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 kdctheory@msn.com 

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  
http://uwindsor.ca/biracial and requires using “biracial” as your ID and “survey” as your password. For more info, contact Vanessa at brstudy@uwindsor.ca

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 http://2010.census.gov or contact 2010 Census National Partner, Association of MultiEthnic Americans (Jungmiwha Bullock or Harold Gates ), at 818-230-2285 or amea2010census@gmail.com

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,
Yayoi

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