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Madison family launches travel company Afro Discoveries; first trip to Africa set for this fall

Goree Island. Photo supplied.

Inspired by their own trips to Africa with children from CEOs of Tomorrow, Roxie Hentz wants to bring the transformational experience she had with her new business Afro Discoveries.

Afro Discoveries, a new business started by Hentz and her children Dailen Harris and Tim Harris, brings a new opportunity to Wisconsin with a trip to experience Africa. After knowing how their own trips to Africa inspired them and later CEOs of Tomorrow, a group that inspires youth in social entrepreneurship to benefit society, the family came together with the hopes of spreading the benefits of visiting the motherland.

The company’s first guided trip will take 15 adults to Senegal and The Gambia from November 18 – December 1, 2024.

“When I launched CEOs of Tomorrow, I wanted to give other children of color, not particularly African Americans, but all children of color an opportunity to travel abroad,” Hentz said. “I saw how transformational that was for the young people.” 

Hentz’s trip with CEOs of Tomorrow took 10 teens to The Gambia between July and August 2023. The teens immersed themselves while in The Gambia to learn more about the culture and entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country.

While not going for teaching youth about the entrepreneurial spirit this time with Afro Discoveries, Hentz still wants to capture the importance of experiencing the culture and, more importantly, feeling accepted.

“We want to give that same thing to other African American people to really go back and reconnect and rediscover our roots,” Hentz said. “To be valued and see yourself show up in every space is rewarding and particularly in The Gambia being constantly told by the Africans, ‘Welcome home, my sister. Welcome home.’”

Harris said her trip to South Africa at 15 years old was a wake-up call for her in realizing how she was taught to look at herself in the United States. Harris, who was born in Milwaukee but went to school in Wauwatosa, was the only and later one of the few students of color in her schools.

The time spent in a country where Black was the default made her feel affirmed and be able to show up as her genuine self in a way that she didn’t feel like she could back home.

“My world, even outside of white America, was very, very white. In addition to that, we know as African American people, we experience the world through a European lens. So that’s what we know, see and understand as it relates to Africa,” Harris said. “It’s often negative and demoralizing.”

Harris and Hentz point to how Africa is often depicted in schools, books and media. For them, trips to Africa have been an eye opening experience where they feel accepted anywhere they go.

“It was the first time I experienced that out in the country. No matter where I am, what I’m doing, I see images of me and they’re positive consistently,” Harris said.

The trip to Africa aims to bring the same experience to African Americans. Travelers will visit The Gambia and Senegal, both places Hentz has experience with, to help give the most culturally comprehensive experience possible.

Dailen Harris. Photo supplied.

Travelers on Afro Discoveries’ trip will also get a chance to see Goree — the last island slaves saw from the ship as they were taken from Africa off the coast of Senegal. The island has been nicknamed “The Door of No Return,” as it marked the final exodus for Africans enslaved.

Hentz and Harris also know that the trip may be the first time for some leaving the country, so the two are working to make sure everyone is prepared to go. Travelers will arrive initially at Senegal, where a visa is not required. The group will then move to The Gambia where a trip visa will be purchased that lasts for five years.

The most expensive portion of the trip will be the flight, Hentz said, based on her experience bringing the CEOs of Tomorrow to The Gambia, but the cost on the rest of the trip is relatively low and all-inclusive in the packages.

The overall cost ranges from $3,299-4,475 based on package. A full breakdown of costs and what each package includes can be found on Afro Discoveries’ website. Payment plans are also available.

Afro Discoveries will hold an information session for those curious about the upcoming trip in November. The session will be held virtually from 7:30-8:15 p.m on May 20.