DIVA: Martha's Vineyard for Black Folks

MARTHA’S VINEYARD – BLACK FOLK’S STYLE

Located just seven miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard is a true summer getaway destination. To get to this affluent island actually takes some doing. (Yes, a ferry can be involved.) But once you land on this magical place, life is so peacefully grand.

We started going there about three or four years ago. My favorite place to stay is the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown. It is super quaint and historic with suites and cottages that we love. And this part of the island is literally pregnant with breath-taking hydrangea bushes and trees.  OMG, they are so beautiful. I promise you the hydrangeas are worth the trip just by themselves. But there’s more to the island than that.

If you haven’t heard, Martha’s Vineyard (MV), specifically an area called Oak Bluffs, has been a destination spot for upwardly mobile black folks since about the 1800s. It was a place where east coast doctors and lawyers and such could get away, network, and relax with one another in peace. This tradition has totally continued ten-fold and amplified once it got out that the Obama’s vacationed on the island. (And BTW, anyone remember the 1990’s movie, The Inkwell with like, every black star – Jada Pinkett Smith, Lorenz Tate, Joe Morgan – in it? It’s about Martha’s Vineyard!)  The first time I witnessed Oak Bluffs I literally felt like I was on a movie set. It was so serene and beautiful to see middle-class black families coming together in this way. Swimming at the beach, getting ice cream, walking casually while chatting, with no place in particular to hurry to, it gave me all kinds of warm fuzzies. The Gingerbread Houses —  318 Victorian Cottages — that are whimsically decorated and also located in Oak Bluffs is a sight for anyone who believes in modern day fairy tales.

 

 

So, Diva. Why should you go to Martha’s Vineyard? If you want to relax, MV may not be the place per se — especially during certain times of the summer because, honey, this place is lit! There is an insane social scene that will have you rubbing elbows with the Who’s Who of corporate, entertainment, financial, and philanthropic and HBCU’s elite into the wee night hours. BET often holds a women’s luncheon. Julieanna Richardson, founder of HistoryMakers holds a fundraising event and conducts precious historical interviews here. And then there’s the annual invitation-only Christal M. Jackson’s Head and Heart Philanthropy Summit, to which I am often invited to attend as a speaker.  The summit brings together thought leaders, nonprofit practitioners, executives, and social impact investors to discuss and collaborate for greater impact around some of the major issues facing communities of color. There are also too many to name private events held in private homes around the island. Many of these events are held during the week of the annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival (Aug 6 – 11, 2018), for example, or the first two weeks of August.

To get the “in” and not be left out, start your networking before you arrive. (This includes booking a home. This should be done a year in advance, really.) PLEASE don’t base your reservations exclusively on online photos!! We stayed in one place where the shower curtain was so mildewed and the tub so stained with previous filth that every morning I placed the bathroom rug inside the tub and refused to pull the shower curtain shut. I stood on the wool rug while I showered, and let the water spray across the bathroom. But I was determined not to have my feet touch that filth or mildew. My husband Al joked that the cleaning ladies had to hate me because they had to replace that heavy wet wool rug every day with a dry one. But, honey, I didn’t care. Perhaps it would propel the owners to buy a new tub. Or at least a new $2.99 shower curtain! Don’t think you can get there and switch up where you are staying either. The place books up, like I said, almost a year in advance. So do your homework and book your lodgings early.

Call up your friends who visit the island regularly. Or ask for recommendations of your social media followers. Have them help you get on the hot lists that you should be included on and help you navigate your social calendar. Also reach out to the Who’s Who in your own market, regardless if they attend or not. They may have the scoop that you need. Event hopping and networking successfully at MV really does depend on who you know within many different tiers of people.

Speaking of success, if you’re in a place where you’re changing careers or jobs, or looking for investors or partners, or looking to permanently boo up, I implore you to set your intentions with concrete goals and action steps to help you achieve your mission, before you leave home. That’s exactly what these moments are for! Once you’ve done your work, you can then take a few restful well-deserved relaxed moments, basking on an Adirondack chair with the summer breeze floating off the water over your sun-screened smiling face.

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