Here at Black & Abroad, we work to ensure that our mission concedes simple brand recognition.
Often along the way, we encounter other like-minded individuals that have successfully mastered the space beyond their anticipated approach to empower the diaspora.
These are the influencers, visionaries, and tastemakers that have managed to successfully employ their own blueprints to create a better world for us tomorrow.
Throughout this series, we will present to you a hand-picked line-up of black-owned & operated brands and individuals that deserve your consideration.
That deserve your support.
That deserve your attention.
Welcome to the Black & Abroad Conversation Series.
Web executive. Millennial. Photographer. Traveler. Just a few of the many hats worn by Mark Clennon. Originally from Pensacola, Florida, the USF graduate took the proverbial leap of faith in 2011 through a move to NYC that would later catapult him to destinations far beyond anywhere that he could have ever imagined for himself. In early 2016, Mark immersed himself into the world of photography after being gifted a modest camera a few years earlier. Fast forward to today, and through his company, Urbn Fresh, he has grown his client base to include the likes of Essence, Huffington Post, Travel Noire, Revolt, and Global Grind to name a few. We recently sat down with him to discuss how his love for travel plays into his personal growth & creativity. Check out the interview below:
Welcome to Black & Abroad Conversations! Tell us about yourself.
I’m Mark Clennon, an NYC based photographer and internet Account Executive. After I graduated college at the University of South Florida, I took a job in Sarasota, Florida while also throwing parties in Tampa to generate additional revenue. After almost a year, I really wanted more out of life and take my chances in NYC. I quit my job on a Monday and was in NYC the same week. In 2014, I was gifted a Canon Rebel T5i and it sat on my desk, virtually unused, for more than a year. Eventually I started carrying my camera around again in 2016 and taking photography more seriously. Since then I've had an opportunity to work with so many amazing people in the creative space.
What are your main reasons for travel?
I’m naturally curious and want to learn about the ways people live. I like finding the similarities between cultures and the ways that technology shapes people’s lives in other countries. Most importantly, I travel because it’s important for me to gain inspiration from new environments. With distance comes perspective. Long journeys spark the internal reflection to examine my place in this world.
How has your career opened doors for your travel experiences?
I like to say that with distance, comes perspective. It was travel that allowed me to take a break from my day to day grind. In that state of discovery and reflection, I was able to identify my passion for photography and pursue it much more seriously. That being said, I can credit travel with opening doors for me in my budding photography career.
When and where was your first trip abroad? What countries have you been to since?
My first trip outside of North America was in 2008. I spent a few weeks in Thessaloniki, Greece. Since then I’ve been all over Italy, Peru, Mexico, Paris, London, Abu Dhabi, Kenya, Hong Kong, Macau along with a few Caribbean Islands. Most recently, I traveled to Cuba.
With today’s social and political climate, how has venturing abroad altered your worldview?
When I was in Greece in 2008, I had conversations with the locals about the Democratic primary between Barack and Hillary, I thought it was amazing that people in Greece were so well informed about a primary election.
At a restaurant in Paris, I had a conversation with some South African natives about the United States political climate. It was interesting to hear an international perspective on what is happening in the US. I look forward to the opportunity to have similar conversations and offer my unique perspective as a Black American. Since my time in Greece, I’ve made an effort to become a global citizen, making sure I’m aware of issues that affect the millions of people that aren’t living on American soil.
Have you ever been subjected to certain stereotypes while traveling?
The Venetian Hotel and Casino in Macau ID’d the black people at the door claiming it was for "security reasons." We left and went to another casino.
In Greece, I was greeted with a “what’s up my nigga” by a group of teens at a basketball court. I didn't take offense to it, because I’m aware of how America packages the black image for consumption. I simply told them not to call me that and after a few hours of basketball and talking, about the differences in our cultures, I believe that I broke down some stereotypes.
What have your travels taught you about yourself?
I wouldn't say that buying a ticket and traveling somewhere makes you a better person - but stepping out of your comfort zone does.
I've learned through travel that there isn't a singular revelation that’ll give you the answers you're looking for. But one thing is for certain: overcoming challenges and stretching your comfort zone helps to you grow as a person. Period. Traveling will challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone.
What is the greatest piece of advice that you can give someone looking to travel for the first time?
Stop playing and book that flight. You’ve never been wiser and you’ll never be younger than you are at this very moment.
Where can we find you online?
Photos on Instagram: @mark.c
Thoughts on Twitter: @thisismarkc
When was the last time you took a leap of faith that landed you beyond your expectations? Let us know in the comments!