Together We Can Change the World

Merze Tate Explorers
Posted September 16, 2019 from United States
West Meets East: African American Girls Explore the World
The Explorers were part of a sister-city delegation to Numazu, Japan from their hometown in Kalamazoo, Michigan. During an annual fireworks celebration the girls wore traditional Japanese kimonos. See the annual Girls Can! Magazine, girl-produced videos, and more at: https://www.merzetate.org

At first I was hurt, then angry, then just disappointed. The women's snide remark shocked my 8th grade student during our annual fundraiser to study abroad. "I work every day and I haven't been to Europe," she said. The woman admitted she gave to organizations that "helped" people, not for girls to travel.  After she left our gift-wrapping booth, I explained to the girls that comments like those keep me motivated to do what I started 11 years ago; to provide opportunities for girls to see their full potential and use it to give back to their community and world. 

As the founder of the Merze Tate Explorers, girls serve as travel writers on journeys to meet phenomenal women in fields from entertainment to corporate industry. Girls in grades 4th-12th have interviewed those such as Ruth Carter, first African American to win an Oscar in Costume Design for the movie, "Black Panther." They have interviewed Mae Jemison, first African American female astronaut. The Explorers have interviewed Margot Lee Shetterly, author who uncovered the amazing story of the women in the book, "Hidden Figures," and many others with the goal of planting seeds in them that will sprout into fulfilled dreams...dreams our organization helps to water through opportunities these inner-city girls may otherwise have never had a chance to experience.

It was more than 11 years ago that I learned of a woman named Merze Tate who had since passed away. But, her legacy of being an African American woman who traveled the world twice, was a Fulbright Scholar in India, wrote books on international politics, was a history professor at Howard University, the first African American graduate of Oxford University, and on, and on...astounded me. Even more interesting was that upon her graduating top of her class at Western Michigan University in 1927, Jim Crow laws prevented her from teaching high school in her own state. This led her to move to Indianapolis, Indiana to teach history at segregated high school. It was there she started a Travel Club and soon sponsored trips to Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, and Niagara Falls for nearly 40 students at a time! 

One of the articles in her scrapbook near the photo of her Travel Club stated, "Should Colored Kids Travel?" The white-owned newspaper doubted the children of maids and chauffeurs could behave properly on such a journey let alone benefit from it in their futures. Well, because of Tate, many of those students went on to become Tuskegee Airmen, doctors, teachers, and world travelers!  For years these girls and their parents assumed the Explorers' organization was my job. They felt I received a paycheck for what was more than a full-time job. But, I have never received a paycheck. I am not a millionaire or wife of one. I have taken girls around the world, exposed them to college life, taught them media skills that would help in any career path they choose, but my family and I live in a small apartment with not much savings. However, God has opened the hearts of people in the community who know me as a journalist and community volunteer to provide opportunities for these girls that still baffle my mind.

Today, Explorer alumna also have been Fulbright Scholars, teachers, photographers, leaders of nonprofit organizations, and yes, world travelers. I shutter to think what our world would be like if girls didn't have strong women in their lives who saw beyond their own limitations to provide fuel their fire to be all that God has created them to become. Despite many naysayers, our Explorers have traveled to Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and aspire to visit all seven continents together. They don't have to wait until they are retired or rich to travel the world. Their experiences in other countries bring history to life. Their experiences allow them to go back to their families, schools, and communities to share what they know about Hiroshima, Pearl Harbor, the annexation of Hawaii, and other issues some only learn from a U.S. history book. 

In the meantime, they still become amazing women who will be the shoulders the next generation will climb upon. Should Colored Kids Travel? Why not? Why not allow them the opportunity to see their place in this world and learn that they have so much to learn...and to offer. Why not allow them to realize careers in the international arena, careers that solve international crisis, that create better global understanding?

That's why I do what I do for girls! 

 

This story was submitted in response to GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable.

Comments 25

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Anita Shrestha
Sep 16
Sep 16

Dear Merze
Thank you for sharing nice story of amazing women. Keep it continue. we are ready to heard more story again and again.

Merze Tate Explorers

Anita,
Thank you! I will continue to share our stories and read more inspiring ones from those like you.
Take care,
Sonya

Tumanjong Miranda
Sep 16
Sep 16

OMG! Thank you for sharing this powerful story Merze. It's always a pleasure getting stories about powerful women.

Merze Tate Explorers

Tumanjong,

Thank you for your reply! Merze is amazing and I feel every women has the potential she had to live a life without excuses!
Take care,
Sonya

Tumanjong Miranda
Sep 19
Sep 19

You're welcome. Hope you are doing ok? :-)

Lisbeth
Sep 16
Sep 16

Hi dear,
Welcome to World pulse. We are happy to receive you here :-).
Thank you for sharing your inspiration with us.
Have a great day.

