WELOVENYC: “It Doesn't Matter Where You’re From Or What You Believe. New York Is The City For Everyone.”

FYI

Passion: Tour guiding, photography

Song that makes him happy: Lima wessu- Youssou N'Dour

All time favorite gem in NYC: Le Baobab (Senegalese food)

Angry tweet: “Don’t act like you didn't notice there is a line. Just join the queue!!”

“When you see me, you don’t expect the best. I have to start from the beginning. I have to be ready. People say ‘Hey, he’s African, he’s speaking with an accent, he’s young’… And that’s not your idea of a tour guide is it?”

Ibrahima sits down on his couch, ready to enjoy a fish he just got at the Jamaican spot around the corner. I’m in East New York, pretty far out in Brooklyn. The kind of neighborhood people think isn’t safe. Ibrahima rejects that. “I've been living here for years and I'm totally fine. These are all ideas that people get

He was born and raised in Senegal, but moved to New York in 2003. He’s had to learn to stand in front of judgements, pre-judgements, and assumptions that people have. This has been a part of his drive to constantly learn about New York. To be the best tour guide there is.

“It doesn't matter where you’re from or what you believe. New York is the city for everyone.”

Finding a True Home

13 years ago, Ibrahima was ‘surveying the world’, looking for the place he wanted to settle down. He considered a few, all big cities. However, New York gained his heart, as he puts it.

“I was walking the streets. I was noticed, but I wasn't the center of attention. I felt that I fit in.You’re not awkward. You're not weird. You're home”. That’s what this city does. And it has room for all of us. “It doesn't matter where you’re from or what you believe. New York is the city for everyone.”

Ibrahima, like many others across the world, would read about New York in the media. In books. See it on TV and in movies. He wanted a story like the people on the screen. “When you achieve something in New York it sounds different than when you say you achieved something anywhere else. I wanted that”. And he felt like the opportunity was there to grab.

“Every tour is different because every tour has weather-related aspects, it has moods, it has a tour guide, it has different inspirations, you know. Every tour is unique, every tour is a poem.”

The first couple of years were not easy. The language was challenging, he had a hard time communicating. People would make fun of him. His jobs were paying little money. In spite of everything, Ibrahima stayed positive. He says there was never any doubt that he could make it in New York, it was more doubt about when it was all going to happen.

Every Tour is a Poem

Never for a second did he consider giving up and going back to Senegal. He fell more and more in love with the city. Part of the reason he made himself become a tour guide was to give back to the city, and to show people how he feels every time he looks at a sight. He learned from some of the best tour guides, and he’s incredibly thankful to all his colleagues for never being afraid to share their knowledge.

“Every tour is different because every tour has weather-related aspects, it has moods, it has a tour guide, it has different inspirations, you know. Every tour is unique, every tour is a poem.”

His mantra is to always be open, connect with people, to have passion, and to listen. “People will never remember what you say, they will only remember how you make them feel.” His goal for his tours? To have people say ‘Oh my goodness!’… Or to laugh.. Or to cry. Bring all our emotions to life.

The Pizza

It seems like this guy knows everything there is to know about everything worth knowing. Earlier today his tourists wanted him to take them to the best pizza place. And so, he gives me the history of pizza and how New York had the first pizzeria in the US. Then the places. Lombardi. Grimaldi. Patsy’s. John’s. Totonno’s. All the great ones. One of his favorites is Anna Maria on the corner of Bedford Avenue and North 7th street in Williamsburg. Tiny restaurant, but such great atmosphere. You’re getting the real deal, he says.

Brooklyn BrIDGE

“Damn, my fish is cold”. He’s been talking so enthusiastically about the city that he forgot all about the Jamaican fish. While Ibrahima takes his meal through a second round in the microwave, I ask him if there’s anything he does not like about NYC? Apparently I asked the wrong fella. He’s too busy thinking about everything he likes. Though the honking of horns can be pretty annoying, he admits after a little pause. (So very true).

So what’s this tour guide’s absolute favorite spot in New York? The Brooklyn Bridge. And now he’s come to think of another thing that really annoys him about the city. Why on Gods earth does the sign say ‘BROOKLYN BR’?! “Brooklyn BRRR, who KNOWS what that is?!” He speaks with an even greater passion now. “How much more money will it cost to write I-D-G-E?!” And he doesn’t stop there. “When you go to Coney Island there’s a sign that says ‘Coney Is’. Can you just write ‘LAND’?! Yeah, those are the little things that bothers me”.

Let’s finish up by going back to his passion for the Brooklyn Bridge. In fact, he’s so taken with it that he presented a little something. A poem he proclaims before walking the bridge. It was a moment. I’m just sharing pieces of it with you.. Now, you have to read this with great passion while imagining a very energetic Ibrahima standing up in front of you, saying:

...See, when you're walking on that bridge you're not walking, you're flying

You're rich, you're beautiful, you're famous, ‘cos you own it

You walk twelve feet above the road, five meters above the cars,

You’re not walking, you’re flying

It is the only place where you can be and see

A plane fly above a bird

A bird fly above a person

A person walk above a car

A car roll above a boat

The boat above the subway

There is no place like the Brooklyn Bridge

And it has two beautiful eyes

Called the Gothic Arches

I love the Brooklyn Bridge

If you want the whole poem, go ask him! I’m sure you want more of this guy! He’s fun! Look up his pages:

www.ibrahima.photography

www.allnyfuntours.com

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