Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blasian, Blackanese And Beautiful

Ni Hao, Hip Hapa Homeez! In case you’re not familiar, that’s “hello” in Mandarin. This week’s greeting is in honor of our featured Hip Hapa Homee, Kimberly Campbell, who has lived in China with her family. What’s so unusual about that, you may well ask? Well, Kim, her husband and two children are African Americans--which really shouldn’t be all that remarkable. Yet, most people still consider it significant when blacks live abroad, and we don’t mean in Africa or the Caribbean either.

That’s Kim with her Chinese students in the photo above and below, a spread of her family.

Q: Why China, Kim?

A: I’m a professor in the Communication Department at Texas Southern University, and am conducting interviews and holding meetings about ways to build bridges between African American and Asian American communities. I appreciate all the bridge builders who have been working towards that end for many years. Anyone who would like to connect, share resources, and/or exchange ideas should email me at 

Q: When did you first develop an interest in Asia?

A: As a child, I was interested in traveling and learning about various cultures. I recall being attracted to Asian philosophies, books, and films as a high school student. I do have some pretty early memories of connecting with Chinese stories and people as a very young child. I remember enjoying the Seven Chinese Brothers book, and recall enjoying the accent of a Chinese woman who worked at my pre-school. So, perhaps my attraction to Chinese culture was ignited early on. 

I also recall really enjoying Bollywood musicals and dance routines. Hopefully, I will get to visit India in the near future. I am definitely open to other cultures and find that learning about them is a great way to learn about myself. I love to share my Blasian stories!

Q: Did you or your husband grow up in multicultural environments?

A: My husband and I both grew up in predominately African American environments within Detroit. Both of us, even as young people, demonstrated an openness to people and friendships with persons of diverse backgrounds. Our parents were open to diversity in professional settings, but maintained almost exclusive African American personal friendships--at least while we were children. Nonetheless, once I became a teenager, I recall that my mother’s circle of friends became more inclusive of diverse persons and has continued that way today.   

Q: How long did your family stay in China?

A: From 2006 to 2008, we lived and worked in south China in a city called Shunde, about 25 miles south of Guangzhou and about an hour and a half north of Hong Kong. Our children are fluent in Chinese and are culturally Blasian, or Blackanese as some refer to them, in many ways.

Q: What did you do there?

A: My husband and I worked at a K-12 private international baccalaureate school. I worked with high school juniors and seniors teaching critical thinking and helping them prepare for admission to colleges/universities in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia. Teaching high-schoolers was new to me as my entire career before going to China had been teaching at the college level for about 13 years.

Q: And, your kids?

A: Our children attended the international school where we taught for the first year. The teachers in the lower grades spoke very little English so our children learned Mandarin quickly. After only five months, both children (7 and 9 when we arrived in China) were fluent! At the end of their first year, they were ranked 1st (daughter) and 2nd (son) in Mandarin speaking, reading, and writing out of about 200 foreign students. Our children often served as translators for my husband and me, and for other foreigners living in China.

Q: What was it like being black in Asia?

A: I was the first African American woman, or woman of African descent period, to have worked/taught at the school. There was another African American man from Texas who started teaching there when my husband and I did, so my husband was one of the first African American men to teach at the school. After two years, the school made very generous offers for us to stay. After we left, the school recruited five African Americans to teach there. We really feel we were trailblazers and cultural ambassadors for the school!

Q: Did you visit other Asian countries?

A: Over the two years, we had the opportunity to travel to Thailand, Philippines and throughout China. The exposure was quite enriching for our family. It was very rare to see other African Americans--especially ones traveling with a family. We wouldn't trade the experience for anything. We will always remain connected to Asian culture.

Q: What did you guys eat? 

A: The food in southern China was definitely different from the taste and style of Chinese food served in U.S. restaurants such as Panda Express. What an adjustment!  As we traveled to different parts of China, we became more knowledgeable about the diverse food and cooking traditions in those places. Lamain noodles--a long stretchy noodle from Islamic Chinese areas of Western China--were one of my family's favorite foods.

Q: What are you doing now?

A: I have returned to academia and currently serve as Interim Chair of the Speech Communication Department at Texas Southern University. My husband has started an ESL company in Houston.

I am involved in several research projects and am developing an organization designed to identify opportunities and overcome challenges in strengthening African American and Asian American relationships. Some of the projects also seek to uncover key differences in communication styles that may present cultural blocks for the two groups. By the way, I’m brainstorming ideas for a name for the organization I’m starting if anyone has any suggestions. Also, I'm writing about African American families living abroad, and at least three of the families reflect on their experiences living in Asian countries.

Q: What about your children?

A: The children attend an international baccalaureate school in Houston, and study Chinese at their school.

Xie xie, Kim! (That’s pronounced sheh sheh and means thank you.)

