Photos

Travel Diary: Karen Mitchell Explores Havana With Cuban Friends

In our second June travel diary entry, Karen Mitchell takes us to her favorite spots in Havana, Cuba.

Havana—June is “No Borders” month at OkayAfrica. That can mean a lot of things and we’ll get to that, but one thing we wouldn’t want to miss out on is the sheer joy of travel. So, to honor the carefree black traveler we’ll be posting new photo diaries from a wide range of African and diaspora super-travelers of their favorite places and why.


Our second diary entry—see the first here— is from the hair care expert Karen Mitchell, owner of the True Indian hair franchise. The Jamaican born entrepreneur has spent over a decade in the haircare industry. Beginning as a licensed cosmetologist, license honed her skills in salons from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Her experience as a stylist introduced her to her true passion: connecting image-conscious career women with easy-to-care for luxury extensions.

Mitchell’s dedication to this mission has propelled True Indian Hair to the forefront of the industry. Today Mitchell counts trend setting celebrities such as Taraji P. Henson, Ciara, Kelly Rowland, Rihanna, and Serena Williams among her devoted clientele. As a result, leading publications like ESSENCE, Black Enterprise and The YBF have all leaned on Mitchell’s expertise for stories as well as profiled her rise as one of the few African-American entrepreneurs in her industry.

Since it’s inception, the demand for Mitchell’s product has seen the expansion of True Indian Hair from it’s flagship Brooklyn boutique to Midtown Manhattan and Atlanta locations.

Mitchell is currently at work on expanding her franchise to Los Angeles and West Africa in the coming year. Check out her site here. Below, Mitchell tells us about some of her favorite moments from her trip to Cuba.

Roof top dining with friends at Havana's Hotel Inglaterra

Photos courtesy of Karen Mitchell

Photo courtesy of Karen Mitchell

This historic hotel has a prime location facing Central Park and very near the Capitolio, which means it’s perfectly situated for exploring the old town. Three cozy seating areas ensure optimum lounging and the roof terrace is legendary.

Visiting San Pedro de la Roca Castle in Santiago de Cuba

Photo courtesy of Karen Mitchell

Photo courtesy of Karen Mitchell

The large fort was built to defend the important port of Santiago de Cuba. The design of the fortification was based on Italian and Renaissance architecture. The complex is one of the most complete and well-preserved Spanish-American defense fortifications.

Taking a classic car tour in Havana

Photo courtesy of Karen Mitchell

Havana is known for its classic cars dating from before the American embargo. While parts can be hard to find, the cars are kept in top shape through a mix of Cuban ingenuity and care. Classic car tours are a great way to see the city in style.

 

Photo courtesy of Karen Mitchell

Music

6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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