I waded through a sea of people, at a distance of, at most, 2 inches between me and the next person in each direction. I was the focal point of each person I passed, the only black face in the mass of Tokyo rush hour commuters. Returning back to the U.S., attending Asia conferences, I was STILL the only one! I longed for the opportunity to meet another black person in Asia and in the U.S. at Asia-related events, savoring any chance to share my experience with someone else who could empathize.
Welcome! If you’ve found your way to the NABEA site and blog it’s probably because you’ve had similar experiences and wanted to connect with others who share your passionate and complicated relationship with the Asia-Pacific. One might ask, why would you go to Asia, knowing that you’d likely face this feeling of being the “only one”? And why would you encourage others to go to Asia and face the same fate?
While working and studying in Asia may reinforce our feelings of alienation or isolation, that doesn’t mean it is not a path worth pursuing. The founders of NABEA, after commiserating and laughing over similar mutual stories, wanted to develop a solution to this issue. When telling friends we were starting this organization, they quipped, “You mean there’s more than one of you??” And NABEA’s answer to that is YES! Not only is there “more than one”, there are many of us who have developed fulfilling careers, found life-long intellectual passions, and experienced unique personal growth through adventures and adversities in the Asia-Pacific.
On an interpersonal level, we hope to connect the “many of us” so we no longer feel like the “only one,” learn from one another’s expertise, triumphs and challenges and support each other in our various industries. On a community and national level, we hope to diversify the landscape of U.S.-Asia relations. If these feelings and hopes resonate with you, we hope you join us in ensuring that the U.S. companies, think tanks, government delegations and organizations that engage with Asia represent America’s diversity. Inclusion of black America in U.S.-Asia affairs will help build a more mutually beneficial, dynamic trans-Pacific relationship.