3 Lessons From NYC's New Memorial to Slavery

This post has been written as part of Let’s Go’s partnership with the United Nations Outreach Division.

Smile for the camera? maybe save the selfie stick and the goofy grin for the picturesque Long Island city skyline in the background. The memorial is gorgeous, but there’s a time and a place for everything.

Smile for the camera? maybe save the selfie stick and the goofy grin for the picturesque Long Island city skyline in the background. The memorial is gorgeous, but there’s a time and a place for everything.

Head to the United Nations Plaza in midtown Manhattan to see the Ark of Return, a permanent memorial to honor the victims of slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. After the United Nations General Assembly agreed to erect the memorial in 2007, they, with UNESCO, held a design contest. Haitian American architect Rodney Leon won with his design for the Ark, whose three inscriptions (listed below) challenge visitors to grapple with one of American history’s greatest tragedies.

1. Acknowledge the tragedy


It’s impossible to look at the memorial without being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of triangles, which represent the system of Triangle Trade, spurred by American and European demands for raw materials from the Americas (including the West Indies). The trade involved sending people from West Africa to the Americas (this route is called the Middle Passage). where they harvested the raw materials under exploitative, extreme, and inhumane conditions. The materials then sent to Europe, where they became manufactured goods, which were then sent to Africa largely in exchange for more enslaved people. A map inside the memorial also documents the system, while the white marble represents mourning and the reflecting pools encourage visitors to meditate on what they have learned.

2. Consider the legacy


Leon and the United Nations call on visitors to consider the legacy of slavery: intergenerational trauma within the descendants of enslaved people, along with institutional racism in our society. We often forget that this country endured 250 years of slavery, and it has only been about 150 years since slavery was abolished. While it’s important to remember how slavery has encoded itself into how our country works, we should also consider the extent to which slave labor is responsible for the United States’ wealth and dominance as a world power.

3. Lest We Forget


Finally, the monument calls on visitors to remember the tragedies of slavery, which are still, to some extent, alive and well in modern society. Beyond modern manifestations of the tragedy, the memorial serves to honor the victims who lost their lives and livelihoods to the institution.


You may be wondering why (or, if) it makes sense to memorialize the victims of slavery in New York City, when we so often associate slavery with the American South and the Caribbean. While New York City often likes to advertise itself as a champion of progressive values, the Conspiracy of 1741 serves as a reality check: NYC was just as embroiled in the institution of slavery as the rest of the country. In 1741, Manhattan had the second biggest population of slaves out of the 13 colonies, after Charleston, South Carolina. That year, 14 fires erupted around Lower Manhattan in two months, and a slave had been arrested after he was caught fleeing the scene of a warehouse fire that April. (Note: There was no proof he had anything to do with the fire. For all we know, he was a human being who, imbued with survival instincts, didn’t want to hang out in a building being burnt to the ground.) When an Irish indentured servant was arrested for theft, she pointed her finger at an alleged conspiracy of poor whites and blacks to burn down Manhattan, kill white men, and take white women for themselves. She thus inspired a “witch hunt” that resulted in over 100 people (mostly slaves and freed black people) being lynched, exiled, and burned at the stake. This was not the only event of its kind: another example is New York’s Slave Revolt of 1712.

The Ultimate Chicago Movie Tour

We’ll get this out of the way: Chicago, the 2002 Renee Zellweger-Catherine Zeta-Jones Jazz Age musical, was shot in Toronto, Canada. (The betrayal!) Still, cinephiles can find some comfort in the fact that the Second City has served as the primary backdrop to plenty of movies. Here, a day trip through some of the city’s starring moments on the silver screen.

10 a.m. — Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Art Institute of Chicago

The best Chicago movie of all time, or the best Chicago movie of all time? John Hughes’s classic ode to playing hooky was shot all over the city, but one of the best-known scenes had the three delinquents following around a school group at the city’s best art museum. Grab two friends (or willing strangers) for that iconic gallery pose.

1 p.m. — Dark Knight, Twin Anchors

One of the darker scenes in a very dark movie was shot at this old-school rib joint, where Two-Face—aka Harvey Dent, aka our collective childhood nightmare—shot Detective Wuertz. Pay tribute with the $17 half slab.

3 p.m. — Divergent, Willis Tower

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One of the less-dreadful Hunger Games rip-offs, Divergent—set in post-apocalyptic Chicago—features the Sears Willis Tower as “The Hub,” the city center where the children are sorted into their life-determining factions. You can pay a bunch of money to go up to the observation deck, but the employees up there definitely frown upon any Dauntless-level building scaling.

