Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Meet Julia Browne!

Julia Brown, CEO of Walking the Spirit Tours 
(Credit: Tourism Office Paris, France/Amelie DuPont)
Anthro21 is grateful for this interview opportunity.  Julia Browne is a highly respected and sought after celebrity tour guide.  She is also a global entrepreneur and ethnic marketing leader.  Julia has created a world-class tourism company that tours Paris and other locations.  She has been interviewed by leading media the world over for her success and today we interview her to honor her work.   

Her tours  give visitors the opportunity to 'walk in the footsteps' of names such as Josephine Baker, Richard Wright, James Baldwin and many more.

Congratulations on your success! Your work has earned you top interviews with CNN and the New York Times. Please tell us, what was the first tour like for you?

"My first tour was really just walking my Paris friends around the major sites in the Latin Quarter/St.Germain des Pres district.  I'd been working from the research done by my mentor, the late Professor Michel Fabre, plus additional material I'd learned myself in the library of the Georges Pompidou Centre Library. Week after week, I'd tell my friends about the amazing discoveries I'd made so finally they asked me to show them. One of my very first professional tours, in 1994, was for a visiting editor of Essence magazine. There I was glancing at my cue cards where I'd written the key points, trying to impress and entertain her. She was very cool and knew a thing or two herself.  The tour turned out more like a conversation."

Credit: Walking in the Spirit Tours
For those who do not know, where were you born?  What lead you to France?  

"I was born in Leeds England, and my family immigrated to Canada in the 60's.  Even young, I was the restless type.  I devoured books and was curious about the rest of the world.  In school, we had to take French and I got totally hooked on it to the point of having a pen-pal from the Brittany region of France.  After studying tourism in college, I got a job as a flight attendant and got sent to Paris several times--poor me!  Believe it or not,  I didn't really like it at first. I found the people cold and unfriendly.  But I loved French cinema and literature.  Through lots of books and movies I got a real glimpse and understanding of the cultural differences." 

Your business is seen as promoting African American history in Paris, France. In your own words please tell us how you see it.  

"Yes, in the large sense I promote African American history in Paris. What my goal has been is to encourage people of all ages to understand what it's been like to be Black outside of their own country and experience.  It's a real eye-and-spirit-opener to see, feel, know that your culture is valued well beyond what they make you believe back home. 

Credit: Walking in the Spirit Tours
Bigger than that, I want people to see themselves in the larger world, re-evaluate what they know of themselves, expand into what they can be – just like the expatriates did in an environment that took away the obstacle of race.  The history I share is something like a role model.   

The African American experience abroad is different from, yet part of, the Diaspora one. We're connected to each other even if sometimes we have to search for the common points.  You have the opportunity to explore that in Paris because it's the meeting place for Blacks from everywhere."

Do you see yourself as creating new and better opportunities for women in the tourism industry?

"I have had more women tour guides than male but not because I've consciously been seeking out women. Women dominate that area of tourism just as they do in travel agencies and tourism management.  That's been the case in the interns who have sought out work with me. Where I feel I create new and better opportunities is providing whomever wants to get a sense of serving the community interests through working for a Black-owned business, and most importantly, sharing the heritage knowledge and pride; like sowing seeds.  I also hope that working with me gives people a sense of global connectivity."

Do American politics affect your business?

"It has, yes. It affects the way people in the streets react to our groups when we are on tour. The French love to debate and if the politics are particularly scintillating, you can expect them to ask questions.  When Obama won the election, people would smile at us (not so common for the French), we could tell they were conscious of having Americans among them."

What is your most popular tourism theme?

"Josephine Baker is the number 1 requested theme. The writers was the most popular themed tour – because their output was the most recognized and taught, alongside the music but now the African district coupled with the 1920's & 30's period is popular. There's a desire to explore beyond the American story and learn more and engage with the Diaspora – whether in cuisine, music or social activities."

What new things can we expect from Walking the Spirit Tours in 2017?

"First, we'll be taking the film 'Paris Noir-African Americans in the City of Light' on the road in the U.S. and Canada. It will be great to meet people interested in the history and contemporary story.  I am introducing scheduled departure for many of our themed packages – we have an exclusive Afro-focused D-Day excursion in Normandy, a very touching WW I and the Harlem Hell-fighters soldiers/jazz band in Eastern France, our Josephine Baker chateau tour to the south. We're also expanding our offerings of "Black heritage + Local Delights" in Canada;Toronto, Montreal and Nova Scotia."

Finally, please share a word of advice to future global entrepreneurs who want to learn more from you.

"Learn a second language – even if it's just the basics.  Take a class in cross cultural communications. Read a couple of books that take place in your destination country or if the place publishes a newspaper in English, read it regularly before departure so you have an idea of the concerns and priorities of the society."