Now for some announcements:

Hip Hapa Homee Vanessa Chong is working on a Biracial Identity and Family Study for those who are half Asian and half Caucasian. This is a part of the University of Windsor’s multicultural research program in the Department of Psychology. You must be between 18 and 30, and live in the U.S. or Canada to participate. As a token of appreciation, participants will be entered in a drawing for $25 gift cards. The website link is and requires using “biracial” as your ID and “survey” as your password. For more info, contact Vanessa at

And, Hip Hapa Homee Michelle Hughes sent us info about the 2010 Census and why it’s important for those of us identifying as being more than one race to complete the form. For more info, visit or contact 2010 Census National Partner, Association of MultiEthnic Americans (Jungmiwha Bullock or Harold Gates ), at 818-230-2285 or

Remember, your purchase of a Hapa*Teez t-shirt will help support our Watermelon Sushi film while earning you a rear crawl credit. You can also join our Hip Hapa Homeez Group page on Facebook, where we post the latest news for blendies, mixies and transracial adoptees, and our Watermelon Sushi Fan page where we keep you updated about the film. In the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling Watermelon Sushi Associate Producers on this blog, so keep coming back. You can also follow watermelonsushi on Twitter where we post excerpts from the film script.

If you're looking for a good book to read, check out my friend Nashieqa Washington's cleverly titled Why Do Black People Love Fried Chicken? Obviously, Nashieqa's never eaten lamain noodles. Nevertheless, buy her book. You won't be disappointed.

Finally, here’s a shout-out to all you Hip Hapa Homeez for your continuing loyalty. It’s so heartwarming to watch our numbers growing every day especially when so many of you are not mixed-race, a transracial adoptee, or even in an interracial relationship. The fact that you still champion the cause for those of us claiming our multi-ethnic heritages speaks volumes about your spirit.

Until we meet again, I remain

Your Hip Hapa,

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rockin' And Rollin' With The Bots

Greetin’s, Hip Hapa Homeez! Welcome back to Watermelon Sushi World. Your Hip Hapa missed you last week, but she’s making up for it by introducing you to TWO righteously talented guests this week.

The pix above and below are of The Bots, Afro-Caribbean-Asian brothers and Cali cuties with their own band. After you read the Q&A, check out their links below. Aren’t they precious? Thank you, Renee Tecco of Sweet Rice Chronicles for the heads up.

Respect, respect.

Q: What are two nice, mixed-race boys like you doing in a band named The Bots?

A: Well, we thought the name was catchy. It’s not short for robots and is not associated with robots. We used robots on our first album to go with the theme.

Q: How did you get your exotic birth names?

A: Our mother and father are Rastafarians and took our names out of the Holy Bible. Anaiah is 13. His name means ‘Jehovah has answered’. Mikaiah is 16. His name means ‘Who is like unto Jehovah’.

Q: Where and how did your Chinese father and Afro-Caribbean mother meet?

A: Our parents met at The Rastafarian Organization of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. It’s the same religious organization Bob Marley was a member of. Our dad said he made a beeline for our mom when he first laid eyes on her. They exchanged numbers and, you know the rest.

Q: What kind of lifestyle does your family have?

A: We were raised with both cultures. We are not fluent in Chinese, but it’s spoken by our grandparents and we understand most of it. We have not been to Carnival, but we are aware of it. Our mom was raised in the states.

Q: How would you describe your sound?

A: Rock and indie rock.

Q: What! No reggae?

A: It takes a couple of people to play reggae. We do play around with it, though.

Q: How did you choose your instruments?

A: We play multiple instruments, and over seven instruments each. They were the only reasonable things to play in a rock and roll band, so we decided Mikaiah should play guitar and Anaiah drums.

Q: Who writes your songs, and who decides what you’re going to play?

A: We write all of our songs, and Anaiah decides which songs to play when we perform.

Q: Do you two always get along even when you’re not playing music?

A: Yes, we get along because our parents would not have it any other way. We love each other very much. Of course, we sometimes argue like brothers do, but it’s quickly quashed.

Q: Was your album “Self-Titled Album” released on July 25 as planned?

A: Not officially, but it began to stream on the Internet last summer in July.

Q: How often do you rehearse, and when do you get your homework done?

A: We rehearse mostly on the weekends, both days, and when we sometimes squeeze time in on the weekdays after we are done with homework. We are required by our parents to bring home all A's and B's, and we do get good grades. When we are not doing homework, we write as we are working on our next album.

Q: It looks like your schools (Glendale High School and Roosevelt Middle School) have been very supportive of your music education. How important is it to get an early start?

A: Important because you can get better with time.

Q: Who are your favorite musical artists?

A: We like Attic Monkey, Arcade Fire, Bad Brains, A7X, and Yeah Yeah Yeah's just to name a few. There are too many to mention.


Here are The Bots’ upcoming gigs, shows, and tours:

Emergenza Festival at The Joint, Beverly Hills, April 2

The Strange on Melrose, April 7

Glendale (battle of the bands), April 17

Afro Punk Tour, June 25 (three weeks)

Warped Tour, August 11-15

The Bots Official Website:

The Bots Facebook:

The Bots MySpace:


Afro Punk:


Vans Warped Tour 2010 – THE BOTS Profile:

Irie. While you’re checking out The Bots’ links and things, don’t forget to become a Watermelon Sushi film fan on Facebook. As long as you’re cruisin’ there, go to the Hip Hapa Homeez Group page and join to stay updated on the latest news about blendies, hapas, interracial adoptees, and mixies. Buy a Hapa*Teez t-shirt and not only earn a rear crawl credit on the Watermelon Sushi film, but see your photo on the Hip Hapa Homeez Group page in weekly rotation. If you’ve made a purchase, contact us so we can give you your prize.

Until two weeks from now, I promise to always be

Your Hip Hapa,