyramids at Giza in Egypt and for shopaholics like myself, the Marrakesh Bazaar, a bustling Moroccan marketplace. There's an allure of Africa, much like the Caribbean, that many never think to consider – the breathtaking islands of Africa: Zanzibar, Mauritius, Madagascar, Cape Verde and Sao Tomé.

“Over the Islands of Africa” is a stunning five-part documentary series that "unveils the spectacular beauty of five islands around Africa as seen by renowned photographers" by Filmquadrat.dok.

Check out their photographs and Hobnob's perspective on why you should visit. –yvette caslin


An island paradise in the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar is located about 25 miles off the Tanzanian coast. An archipelago, it's comprised of Zanzibar and Pemba Islands, and several islets and has more than 25 brilliant white beaches lapped by turquoise waters. Referenced as Unguja by locals, Zanzibar's cultural heart is Stone Town which boasts of a fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways, bustling bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses. Don't expect to see any lions or elephants here. The forest is inhabited by monkeys, bush-pigs and small antelopes. The official languages of Zanzibar are Kiswahili and English and is a melting pot of African, Indian and Arab influences.


Mauritius is a tropical paradise located in the Indian Ocean believed to be the wealthiest African destination. It's capital is Port Luis. Attractive resort areas include the charming village of Mont Choisy, the romantic Trou-aux-Biches and the seaside village Flic en Flac, which is popular with scuba divers. Rivière Noire (Black River) is ideal for those looking for great deep-sea fishing. It has a reputation for its racial harmony among its mixed population of Asians, Europeans and Africans. The official language is English.


Home to some of the rarest mammals (such as the ring-tailed lemurs), birds and plants on earth, Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island offering one-of-a-kind off-road driving. Having more than 3,000 miles of coastlines and home to 250 islands, Madagascar is almost as big as Texas. It's a diver's dream with the underwater cathedrals and shipwrecks. The national park only allows 100 visitors per year. They are the world's leading exporter and producer of Vanilla. The official languages of Madagascar are Malagasy and French. Madagascar lies in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa opposite Mozambique.

Cidade Velha, or simply Cidadi in Cape Verdean Creole, is the oldest settlement and the capital of Cape Verde.

Cape Verde

An archipelago that extends into the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Verde's inhabitants are of mixed Portuguese and African ancestry. It's made up of 10 islands and 5 islets, most are mountainous, with the exception of three. Fogo has an active volcano. Cape Verde has a rich marine life which attracts loggerhead turtles and humpback whales. The official language of the islands is Portuguese. 

São Tomé

São Tomé (and Principe) is a Portuguese-speaking island nation nestled on the Equator, off the western coast of Central Africa (in the Gulf of Guinea). It produces some of the world's best coffee and one of its main tourist attractions is its local chocolate factories like Corallo Chocolates where you witness how the owner Claudio Corallo transforms the cacao beans into the purest form of chocolate.

Top Executive MBA programs with campuses in warm climates

Take a break from cold weather to earn your MBA. The top business schools have satellite campuses in warm weather destinations. If you thought about getting your Executive MBA and had a particular b-school in mind and the biggest turn off was cold weather, now's the time to rethink your education plan. You can get your education and vacation all in one, edu-vacation.

Wharton's San Francisco campus is in the historic Hills Brothers Coffee building on the Embarcadero

San Francisco

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has a Bay Area campus, tapping into Silicon Valley. With the renovation that doubled the size of its Executive MBA program in 2011, the school boasts high tech, amphitheater-style classrooms with HD video capabilities. What else beats the amazing views of the San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge?

The Rodeo Drive landmark Beverly Wilshire Hotel sits in the heart of Beverly Hills. Photo Credit: The Beverly Wilshire

Los Angeles

The University of Michigan Ross School of Business is now holding classes at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, once-a-month. The Executive MBA programs focuses on strategy and leadership. Average temperature in Los Angeles is 75 degrees.

Miami (Coral Gables, Fla.)

Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management has a campus in Miami. The 2-year program hosts up to 40 students who travel to partner schools abroad for four live-in weeks. The students have the benefit of stadium-style oval classrooms and an alumni center, as well as South Beach in driving distance.

Top 10 must-see locales

Where in the world appeals to the traveler in you?

As we begin to see and live Martin Luther King’s dream, African Americans are finding ourselves experiencing more of what this world has to offer. We are achieving and excelling in the workplace. Executive positions in glass towers now belong to many of us. As a matter of fact, many of the glass towers belong to us. We have more disposable income and we’re spending it enjoying the world. As you plot your course of go-to spots, be sure to include these on your list (but in no particular order):

Paris: As we’ve moved up in the social rankings, African Americans have developed a taste for the finer things. One area of particular interest is fine dining. And what better place than the birthplace of fine French cuisine?

New York: No introduction necessary. It's the center of world finance, but also the hottest social scene on the planet and home to the famous Hamptons!

Washington D.C.: New York may the financial center, but D.C. is the center of power – period. What you’ll really want to see here is the extensive selection of national monuments, including MLK, national museums and soon to be added to the list: The African American Heritage and Culture Museum at the Smithsonian.

Rio de Janeiro: We’ve all seen the giant statue of Christ with his arms out-stretched, but most don’t actually know that it’s in RIO, just moments away from some of the most pristine beaches in the world.

Las Vegas: Bringing our list back stateside, Vegas hardly needs an explanation. It is the hub of live entertainment in its many forms – from magic to major stage shows.

Montreal, Quebec: If you can’t take out the time you’d really like to jump way over the pond and visit Paris, then this is the next best thing. Montreal is predominantly French-speaking, being that it’s in Canada you may actually find it more refreshing and friendly than Paris itself.

Dubai: If you want to see what extreme wealth can build, Dubai has to make it onto your list. Dubai rose from the sands of the UAE (short for United Arab Emirates), and is now a world-renowned destination by the sea, with a man-made island that can be seen from space.

London: Famous as the seat of the British Monarchy and Parliament, London should not be missed, aside from its history and structures that most have only seen in movies and television, London is perfect for pub-crawling

Beijing, China: Beijing is on the list simply because it’s a good idea to experience the diversity of a culture that is perceived to be entirely different from ours. It’s likely that you’ll discover, in reality, we are more alike than different.

Last, but certainly not least is...

Israel: For many of us, though it is most-always embroiled in controversy, the Holy Land carries special significance as the birthplace of Christianity.

mark anderson