Beyond Black & White » Travel http://www.beyondblackwhite.com Chronicles, Musings and Debates about Interracial & Intercultural Relationships Sat, 18 Apr 2015 20:54:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Great Times at SXSW http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/great-times-sxsw/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/great-times-sxsw/#comments Wed, 01 Apr 2015 15:57:04 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=36677 I recently had the pleasure of checking off a bucket list item: attending the SXSW Film Festival! It was my first time in Austin and everyone I met was amazingly nice (not to mention the excellent BBQ I enjoyed). I saw unique, engaging films featuring people of color and/or women, graciously received autographs from two […]

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sxsw-2015-logo

I recently had the pleasure of checking off a bucket list item: attending the SXSW Film Festival! It was my first time in Austin and everyone I met was amazingly nice (not to mention the excellent BBQ I enjoyed). I saw unique, engaging films featuring people of color and/or women, graciously received autographs from two black female directors, got tons of advice at various panels on writing and film finance, and, I pitched both of my short screenplays to an industry veteran. Most of all, I connected with several peers – we ALL have stories we want to tell and are making our way as best we can. So here’s the run down on my time at South by Southwest!

Films

I saw several, but here are a few I think our readership will be interested in:

Honeytrap -“How DBRs Corrupt Young Black Girls”

Honeytrap, while fictional, was developed from a true story out of Brixton in the U.K. Many people will focus on the crime element of the story, but what I found most interesting was how this sweet, naïve outside girl desiring to fit in, was brutally exploited by an attractive, DBR, local rapper piece of crap. She had ZERO guidance from her dysfunctional family to prepare her for such users.

 

T-Rex – “Before Boxing, My Goal was to Have Ten Kids by the Time I was 26”

Are you familiar with the story of Claressa “T-Rex” Shields? From a struggling family in Flint, Michigan, she started boxing at the age of 11 and eventually entered the 2012 Olympics. While watching her physical prowess in demolishing her competitors was amazing, what caught my ear was her discussion of goals before/after she experienced boxing success. Coming from such a broken family, full of abuse and dysfunction, as a child she thought the only achievement within reach was having as many kids as possible, as soon as possible. But the structure of sports and self-affirming boost that she was very good at something, really opened up her world. She is a poised, articulate, smart young woman.

 

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Ktown Cowboys is based on a popular web series of the same name from a few years ago. For me, the film was a lovely introduction to Korean-American culture. I’d never heard of host rooms, booking or “Oppa!”  It was an entertaining watch, set against the real struggles of growing into the responsibilities of adulthood, amid a culture of very high expectations (that are enforced with physical discipline no matter how old you are). I think our K-pop fans will enjoy this film.

 

Speakers

Ryan Gosling

South By Southwest Film Festival - Day 1

Oh yes, I had to see my boo thing Mr. Gosling discuss his new film, Lost River, which is the first film he’s directed. I couldn’t get into the panel but watched live in a satellite room. SXSW couldn’t have picked a better person to interview him than Guillermo del Toro. Besides giving him grief over the whole ‘Hey Girl’ meme, Guillermo asked Ryan a lot about the creative process of bringing his vision to the screen.

I can only say that Lost River sounds fantastically weird.

 

Ava Duvernay

Having learned my lesson the day before with Ryan Gosling, I made sure to line up early to see the fabulous Ava Duvernay. While in line, I had the voyeuristic pleasure of watching a WM and BW make a connection. She yawned a couple of times and he offered to go get her coffee so she wouldn’t have to get out of place. He lived in NY, she in DC. She was a film critic and I think he was a journalist. They chatted away the rest of the time we were in line.

Now, onto Ava. Her speech was simply divine. Here’s her entire speech but I especially want to point out a few nuggets.

She talked about the struggles of bringing stories featuring black women to the screen. Her first film, I Will Follow, she made using $50k of her own money. Her next film, Middle of Nowhere, was made for $200k and it got into Sundance. Then, after six other directors passed, she was offered Selma. In reading the script, she noticed that black women were completely absent from the story. She promptly wrote in more prominent scenes featuring Coretta Scott King and Diane Nash, among other women. This is why it is important to have women in positions of power on films – anyone remember the Red Tails debaucle?