4 p.m. — My Best Friend’s Wedding, Union Station

In love with your best friend? Need to confess your feelings before it’s too late? Union Station set the stage for Julia Roberts and Dermot Mulroney in this 1997 rom-com-dram gem—the dramatic arched ceilings and pew-like seats are perfect for cinematic declarations.  

6 p.m. — Blues Brothers, Wrigley Field

This 1980 cult classic memorably saw the Illinois Nazis chase John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd to 1060 West Addison, aka the home of the Cubs. Catch an evening game at one of baseball’s most historic stadiums (fedora neither included nor recommended).

9 p.m. — Drinking Buddies, Revolution Brewing

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This understated, overlooked flick is set in Avondale’s Revolution Brewery, an industrial taproom that makes killer America-themed ales. Try the Freedom of Speach sour and keep an eye out for a plaid-shirted hipster to fall boozily in love with.

9 Lessons I Learned While Backpacking

Backpacking is a unique kind of travel. While the allure of city-hopping and taking little with you is real, it also comes with its own challenges, which are all part of the adventure.

These tips might help keep challenges from becoming major derailments to enjoying your trip.

1. Always carry a paper map.

There will come a time when your phone is dead and you have no clue where you are. A paper map—even the free ones handed out at tourism offices—can really be a saving grace when trying to navigate yourself back to familiar ground.

2. Get a public transit fare card as soon as you get to a city.

City buses often want exact change and that gets real old real fast. Plus, fares are often cheaper if you use a reloadable fare card to pay. Find a transit station and load some money onto a card. You’ll thank yourself.

3. Bring a mobile charger and charge it.

If you are taking pictures on your phone or posting Snapchat or Instagram stories during your day, your battery is going to take a hit. Have a mobile charger—they’re pretty cheap these days—and charge it every night!

4. Take bathroom breaks when you can.

One of the hardest things to do in the middle of a city can be to find a place to pee. Restaurants and coffee shops are getting stingier with who they’re letting into their bathrooms, so you might be bounced from a few places when you ask if you can use their throne. So, when you have a bathroom available, use it, even when you don’t really have to go that badly. You will thank yourself.

5. Paper weighs a lot.

Paper handouts, flyers, maps, and tickets that you might shove in some random pouch actually can start adding some serious weight to your bag, and in turn, your shoulders. Ask yourself if you really need to keep something. If you think it will be sentimental, take a picture of it. Sometimes that can be just as good. 

6. If you’re staying in a hostel, get the bottom bunk.

Grab that bottom bunk before anyone else does. It’s just better not to have to climb a ladder to get in bed, especially when the person on the bottom bunk might be asleep.

7. Hostels are a lot less lonely than AirBnbs.

If loneliness is a concern for you, take it as a factor when considering whether to book a shared room in a hostel or a private one, perhaps in an AirBnb. Even if you don’t talk to anyone, just having people around you can make a big difference.

8. The bus can take you a lot of places.

A spot might seem far off on the map, and you’re about to open up that Uber app. Hold up. Check if the bus goes there. City bus routes are often more extensive and useful than you think, and can get you there at a fraction of the cost than a taxi, Uber, or Lyft. Google Maps search generally has a great knowledge of the local bus routes and can guide you on taking the bus in what is probably an unfamiliar place.

9. Just sitting for a little bit to recharge is important.

If you are packing a lot into your days, it’s easy to run around and tire yourself out. Find time to just sit somewhere, a park or a café, and just be with your thoughts for a little bit. It goes a long way.

Do it for the Gram! Top Five LA Spots To Keep Your Feed Poppin’

The view from Griffith Observatory.

The view from Griffith Observatory.

Let’s face it. Instagram is a major part of travel culture these days. If you need some fly photos, we’ve got you covered. Hit these spots, serve the looks, and get some likes. Let’s go!

1. Santa Monica Pier

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Santa Monica’s iconic pier, boasting a red and yellow ferris wheel against the baby blue backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, makes for a beautiful beachfront landscape. Even better: Your followers will love it. At night, the water reflects the illuminated ferris wheel. The waves shimmer with the lights of the shops lining the pier.

2. Griffith Observatory

Snap a pic of the LA cityscape as the sun sets behind the Hollywood Sign, leaving behind city lights that actually twinkle like glitter. So many views from the observatory are incredible, yet the building itself, with its Greek and Art Deco architectural influences, shimmering white exterior, and copper domes, is nothing short of majestic. It’s a photographer's wonderland here, whether you’re after pictures of the LA cityscape, the Hollywood Sign, or the observatory itself. Get past the crowds to get a good spot and snap away.

3. Milk Tavern

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A grilled cheese that oozes a rainbow when you pull it apart? A milkshake topped with fruit loops? This desert heaven is a foodstagram paradise. Cotton candy burritos are a sure fire double tap magnet, and the cool plant wall is a great backdrop.  