To join Julia Brown on one of her famous tours visit her online: www.walkthespirit.com.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Anthropology and marketing? part 1

Photo Credit: Harvard Business Review
Anthropologists have been used to produce marketing campaigns for many years.  This is news for some.  Why is this so?  The reason is that anthropologists study culture so they are valuable to helping businesses understand the culture of the consumer. Knowing the culture of the group you are selling to is key to staying in business.  This is true not only for ethnic groups, but other groups like teenagers, seniors, women and college students.  Many groups are often misunderstood and marketing campaigns fail because the advertiser failed to understand their culture.  

By culture let's use the words: entertainment, values or interests.  Let's go further and ask questions like: what does you 'target market' group do for fun?  What do they believe in spiritually?  What books or newspapers or websites do they read most?  What are their favorite foods?  How do most of them earn their income (money)?  These questions help you in reaching your group better.  Without knowing the answers to these questions you lose valuable time and opportunities.

In March 2014 Harvard Business Review produced a wonderful article written by Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen titled "An Anthropologist Walks into a Bar..."  The sub-title is: To understand what makes your customers tick, you have to observe them in their natural habitats. This article highlighted the importance of anthropologists to the marketing world and also the work they have done.  

In the article a European beer company wanted to understand how their sales dropped. So they hired anthropologists to visit bars in European countries where their beer was sold.  They did this after frustration using traditional marketing research.  The observations produced information that resulted in a better marketing campaign.  The list of major corporations seeking the help of anthropologists is growing. Some of the names mentioned in the article were Lego and IBM. 

The article goes on to say:

"MOST PEOPLE in business associate the human sciences—anthropology, sociology, political science, and philosophy—with academia, and for good reason. The work of scholars in these fields is notoriously difficult to understand, and the insights they offer often seem to have little practical relevance in business.  But that is changing rapidly."

We look forward to you and your company also joining that list and making that choice. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Lesson in Re-Branding

Photo Credit: The Fred Rogers Company
Photo Credit: WHUR TV
Although it is rarely seen as a natural cosmic law the law of the 'remix' is real and works for both new and old brands.  Remixing works for companies and individuals seeking to launch, grow, change and improve their brand or image.  Remixing is a way of thinking as well as a way of doing.  It is best understood by those that understand the culture of their audience.  Most important, you must know your audience!

To understand its origins we must go to Sean "Diddy" Combs.  In May 2014 Mr. Combs seen in the photo below (also known as Puff Daddy, and P. Diddy) received an honorary doctorate degree from Howard University.  His speech was admired by onlookers worldwide.   Mr. Combs, now Dr. Sean Combs, will be remembered for many great accomplishments.  He is a dancer, actor, music producer, brand builder for Ciroc vodka, and REVOLT TV.  He has also been seen in numerous music videos, several major movies, and even Broadway plays.  However, one of his most memorable accomplishments was the 2002 album We Invented the Remix.  The album reached the top of the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart for a week and was later certified platinum for over 1 million copies shipped.  That feat made the word 'remix' a household word.

Remixing is often defined as telling your own story using new lyrics over the music of an older tune/song, the new and old are blended to tell a new story.  Now almost every artist has a remix song or songs, and uses the remix method as a natural progression, or right of passage if you will, towards gaining their success.  Remixing revived songs that were heard long ago combined old artists with new artists.  It also allowed new musicians to be seen as successful as the older established artists and to receive some of the attention that the older musician once did.

If you were born in the early 1970s you probably are familiar with the children's television show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.  It is documented that 8% (eight percent) of US households tuned into this show on PBS at its peak in the early 1980s.  The show was the creation of Fred Rogers.  Mr. Rogers was a composer, a Presbyterian minister, an educator and believed in an honest approach to television for children.  Fred Rogers died in 2003.

Then in 2012, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood was launched.  Daniel Tiger is none other than the animated version of Mr. Rogers; Mr. Roger's Neighborhood is now Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.  Mr. Roger's theme song was remixed to bring us the theme song for Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.  Again this was a combination of new lyrics to an old tune.  If you are between the ages of one and five-years old at the writing of this blog article then you are probably a fan of Daniel Tiger.  Reports by Google Analytics by 2015 show Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood received 45 million video streams on all digital platforms making it the number two show within the PBS KIDS network.

Although it is rarely seen as a natural cosmic law, the law of the 'remix' has elevated both Sean "Diddy" Combs and Fred Rogers to super-stardom.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Going All-City

In 2013, this painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat (on left), called "Mecca"
was purchased by Jay-Z (on right).  [Photo Source: Unlisted]
During the 1970s graffiti began to consume New York City.  It was also an expression of hip-hop culture and crossed ethnic boundaries as graffiti writers came from all walks of life, languages, incomes, ages and cultures.  In the graffiti community there were two types of people; the writer and the tagger.  Writers saw themselves as passionate, committed to the culture and true artists, and taggers were (ironically) seen as vandals and having no respect for property.  Those spending a fortune repainting walls, buildings and subway cars completely disagreed with all of this.  In time individual graffiti writers became known for their tag; some writers would even write in groups.  Breaking the law, and entering the train yards, tags were put on New York City subway car trains using aerosol spray cans.  The goal  being that as the train traveled throughout the city it would be seen by all; traveling from station to station, and from borough to borough.  This became known as "going all-city."

