This series explores the backgrounds of NABEA’s founding members and their motivations for working in the organization. Stay tuned!

Khyle Eastin – June 6, 2019

Khyle at the Three Pagodas in Dali, Yunnan Province, during his time in China.

No matter how much time passes, I’ll never forget something my mom imparted to me on my first day as a middle schooler at my new school: “In a perfect world, everyone would have access to the opportunities you’ll have here.”

This is the adage which has pushed me to maximize the privileges and opportunities made available to me in the institutions I’ve been a part of. It is this phrase which has stuck with me, and dispelled any hesitancy I may have when considering options that may be considered unfamiliar by some from my familial community. It is this quote which has allowed me to take risks in the academic and professional realms, and truly come into my own, with the knowledge that I am supported by family and friends. And it is this line of thinking which, at the age of 15, made the opportunity to travel overseas for a year in an unfamiliar country seem like reality rather than fiction.

My first year living in China was perhaps the most meaningful of my time spent abroad. The city of Beijing, and traveling China as a country, was impressive and expanded my worldview, which had up till that point been fairly limited to my home region of the U.S. midwest. More influential, however, was how being in an unfamiliar and uniquely challenging foreign country, with compatriots who were also unfamiliar and not always the friendliest, forced me into greater independence, fearlessness, and allowed for overall self assurance and peace with the world as it is. In the years since my first experience living overseas, I’ve had to explain to a number of people, that as special a place as China may be itself, the real crux of my experience was the growth it forced me to go through via the unique challenges of being a young black male from the U.S. in China.

This quote has travelled with me throughout my time overseas – over the course of three years in China, a year in the Middle East, and various short trips internationally and domestically in the U.S. More importantly, it has stayed with me throughout my education and professional career. It has continued to motivate and drive me, and has never failed to remind me to press pause every now and again, take stock, and appreciate where life has taken me thus far.

I believe these are feelings and opportunities everyone should feel – Black people in particular.

In a perfect world, everyone would have access to the opportunities I’ve had throughout my education. An exponential amount of good can come from expanding those types of unique and challenging opportunities to those who are often underrepresented in such spaces. NABEA presents a major platform for tackling, head on, the challenge of making visible and expanding the voices of established and up-and-coming Black professionals and academics in the field of Asia. It is an honor to be a part of something so deeply important.

To you, the reader – thank you for being a part of this community and contributing, in whatever way you may, to the mission of giving back and helping make the Black community more visible in Asia related professional spaces.

Thank you for reading.

Khyle D. Eastin

Alex Foote – May 30, 2019

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Alex Foote in Hou Hai Park, Beijing, during senior thesis research in 2014.

Stranger: Where are you from?

Me: America.

Stranger: No really! Where in Africa?

Me: I’m from Texas.

Stranger: Oh, where in Africa is that?

This was a frequent conversation I’d have with strangers in China who were confused about where I was from. I tried not to take offense at the comments, knowing this stemmed from curiosity and a need for better cross-cultural exchange. Overtime, I found pride and comfort in this feeling of being “other.”

My first trip to China was in middle school with a student exchange group. I was enamored by how different everything was from what I knew in Texas and previous family trips—from the sharp, yet melodic tones of the language, to the nose-tingling smells, unique architecture and scrumptious food! I was lucky enough that my school started teaching Mandarin around the same time, so when I returned from the trip I started taking the class at school. Luckily the class was small enough (at most 9 people) that I could get individualized lessons from my teacher who pushed and encouraged me to learn more. I was able to go to China nearly each summer from high school through college at Harvard.

At first, I delved into migrant worker issues in China by co-founding an online ESL program for workers’ children. I became more interested in environmental issues after a few summers studying in Beijing’s smog and an eye-opening trip to rural Qinghai on the Tibetan Plateau. This trip also showed me the ethnic discrimination and tensions in China and reminded me of the similar issues we face in the U.S. This new environmental passion inspired me to intern with the Center for Legal Assistance for Pollution Victims in Beijing and pursue a master’s in Environment and Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

During my early years of Chinese study, I felt “othered” at home, since I did not know many kids who took the language, and in China.  Yet, internally, I began to feel a sense of home in China, since it was where I encountered many of my “coming of age” challenges–taking the subway for the first time, learning not to get rattled when people confronted my existence, standing up for myself when people objectified me, pushing myself linguistically and mentally in order to survive. Stretching myself out of my comfort zone, I soon created a new comfort zone.

I joined NABEA to learn about others’ stories and to help others connect through shared experiences. I also joined to help inspire the next generation to push themselves beyond their wildest imaginations and to take a chance to be different and find comfort in that uniqueness. Of course, taking a chance is a bit easier with more opportunities to do so, and this is another reason I joined—to provide more opportunities for the next generation to take a leap across the globe and grow! As a quirky black girl growing up in Dallas, I sure never imagined my life would turn out this way, so I hope future kids like me can experience the same mind-boggling adventures in their development.

Sincerely,

Alex Foote


Tyrell Walker – May 28, 2019

Ty in front of Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto

Hello! I’m Tyrell, and I am the founder of NABEA.