What I loved most was Ava’s emphasis on the power of your dreams to inspire others. In her words, “If your dream is just about you, it’s too small.” She shared how her approach changed from her first two films in frantically trying to garner as many accolades as possible, to just focusing on delivering a compelling story for Selma regardless of the outcome. The result: a Best Picture Oscar nomination for Selma, something she had no conception of whatsoever while filming.

Ava’s next two projects are in television. She shot a new TV show for OWN last summer and is now filming the pilot, For Justice, starring Anika Noni-Rose as an FBI agent who leads investigations of civil rights cases.


 

Gina Prince-Bythewood

I absolutely adore Gina. Her life story of perseverance really speaks to me. She was adopted into a white family and grew up in a small California town in the ‘70s where she experienced overt racism and saw NO positive images of black women. By high school, she’d become quite depressed with little sense of self-worth. Then, she saw She’s Gotta Have It and discovered the world of film. Despite experiencing rejection after rejection, she went to film school, then became a writing assistant for A Different World and eventually wrote and directed her iconic film, Love and Basketball.

As a writer-director of four films now, Gina emphasized her personal commitment to deliver films with strong female leads who own their own stories. She also discussed how important chemistry was in her films, specifically regarding her decision not to make Beyond the Lights an interracial love story against the initial studio’s wishes.  As a director, she’s seen the gold when the chemistry is there (i.e. Love and Basketball – Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps were secretly dating in real life during that film) and the horrors when it isn’t (apparently Sanaa Lathan and Wesley Snipes had a nightmarish time while filming Disappearing Acts).

She knew Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker would pair really well but unfortunately that then caused the film to be pigeon holed as a ‘black film.’ She mentioned other films that have tried to bypass the “black film” label by making the love story interracial but the chemistry didn’t seem as authentic and the film’s performance suffered. Her favorite romance film is The Notebook and she doesn’t think of it as a ‘white film’ but simply Ryan and Rachel being awesome together.

I’d like to remind everyone to check out Beyond the Lights, which is now on DVD. It addresses the hypersexualization of black women in the media, a subject we’ve discussed on this blog numerous times.

 

Beau Willimon

I’d just left a workshop on the process of musically scoring films (led by some hot Brazilian guys) to get in line to hear the House of Cards creator discuss his writing process. While in line, I ended up chatting with a Swiss director who just relocated to New York to work on a film that was partially financed. Anyhow, Beau Willimon shared a lot on the detail that goes into creating a TV series, season after season. In answering a question about character diversity (House of Cards has several “strong” female characters), he shared something that echoes what I’ve been saying on this blog for a couple of years now. For years, in order to make TV shows appear “diverse,” studios encouraged supporting or guest spots to go to minority actors, i.e. having a Black judge. But, those characters have little agency of their own and are unflawed, so it sets up unrealistic expectations.

 

United Talent Agency

UTA is a humongous Hollywood agency that represents actors, directors, etc. They hosted a panel on film finance and distribution which detailed the money it takes to A) make a film and B) get it shown, hopefully to the masses.  I won’t bore you with the details but one thing I will share is this: a key pipeline for getting independent films distributed is through film festivals. The major studios and talent agencies send representatives to the film festivals to find new talent and acquire films. Everyone with vested interest in the image of black women should be attending film festivals and supporting positive projects featuring BW. Unfortunately, many never wind up seeing the light of day due to poor exposure.

 

Overall, I had a lovely time and met SO many people in the industry. Most of all, as a movie lover, I saw some amazing films. I also got great feedback on my project, entitled The 64,000, which I wrote to bring awareness to the large number of “silently missing” black women in America. The industry mentor I met with thought it would make a great TV series (there are A LOT of TV resources right now) so I am working on adapting it into a TV pilot, as well as preparing to enter it as currently written in a few short screenplay contests. Here’s a bit about it: A reporter risks her career to confront society in a desperate bid to solve the disappearance of her sister.