Going all-city is parallel to a business's branding campaign.  Branding is when a company brands its trademark, service or product name into the minds of the public.  This is done in various ways.  The  motivation is vanity.  Yet the statement is that the brand is the best, the preferred, the one to be desired above all.  Branding campaigns also put into the minds of the public values, such as...saving you time...saving you money...giving you more.  These values make consumers return to that brand time and time again.

However, when branding your company's products or services the first question you must ask is: who is my audience?  Be specific.  Start by defining their age, location, and income. Most important, you must know the culture of your audience...what they like, what they value, what they believe in.  When knowing these things your message will reach your audience immediately.  In a crowd of words, your message steps out and communicates.  Knowing the culture of your audience will also determine if you should advertise on radio, television, or through text messaging.  Knowing the culture of your audience gives you a personal connection, and very soon your brand goes all-city in the minds of the public.

Very few graffiti writers can claim all-city fame on the caliber of Jean-Michel Basquiat.  His story is legendary!  Born in Brooklyn, New York Basquiat's art fame began first as a graffiti writer, writing with a group.  Over time his work went from the streets, to galleries and also museums worldwide.  Basquiat died in 1988 at age 27.  In 2013, music mogul Jay-Z, and fellow Brooklynite, purchased a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat for millions of dollars in a Sotheby's auction.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Healing the Land: A Story of Repatriation

(Photo Credit: LittleEthiopia.org)
In January 2014, Anthro21 sponsored a private screening in Washington, DC of the documentary film “Ethiopian Tenacity: The Untold Stories of the Axum Obelisk.” produced by Tadele Butul Kibrat (shown in photo at left) an engineer from Ethiopia who worked in returning the Axum obelisk from Rome, Italy to Axum, Ethiopia. 

In a speech on January 11th  Mr. Kibrat shared “There is no video showing how the ancients erected the Axum obelisk.  Now there is a film that shows how the obelisk left Ethiopia, went to Italy and came back again.”  The film is scheduled to be shown in countries around the world.

Mr. Kibrat graduated from the Chicago Technical College with a B.SC. in Civil and Structural Engineering in 1960 from the United States. He was immediately employed by John Mattson Building Construction Company as resident engineer for the construction of a 25 story building, Wennegren Research Center in Stockholm. He has also worked for Hus Consulting Firm where together with his colleagues has designed the steel structures of the State Bank of Persia (Iran) and the Grand Hotel in Poland. In 1966, he established his own real estate company and other business ventures in Stockholm, which he operated until his return to his homeland in 1986. Engineer Tadele is also an author and philanthropist.

The obelisk, also called a stele, was found fallen on its side by the Fascist Italian forces in 1936 as they entered the city of Axum, Ethiopia.  The obelisk is 1,700 years old, nearly 80-feet high and weighs 160 tons.  The obelisk was originally erected during the 4th century AD.  The monument is also decorated with a false door at its base and what seems like windows above.  It is believed to have been erected in memorial to royalty.  And it is topped with a dome shaped head, unlike the popular pyramid topped obelisks. 

According the Archeological Institute of America: "One of a group of seven obelisks erected at Axum when Ethiopia adopted Christianity under the Emperor Ezana in the mid-fourth century A.D., the 78-foot-tall monument was taken by the occupying Italian army and shipped to Rome in 1937 to celebrate Mussolini's fifteenth year of power. It was erected near the Circus Maximus and stood there until it was dismantled in 2003 following a lightning strike that had damaged the top of the obelisk the year before." (Archeology special report Volume 58, No. 5 July/August 2005)

(Photo credit: LittleEthiopia.org)
The monument was taken by Italy as trophy in their desire to claim Ethiopia as their own.  It was moved from Axum and re-assembled in in Porto Campena in Rome in 1937.  The Ethiopians  fought back again the invasion and were also joined by allies and victory was declared in 1941.  Then in 1947 in the aftermath of WW II, Italy officially agreed in a United Nations agreement to return the stele. 

The film then progresses telling the personal experiences of Mr. Kibrat and his work with local, national, and international organizations to have the monument returned to Axum.  The final return was world news in 2005 and again in 2008 when it was officially re-erected.  

Repatriation of historical artifacts are a very sensitive issue; and growing worldwide.  Many countries around the world are on record regarding these issues.  This film is important because it documents the return of a major ancient masterpiece to an African nation taken during wartime in the 20th century.