Approximately 9 years ago, I left the United States for the first time to fly to Nanjing, China through my high school’s exchange program. This trip was a huge culture shock to a small-town boy. Towering apartment buildings and overcrowded streets stood in stark contrast to the quiet suburbs I was accustomed to. However, I found the challenge of navigating a new and unfamiliar culture to be invigorating. I returned to the United States with a strong desire to learn as much as I could about China and Asia as a whole, determined to understand this increasingly important region. That trip sparked an enduring devotion to learning about and engaging with Asia, from studying Asian history, languages, and politics at Harvard and Georgetown Universities to living with Taiwanese aborigines and running workshops throughout Japan.

Over the years, I’ve realized a striking deficiency in US-Asia relations: black Americans are severely underrepresented. When I see photos of US diplomats in Asia, attend think tank panels, or witness American leaders conducting trans-Pacific commerce, it is rare to see a black American. I am usually the only black person in any room related to US-Asia relations, and this can feel very disheartening, as well as concerning. The lack of black voices in US discourse on Asia impairs the US-Asia relationship. There is a lot to be gained from enhanced cultural and economic relations between black America and the Indo-Pacific.

Through the unique lens of a biracial black American, I empathize with oppressed minority groups in Asia and see the harsh effects of colorism impacting darker-skinned citizens in Asia. Frustrated by the casual and pervasive anti-black racism in East Asia, affecting the lives and livelihoods of black people across the world, I was inspired to run seminars for students in Asia to try and do my part to combat this pervasive problem. Conversely, I have also seen how Asia interacts, wittingly or not, with black America through music, sports, and even our previous presidency, and I have enjoyed sharing black history and culture with as many people as possible.  

After years of commiserating with other black people about the lack of black voices in US-Asia relations, I decided it was high time that we did something about this problem. I reached out to friends and we began building this NABEA community for black Asia specialists to find camaraderie with other black Asia specialists, connecting with each other and supporting each other’s careers and aspirations. We hope that you join us in ensuring that black America has an integral role in America’s engagement with Asia.

Sincerely,

Tyrell M. Walker

Chadwick Eason – May 9, 2019

Chadwick Eason during his time in Suwon, South Korea.

Hello!

My name is Chadwick Eason and I am one of the co-founders of NABEA.

I am a project manager and have spent the past five years working in East Asia. Uprooting my life and moving to Asia presented its own unique challenges but I am a part of NABEA today because I believe more young black students should do the same.

When people ask me how I began a career path so entangled with Asia, I always respond by saying that “Leaning into my interests yielded unexpected opportunities.”

For me those interests first manifested themselves in the form of watching Japanese cartoons as a child, but seeing as I did not have the means to take action at that age I seized the opportunity to study Japanese my first year at Harvard. I followed Freshman year and Sophomore year with back-to-back summers in Shanghai attending a renewable energy conference and interning with an enterprise software provider, respectively. At school I found myself increasingly enrolling in classes about East Asia and ultimately graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a secondary field of East Asian Studies.

I took a leap of faith and moved to South Korea immediately after graduating college to begin my career at Samsung Electronics. I worked cross-functionally and cross-culturally as a project manager creating digital marketing content and as a product planner researching security software. Additionally, I volunteered as a change management consultant at HLAB, an education non-profit organization based in Tokyo.

When I first traveled to Asia, it was admittedly difficult to adjust. I saw very few people who looked like me and struggled with my identity for an entire summer. I am open about this to say that living in a different country, particularly one less diverse than the US, has its challenges but because of the experience I learned more about myself and broadened my way of thinking. Of course it helped that I had a base level of interest, but if you find yourself reading this and thinking “I have the perseverance to lean into my interests,” why not take the leap yourself?

Sincerely,

Chadwick Eason

Paul Yarabe – May 2, 2019

Paul Yarabe, during his time in Japan.

Thanks for stopping by NABEA’s website!

My name is Paul Yarabe, and I’m on the leadership team of NABEA.

I work in biotech in NYC, and studied molecular biology at Harvard, where I also did my MBA.

I joined NABEA because I want others like me to find opportunities to visit or study in Asia, and to even work there someday.

I grew up watching Japanese animations and trying to sketch all my favorite characters.  When I moved to Nebraska for high school, I was lucky enough to have a teacher who had studied in Japan and came back to Lincoln to teach Japanese.  She encouraged me to apply to a 10-day fully-funded scholarship to go to Japan and take pictures of youth culture with 7 other foreign high school students from around the world.  I loved the experience, was touched by the kindness of the Japanese, and came back to Nebraska motivated to finish my Japanese studies and go back to Japan again.

After graduating college, I worked as a strategist at a people analytics startup in Tokyo.  We invented an app called GROW to help students assess their strengths and weaknesses in a social, dynamic, and quantitative way.  When I returned to Boston for business school, I had a chance to co-author an HBS case study “GROW: Using Artificial Intelligence to Screen Human Intelligence” (published August 2017).  

One of my professional goals is to collaborate with the Japanese people to address issues in education and the medical field.  I’ve seen firsthand the Japanese people’s creativity, diligence, and desire to make a difference in the lives of those around them.  It is also clear that with their aging population, there are opportunities for regenerative medicine (which I dabbled in as an undergrad) that Japan can help take the lead on.  If I can help in either of these respects, and help others like me find opportunities to pursue their curiosities as they relate to Japan, that will be something I can be truly proud of doing.  

Sincerely,

Paul Yarabe

Senior Manager, Business Development and Business Operations

Rocket Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

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