4. Hollywood Boulevard

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You, fawning over your favorite actor’s star on the Walk of Fame. Or you, crouching down next to their handprints at TCL Chinese Theater. The Hollywood allure on its most famous street is sure to wow the fans in any photo. Low angle does the trick.

5. The Last Bookstore

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With blue walls, big stone pillars, and tunnels and sculptures made entirely out of books, this store is one giant photo op waiting to go on your feed. Sculptures of books don’t just look cool for the gram—they make you look like an intelligent literature buff. Awaken those sapiosexual followers! They’ll be double tapping on your photo and double tapping on your door, too. Someone will slide into your DMs, guaranteed.

Love It/Hate It: The Marlins

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If you’re going to be terrible at baseball—and the Marlins are indisputably terrible at baseball—you have to give fans another reason to stick around. The Marlins haven’t found it, though, judging by the empty rows at one recent Friday night game; the Fish couldn’t even fill a quarter of the seats, and it seemed that at least half the attendees were there to cheer for the opposing team.

That may be because the sterile new Marlins stadium is an unsuccessful marriage between a nightclub and a ballpark. A spiky-haired DJ flanked by two listless implores the crowd to “GET LOUD, MIAMI!” at seemingly random intervals to little avail; the energy in the park rarely rises above a mild hum. The team’s official anthem is “Just Gettin’ Started” by DJ Khaled, a hookless non-bop that becomes deeply sad when played towards the end of a losing game. On top of it all, the team’s CEO is baseball villain No. 1 Derek Jeter, who’s slashed payrolls, traded the team’s best players, and ostracized the Marlins Man, the franchise’s best-known fan. Don’t play yourself—find a better team.


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Everyone loves an underdog, and no team is more of an underdog than the Miami Marlins, currently the losing-est team in the National League. There’s a special sort of freedom that comes with being at the bottom: no high expectations to live up to, no pristine record to maintain, nothing to prove and everything to gain. When your team stinks and the whole city knows it, Miami gets to do what Miami does best—have a good time.

When the Marlins Mermaids come out with their goofy little drumline, there’s a certain joyous nihilism in it all: abandon all hope of winning, ye who enter here, and gaze upon Miami’s finest export—beautiful people. The suckiness of the Marlins has winnowed the attendees to only the hardest-core fans, all the better to get swept up the fishtivities. And when the boys in orange do hit a (shocking!) home run, baseball’s gaudiest and only seven-story sculpture comes to neon-colored life, the animatronic marlins whirring in the outfield as a gush of water spurts up behind it. It’s Miami in a nutshell: a little indulgent, a lot exuberant, and never not fun.

Five Things You Didn't Know About San Francisco

1. Wild parrots live on Telegraph Hill

As popularized by the 2003 indie film, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” there are wild parrots that live on Telegraph Hill. They hang out in the trees by the Filbert Street Steps, where a whole neighborhood of houses sits hidden by trees on the side of the city hill connected only by this set of a long set of steps running through a forest in the middle of the city. If you walk along these steps, you can spot them.

2. They weren’t kidding about the hills.

It’s a hilly city. But so are a lot of cities. These hills are different. When parking on a hill anything more than a 3% grade, it is legally required that you curb your tires. This means that you turn your front wheels into the curb so that if your car rolled, the curb would stop it. What might look on Google Maps like a brisk stroll a few blocks is actually more like climbing a mountain.  

3. Actual San Franciscans don’t ride the famous cable car trolleys

Despite what it might look like in photos, the cable cars that run up and down city hills are almost entirely used by tourists. Commuters in San Francisco don’t use them for a couple reasons. First, they’re more expensive than city buses. Unless you’re someone who has a pass to ride them, it’s not cost effective. Second, there are always lines of tourists wanting to get on, and cars passing by are often completely full with them. Third, they’re slow compared to the bus. Expensive, crowded, and slow? I’d take the bus, too.

4. San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest enclave of Chinese people outside of Asia.

Yes indeed.

5. It claims to have the “crookedest street”

For one block, Lombard Street, still right in the middle of a city grid, becomes a winding, twisting turning, zig zag. And, surprise! It’s on a hill. It’s picturesque, surely, but extremely impractical. Because it’s also become a huge tourist attraction, and because cars have to go so slowly on it, there is often a traffic officer stationed on either side trying to mitigate the disruption the street causes. And some of the residents are getting sick of the daily commotion.