 

 

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Calling All Expats! http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/calling-expats/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/calling-expats/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 13:49:43 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=36481 We have so many BW here who have worked, taught or studied abroad. On travel posts, a wealth of information often comes out in the comments section. So, let’s dish on our experiences abroad for readers who may be watching from the sidelines, gaining the courage for a big jump. Hair? Taxes? Belongings? Visas? Cultural […]

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BW airplane silhouette

We have so many BW here who have worked, taught or studied abroad. On travel posts, a wealth of information often comes out in the comments section. So, let’s dish on our experiences abroad for readers who may be watching from the sidelines, gaining the courage for a big jump. Hair? Taxes? Belongings? Visas? Cultural faux paus? Making friends? Let’s give the down and dirty. Just what has your experience been making the move to live and/or work outside of America?

I can start with mine – I spent a summer working in finance in Holland back in college. I was working for a large company so all of the technical details were taken care of. As far as hair, the first time I washed my hair and proceeded to plug in and turn my American hooded dryer on, there were weird noises like it was turning into a spaceship, followed by blue flashes of light and finally smoke. I was natural the rest of the summer, having finally painfully understood the difference between an adapter versus a converter. I had acrylic nails at the time and it did take awhile to find a nail salon. I was surprised to see that many were black owned and formed a lovely relationship with an African woman over the summer.

As far as connecting, my co-workers were all older with their own families and from all over the world (really just doing a year or so in Holland) and I never hooked up with an expat community; I met a group of Americans at the company who left a week or so after I arrived.

If I could do things over, one thing I do differently is being more adventurous and traveling to other countries. While I did a TON of local sightseeing every weekend, I worked so much I really couldn’t travel outside of Holland. I should have made the time.

Okay, I’ve dished! What experiences have YOU had abroad?

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Beacons of Beauty: Black Women Who Travel http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/beacons-beauty-perceptions-abroad-black-women-travel/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/beacons-beauty-perceptions-abroad-black-women-travel/#comments Wed, 04 Mar 2015 22:30:32 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=36368 I’m friends with a lot of black women who travel or live internationally, so I’m not surprised that a Yahoo! Travel article, titled, “In Spain, I’m a Prostitute – Challenging the Perception of Black Women Who Travel” has been on heavy rotation on my Facebook page. In light of Monday’s “Is the grass greener across […]

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Packaged Earth

I’m friends with a lot of black women who travel or live internationally, so I’m not surprised that a Yahoo! Travel article, titled, “In Spain, I’m a Prostitute – Challenging the Perception of Black Women Who Travel” has been on heavy rotation on my Facebook page.

In light of Monday’s “Is the grass greener across the pond?” post, I thought some of you might be interested in what the author had to say.

The basic premise is this: attention, comments and questions that can be perceived as hyper-sexual and, even rude, are unfortunately part of the travel experience for many black women. “Experience has proven that without provocation on our part, we’re more frequently perceived in a sexual way,” Stephens writes. Expect attention, especially when you travel to an area of the world where women who look like you are in the minority. These men (and oftentimes women) will fixate on your skin, hair, shape, confidence and attitude. I liken it to how many American women – myself included – coo over men with accents. (Ummm, hello, Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Hemsworth?)

Even in places I’ve lived where black people are the majority, the men I encountered honed in on features that were perceived as “different”. In one African nation, I was surrounded by some of the most beautiful, graceful women I’d ever seen, and the men there (of various races) fixated on my hair, which happened to be long and relaxed at the time. It was literally a beacon that drew all kinds of unwanted attention.

