Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My English Journey

A photo of myself holding Eliza: A Generational Journey
​at the University of Oxford. Photo Courtesy: Dr. Mary Klayder

When I first traveled internationally to Costa Rica in 2014, I told myself to savor the moment. Because my checkbook wouldn’t be ready to handle another big trip for a while.

At least that’s what I had told myself.

But once I got a taste of traveling, I didn’t want to stop.

In January of this year, I found myself in Africa.

And then this March, England.


I couldn’t help but watch the digital map on my screen as the airplane roared and the little plane on the screen inched closer and closer to Europe. Towards the bottom of the screen was Morocco and I couldn’t help but feel awe as I came to the realization of, “Wow. I was just in Morocco literally a month ago.”

Crystal, the world traveler.

Thought I would never be able to say that.

England was more than I ever could have imagined. My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to blend in. That I would stick out as a sore thumb among white, British people. But as Mary Klayder and several of my other professors assured me, I found that I had no trouble blending in at all with the many Indian, Moroccan, Spanish and black immigrants. Also, I saw many more interracial couples strolling down the sidewalks than I have ever seen in the United States. Truth be told, Brixton, an English Caribbean, Jamaican, and South African city, was the only place that I found myself stared at. I suppose that the reason was my light skin and eyes, clearly marking me as a foreigner when everyone else had beautiful, dark skin. I couldn’t help but think that this was what my ancestors looked like before they were brought to the U.S.

Besides Brixton, I also had the opportunity to travel to Kensington, Westminster, London, and Oxford. All the while, I carried my personal copy of my novel Eliza: A Generational Journey with me everywhere I went. I could feel my great, great, great, great Grandma Eliza’s spirit guiding me, peeking curiously at the historical sites, people, and food. Though she died in 1913, way before my parents and I were born, I could sense that she had always wanted to travel the world and see what else was out there… And now, she could do so in spirit with her x4 great granddaughter.

Lancaster House, where many political government meetings take place.
Also where my ancestor, Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw, the first premier
and national hero of St. Kitts/Nevis, came for independent talks with the British.

I took Grandma Eliza with me to Westminster, where we stood outside of the Lancaster House. This was where Robert Lewelleyn Bradshaw, my relative, first premier, and national hero of St. Kitts and Nevis had traveled to for independent talks and the formation of the West Indies Federation. Maybe, I told myself as I stood outside the gates, someday I will be able to walk into Lancaster and stand in the same room he had. Or perhaps get a plaque placed outside stating he had been here. Maybe someday, I will. I had realized that England had treasures upon treasures worth of history. But it is still amazing to realize that the Bradshaw’s, my family, was part of that history too.

Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, England.

I already look forward to the adventures that the rest of the year will bring. Next month, I will already be in Kentucky, retracing the journey that Grandma Eliza and her family had taken in 1879 from Kentucky to Jetmore, Kansas. This year marks the 137th anniversary of their migration to Jetmore and I am looking forward to the historical journey back.

 And, of course, Grandma Eliza will be with me too.

[By Crystal Bradshaw]

 Crystal is a junior at the University of Kansas majoring in English. She is the recent author of Eliza: A Generational Journey, a novel that is based on the life of her great (x5) grandmother's move to Kansas as part of the Exoduster movement of the 1870s.

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