5 Great NYC Ice Cream Spots

Today’s Tompkins Square Park looks nothing like the Tompkins of the past, notorious for its syringes, punks, and the cardboard box where neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat used to sleep. Ray’s Candy Store, however, hasn’t changed since 1974. For over 40 years, Ray’s has served up classics, like fried oreos, beignets, hot dogs, and malt milkshakes—but no candy, believe it or not. Upon entering Ray’s Candy Store today, you’ll be greeted by the somehow comforting stench of grease, and the octogenarian store owner, Ray Alvarez. Ray, originally Ashgar Ghahraman, entered the US from Iran in the 1950s and posed as Ray in order to hide his undocumented status. Although Ghahraman is now a naturalized American citizen, Ray will stick around as long as his namesake continues to feed Alphabet City. Enjoy the gigantic portions of greasy, sugary food in one of Tompkins’ lush meadows across the street.

Try the strawberry and pistachio frozen yogurt in a wafer cone with rainbow sprinkles. It’s way too big and way too artificial in all the best ways.


2. Soft Swerve

Soft Swerve’s fame extends far beyond the Lower East Side—tourists and locals alike line up to try the iconic ube ice cream. Ube purple yam (very similar to taro) is often used to flavor Asian deserts. If you’re suspicious of potato ice cream, don’t be so quick to judge. Ube tastes like a gently nutty vanilla. It’s simultaneously familiar and exotic, which is probably what makes it so appealing. In addition to ube, Soft Swerve serves less popular, but equally delicious flavors, like almond cookie, black sesame, and matcha green tea. The store pays homage to its New Yorker heritage with NYC-themed sundaes—from the Woodside (named after the Queens neighborhood) to the Division Street (named after the Chinatown street).

Get the ube purple yam and almond cookie swirl in a black chocolate cone with marshmallows. They use crunchy Lucky Charms-type marshmallows to contrast the smoothness of the soft serve ice cream.


3. Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain

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Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood feels like home, no matter where you’re from. While slurping down your old-fashioned New York egg cream at the family-run Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, you’ll be surrounded by families from near and far—older generations reminisce about the days of poodle skirts and nickel buys, while young kids discover the beauty of malted milkshakes. Although Brooklyn Farmacy stays true to the 1920s apothecary it’s housed in, it updates these vintage classics with creativity and 21st century portions. Just be prepared to pay the 21st century prices.

Sip on the Pink Poodle ice cream float, a scoop of ice cream melting into bright magenta hibiscus soda.


4. The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory

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Stationed blocks away from the iconic Jing Fong Restaurant, Chinatown Ice Cream Factory has established itself as a mandatory post-dim sum treat. This family-run “unofficial NYC landmark” is one of Chinatown’s oldest businesses, open since 1978. Chinatown Ice Cream Factory may look like any other ice cream parlor with its glass display of multicolored ice creams. However, this display spans the length of the store: there really is something for everyone. If you want, you can get vanilla or chocolate, but classic Asian flavors are this store’s speciality.

Don’t miss these unique flavors: zen butter, an overwhelmingly nutty sesame and peanut butter blend, and pandan, a fluorescent green Malaysian leaf that tastes like taro.


5. Uncle Louie G Italian Ice & Ice Cream

Rockaway Beach used to be an unpretentious summer destination for New Yorkers, but the hipsterification of Riis Park and Fort Tilden has left much of the area obnoxious and overpriced. If you find yourself in need of unflashy icy refreshment after spending the day getting knocked around by Rockaway’s rough waves, walk down to Beach 94th Street for some good, old fashioned Italian ice with a fun twist. You could always just buy from the lady who pushes her cart along the beach, ringing her bell to announce her arrival, but she offers the same flavors you’ll find on every street corner: cherry, mango, coconut, rainbow, and maybe lemon-lime, if you’re lucky. Meanwhile, Uncle Louie G’s boasts almost 100 flavors. Stick around for the punny (and often accidentally euphemistic) flavor names.

Try one of these aggressively New York flavors: Holi Cannoli, Rainbow Cookie, Coney Island Cotton Candy,  FDNY Red, or NYPD Blue. Though, beware, the ices inspired by Italian desserts are quite chunky.

When They Say ‘Max 10 Kilograms,’ They Mean ‘Max 10 Kilograms’

When They Say ‘Max 10 Kilograms,’ They Mean ‘Max 10 Kilograms’

Let’s just say that things were off to a rocky start. Don’t get me wrong—I read the guidelines for weight limits before leaving my house for the airport, but somehow, I managed to skip the part where the combined weight of my personal item and carry-on luggage had to be a maximum of 10 kilograms. 

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How Solo Travel Transformed Me—And Then Squirrels Ruined It

How Solo Travel Transformed Me—And Then Squirrels Ruined It

I used to be convinced that squirrels were evil and plotting to take over the world. Or at least, there used to be a running joke in my family that I held such a conviction. I don’t remember how it started, but throughout my childhood, every time someone in my family saw a squirrel behaving even mildly out of the ordinary, I would be notified immediately.

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