The idea that men in other countries are more open, welcoming and proactive about pursuing black women gets tossed around quite a bit whenever travel is brought up on BB&W. Stephens notes that while this can be true, the attention oftentimes comes with “speed bumps”. It’s unfortunate, but while most of us pride ourselves on being individuals worth knowing on our own merit, there’s a decent likelihood that we’ll be lumped into the warped image that’s been built up in the minds of some foreign (and, as we have daily proof, some domestic) men. The picture isn’t always the most edifying – as was the case with the author’s Croatian bar owner who divulged that she reminded him of his favorite porn star.

“Cross-country hyper-sexualization of black women has a long history,” Stephens writes. She cites Saartjie Baartman as an early example of how the “exotic” beauty of black women has been exploited internationally. Now, the American media generously plays a hand in continuing the trend.

Case in point – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve argued with people who thought I couldn’t possibly be American. It’s just not possible, since Beyonce, Jay-Z and 50 Cent are the only black people in America. On top of this, I don’t act, dress or look like the few African American women they see on TV.

Just as many Americans depend on images from the news or the internet to form their opinions about people in other parts of the world, those who live abroad use the images and stories we export to form their opinions of us. If we don’t teach them that the odd sampling they’ve seen isn’t the full picture, how will they learn? In some cases, I really believe the same goes for the men we encounter abroad.

I’ve had what I call “paparazzi” moments in Florence, Rio and Cartagena. It’s when individuals or groups of men walk up and, if they’re polite, will ask to take a photo with you, all the while gushing about how much the love black women. Sometimes, all you see is the camera flash and a smile or wave in your direction.

These are moments when I just say, “Thank you,” wave, and walk away. They’re not generally an opportunity to engage, learn or teach.

Then, there are times when you have to seize the opportunity in front of you to change the narrative. While vacationing in Italy a few years back, I was baffled by the amount of attention that came my way. I was standing in the Vatican Square, clothed in jeans, boots and a heavy overcoat (because it was winter there), with a huge camera with a telephoto lens in my hand, shooting pictures of the architecture when I was approached by not one, not two, but three groups of men who propositioned me. With each approach, I got more and more agitated. I finally said to one, “Look, I’m on vacation with my family. I’m not here to fulfill your music video chic fantasy.” He put his hands up in gesture of surrender and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend.” I asked how I was not supposed to find his “offer” offensive. Fail.

The sad part is, I think this approach does work for some men, which is why they use it. I personally know more than a few women – black, white and other – who would’ve taken these gents up on their offers to wine and dine them in exchange for a brief fling.

Here’s the bottom line: simply by nature of being the beautiful women we are, we’re going to draw attention from the opposite sex when we travel abroad. Don’t let the stereotypes and sexualized approaches of some men keep you from exploring – the nations and your options for love. Regardless of where on the planet we may be, we should always use discernment in our interactions with men. Change the not-so-positive aspects of the narrative when you can. Walk away when you can’t.

I also love that  Stephens writes, “… if you are on a romantic mission, don’t choose a mate who fetishizes you.”

Ladies, we know we’re fascinating, multifaceted beings. Our race and culture are only a fraction of who we are. If someone isn’t able to see and value all of us – not just our skin tone, sexuality, accent or ability to stand out in a crowd – it’s best to leave them be. We deserve this level of respect and consideration from the men we choose to engage with – regardless of whether they’re foreign or domestic.

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BB&W Fan, Nikki Bright Gives Real Talk About Black Women Working and Living in China http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/bbw-fan-nikki-bright-gives-real-talk-black-women-working-living-china/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/bbw-fan-nikki-bright-gives-real-talk-black-women-working-living-china/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 06:11:36 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=36206 Ever wonder what it’s really like living and working overseas in an Asian country? Take a read at BB&W fan, Nikki Bright’s account in our interview… What gave you the inspiration to work in China? China was not my first choice. My son and I had traveled to Beijing for his 18th birthday. I remember […]

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Ever wonder what it’s really like living and working overseas in an Asian country? Take a read at BB&W fan, Nikki Bright’s account in our interview…

What gave you the inspiration to work in China?