Merze Tate Explorers

Hello Lisbeth!
Thanks for welcoming me into this amazing platform. I can't wait to glean from all of you amazing women around the world!

Lisbeth
Sep 19
Sep 19

You are most welcome. Yeah, we are real sisters all over the world. How amazing :-)
Have a great day.

ANJ ANA
Sep 17
Sep 17

What an amazing sharing. Of course, each and every kid deserves to travel. none should be deprived based on race and colour. Hats off to your personal effort and I hope likeminded heart will join your effort too. all my best wishes to you my dear Merze.
best regards, anjana

Merze Tate Explorers

Thank you so much!

Sonya

Samanthah
Sep 17
Sep 17

thank you for sharing... May you keep doing the good work... may you triple energized so that you do more and more

Merze Tate Explorers

Thank you! I appreciate your message and hope you go to learn more about what we do at https://www.merzetate.org.

Take care!
Sonya

esther atosha
Sep 17
Sep 17

hello MERZE ,
welcome to poldpulse , thank you for making dreams come trough ,keep it up dear.
i look forward to learn more from you

Jill Langhus
Sep 18
Sep 18

Hi there,

Welcome to World Pulse:-) Thanks for sharing your inspiring first story and telling us about your organization. I'm looking forward to seeing more stories from you and learning more about your organization, too.

Hope you have a great, rest of the week!

Merze Tate Explorers

Jill,
Thank you for welcoming me into this amazing community of international women leaders! I've been waiting for something like this and am so glad one of my board members shared this with me. I hope to continue sharing what our girls do and learn ways we can have more interaction with girls around the world through this platform!
Take care,
Sonya

Jill Langhus
Sep 20
Sep 20

Hi Sonya:-)

You're very welcome! Glad to hear it. Synchronicity is amazing!

Looking forward to it!

Hope you have a great weekend:-)

Hello, sister,

Kudos to you for owning that vision that colored girls should travel. Congratulations to your explorers for achieving so much. Wow, Fullbright scholars! Hats off, dear! You did well.

Ohhh, I wish I were part of your explorers when I read your post. I do want to explore the world, too. Welcome to World Pulse, dear. I consider this place its own university where each World Pulse sister is the "professor" of her life and her country. There is so much to learn here, too. It feels like I've visited their villages, too, when I read their stories.

It is our pleasure to welcome you here. Hope you can also invite you, explorers, to join our growing family of empowered girls ad women. :)

Merze Tate Explorers

Karen,
Thank you for those kind words. It is truly a labor of love and God who has made these past 11 years a joy. My desire to see girls live to their fullest potential keeps me going each day. We will continue to share what we learn and in turn seek out to learn from our international sisters like you.
Take care and keep in touch,

Sonya

Wow, 11 years! Amazing grace.

Your dream is so pure and beautiful. I’m glad you’re training these women. They will spread kindness and beauty to women in this world because of your example.

Yes, please keep sharing! Hope you form connections here, too.

Hugs!

Tamarack Verrall
Sep 19
Sep 19

Dear Sonia,
What a fabulous dream built in part from such an ignorant moment. The mix of journalism, travel and documenting the stories of women who have achieved great things, women whose achievements have been largely hidden, is a tremendous project, especially as you draw out the journalist in these girls. I checked out your site, and also GirlsCan, glad to see it is available in Canada, I have a grand niece that age. So much of this movement is built by volunteers. You are one of the Greats. A big welcome to World Pulse!

Merze Tate Explorers

Tamarack,

Thanks so much for your encouraging words and for checking out our website. The girls are amazing and will be glad to know that we have friends like you around the world who are pushing for their success. We visited Ontario in 2015 and the girls loved it.

Maybe one day we can meet during our next visit to Canada! I will keep you posted...and maybe we can meet your grand niece as well!

Take care,
Sonya

Tamarack Verrall
Sep 20
Sep 20

Let me know if you ever plan to come to Montreal! I have a grand niece in high school and one in elementary school. And I teach English to adults who have just arrived. So lots of possibilities.
All the best with your wonderful work,
Tam

Merze Tate Explorers

I will let you know when we head that way! I will be in touch!

Sonya

Juliet Acom
Sep 23
Sep 23

Hello Merze,

Thank you for sharing this experience with us! Congratulations upon this inaugural story contribution. I admire your determination for building confidence in the girls in your community. Keep doing what you are doing!

Wishing you all the best

Merze Tate Explorers

Juliet,
Thank you for those kind words. I admire what you are doing in your work as well. One of my good friends is having a very hard time with his 26-year-old son here who has sickle cell. He had been in a coma-state for a few weeks but seems to be getting better. Thanks for what you do to help those with this disease.
Sonya