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.
Tyrell M. Walker
Join our community of black individuals who engage with Asia through discussions, local events, and programming by visiting our Join US page!
Input your areas of expertise and contact information to gain access to our professional database, a collection of black specialists on Asia-related on our Professional Database page!