China was not my first choice. My son and I had traveled to Beijing for his 18th birthday. I remember enjoying my time there, but thinking to myself ‘There is no way in HELL I could live behind the wall’. I always wanted to live in Europe (Germany or Spain) but the economy was on the fritz in the EU, and most countries in Europe want you to have a masters before they will consider you for teaching. So, I looked to Asia. Korea was a first choice.  I was avoiding China like the plague, but after I had a recruiter in Korea basically tell me that I was too old (42), too dark, too heavy, and not attractive enough and it would be too hard to help me find a job I decided to give China a try.  I did my research on black women living in China. I came across Jo Gan’s blog, and asked her some opinions about her life in China. I also spoke to a few other people.  They had various opinions. I went with my gut, and began the process of looking for a job in China.

What company/source did you use to apply for your job? How did you prepare for working overseas?

I did lots of research online. Since I had decided on the ESL track I got online and began my search. I found some great resources one led me to the next.  After I received the certification, I used their placement agency.  I received my TESOL via Oxford Seminars.  They hooked me up with my first job in China.   I began reading different articles and blogs about living and working abroad. I specifically looked for American women of color and searched out their experiences.  Many of the women I reached out to are now on my FB page. Their words, encouragement and stories really inspired me to step out on faith. I also began stocking up on hair and make-up products.

What did you expect to achieve (both romantically and professionally) during your stay there?

Romantically?  I honestly have no idea. I’ve met many black women who are really into Asian men. Generally, that’s not my cup of tea so to speak. I am more of a European white male, or Central/South American male type of girl.  I think I was hoping for some hot European men who weren’t strictly into their Asian women fetish, or preference.

Professionally I was looking for change, a start to this part of my life. I was looking to finally live a dream that I’ve had since I was 15 years old.  I’ve found so many different opportunities here, and chances to grow.

Were the realities of your journey different than what you imagined?

God yes! They are so much different. I came here with the idea that China was a hugely poverty stricken country where there was little to no personal wealth. I was dead wrong. There are so many very wealthy people here. Of course many of them tend to be concentrated in certain areas. Of course Shanghai, then there are the different provinces, Zheizhong (sounds like juh jong), Jiangsu (Jahngsue) and some others that have many very wealthy people.  I know this is silly, but the number of really tall people is funny to me. Of course Yao Ming is very tall, but I have had many students who are built like American football players.  The women are generally thin, but I’ve come to learn that bulimia is not an eating disorder here, it is weight management.  Chinese women are far from docile, and just because they are smiling and being nice doesn’t mean that they are being honest. I have had bad with good, but it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.  I have learned many things about myself.  The beauty of going to a strange land where you clearly stick out is that you find a new confidence. You know how to define yourself without letting the thoughts and opinions of others overtake your own. It’s been a great experience though not without its faire share of bullshit.

How did the surrounding community receive you? How did the local men interact with you?

The responses have varied.  In the first town I was in there was a lot of laughing, pointing and staring.  There were the obligatory hand gestures implying my size and skin color is different.  Chinese people love to take pictures especially if you are different and you are not looking, lol. The people would yell and scream hello. They’d yell out Obama, LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant. That was their way of letting me know how much they liked either America or black people in general.  There is also a huge fear of difference, and blackness. I saw a lady with the cutest chubbiest baby smile at my colleagues (white and Chinese) and then she saw me she screamed, grabbed up the baby, covered the child’s face and ran into the building. Her daughter saw this, and was clearly very angry.  She went in behind her, yelling, got the baby and brought her back outside so the baby could see me. So reactions range from laughably, disturbingly ignorant to better informed and engaging. You expect both, and you move on.

The men’s reactions varied.  I have had people make very explicit hand gestures about what they want me to do. I have had money offered to me, and seriously not enough money to buy a half decent dinner.  I can get past the hooker thing, but being mistaken for a cheap whore is an entirely different animal.  I have also had a similar experience in Barcelona.  This may come from the African women that work as prostitutes here in China.  I have been invited out to coffee, and told that I am very beautiful. The big one is sexy. Sexy in China means you have big boobs. My male students tell me that I am the hottest teacher, lol.  You have to be very careful here. Men over a certain age are generally married.  Wives realize that husbands cheat. They don’t like it, but some are ok, because they do the same thing.  Also, the young ones are very interested in foreigners. However, they are often bound by duty and responsibility to the family. I have watched several western women friends (black and white) date Chinese men.  I will say that none of these women are skinny. They are all attractive, but they are shapely to plus size.  I have had some very positive things happen, but it is not always smooth sailing. I have been called, fat, ugly, too dark, too old, elderly, etc.  So, you get it from all ends of the spectrum. Overall I have built a thicker skin, and learned to embrace my own beauty.  One thing I will say about many of the Chinese women I meet is that they have a healthy acquaintance with insecurity. I have never met so many women who are very attractive think they are fat and ugly and put themselves down. It’s disturbing because eating an apple a day, or a few crackers, or bulimia are real diet tools here.  This is not all Chinese women, but it is a very significant number of women.  Chinese men and women tend to be shy about the way they approach if they do at all.

What’s your next step? What do you plan to do next?

I am currently working on my M.E., and getting my teachers license, so I can begin working at the better International Schools.  These are the schools with American, British or Canadian core curriculum. I am moving to Shanghai this week, and I’m quite excited. The men in Shanghai are open to dating other than Chinese. Of course I will have a chance to join meet up groups, and explore more things that I enjoy doing. So, that is exciting for me. I guess small towns are not for me. As a matter of fact I must be there by the 20th to register with the police.

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The best advice I can give anyone is to step out on faith. Of course, research before you go anywhere. I searched online, asked questions, looked at other black women who had gone out and done their thing. I discussed it with family and friends.  I found many people were supportive and encouraging but were totally surprised when I actually left. Some were upset, some were happy, and some where just confused, lol.  Just know that there are other women out there like you who are living their dream. Know that they are doing their thing, and most of us will support you. I have always been supported by the women out there. It is an amazing feeling.  I wish any and everyone good luck on their journey. Embrace it and step out.

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Meet Erik and Tanya: Interracial Couple Living Abroad in Israel http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/meet-erik-tanya-interracial-couple-living-abroad-israel/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/meet-erik-tanya-interracial-couple-living-abroad-israel/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 11:04:36 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=35943 Since so much of the focus on interracial dating and relationships generates from an American perspective, it’s so refreshing to learn about couples like us that live in various other locales. Erik and Tanya are such a couple; they’re American expats who live in Israel.   I was able to sit down with this couple […]

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Since so much of the focus on interracial dating and relationships generates from an American perspective, it’s so refreshing to learn about couples like us that live in various other locales. Erik and Tanya are such a couple; they’re American expats who live in Israel.

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I was able to sit down with this couple and learn about how they met, as well as their decision to move to Israel and raise their family there.

Kids look pretty happy, don’t they?

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Update! BB&W Goes to Vegas in 2015!! http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/bbw-goes-vegas-2015-updates/ http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/bbw-goes-vegas-2015-updates/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 04:29:46 +0000 http://www.beyondblackwhite.com/?p=35569 Great news!  We now have The Linq at $97 per night including taxes! Also, if one or two people take a deluxe king room, the rate (including taxes) is $82. If a 3rd or 4th person is staying in the room at The Linq, the rate goes $40 per night, per person higher.  The rate […]

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the-hangover
Great news!  We now have The Linq at $97 per night including taxes!
Also, if one or two people take a deluxe king room, the rate (including taxes) is $82.
If a 3rd or 4th person is staying in the room at The Linq, the rate goes $40 per night, per person higher.  The rate is higher on the weekends, should anyone want to check in early or stay late.
Deposit is going to be $100 per night.
The bellman gratuity for The Linq is $9 per person for the stay.
It is still not too late to make arrangements with Adam Wyler destund@yahoo.com to join us in Las Vegas to celebrate EarthJeff’s wedding and party with us at the first BB&W meetup!

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