I was very humbled this month to be featured in Travel Noire’s Black Expat column. I truly appreciate the work that Travel Noire is doing in efforts to uplift the voices of Black millennials on their experiences in countries other than their own. The article is a very good start on a conversation that seems to keep popping up in many spaces “What is home for black expats?”
What is Home?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the most popularly used meaning of home as a noun is someone’s or something’s place of origin, or the place where a person feels they belong. I find this to be so interesting. For me, my origin is New Haven, Connecticut, (or Cheshire depending on how you define origin and impressionable upbringing). For every single person on this planet, there is one true home by this definition; home is the geographical location in which you were born. Assuming you were not born on a flight from NY to London hovering 30,000 feet above the Atlantic, this should be simple. For example, according to this definition of home, my daughter Ksenija’s home is China. What? She was born in Shanghai. She was born in a spanking brand new fancy-schmancy hospital in Puxi – her passport clearly states she was born in Shanghai, China, and will always state that, no matter what.
The second part of the definition of home is where things get complicated. The second part of the definition of home speaks to a sense of belonging. Belonging? Well…that is subjective. Belonging to what? Or to whom? And on what terms? I hold an American passport, but in what sense do I feel a belonging to the country? That’s a different story.
As the definition alludes to, actual belonging and perceived belonging are distinct. Whether I feel as though I belong to the predominately white small town community in Cheshire, Connecticut, and whether I share the values and beliefs of that larger community are two very diffferent things. Whether my daughter Ksenija feels comfortable and at home among her Chinese friends in a Shanghai kindergarten class, and how many values and beliefs they actually share are two very different considerations. In my mind, it is the feeling of whether one belongs that is most important. How one feels or perceives their acceptance in a certain environment is much more important than the factual similarities between that individual and the community.
Black Expats in China
This is not a new concept. I and many other Black expats have found a sense of security and belonging in China and other countries different from our countries of origin. When you see a black woman leisurely sipping Jasmine tea in a tea house in rural China, totally in her own element, feeling relaxed, at peace, and at home, you do need to question how the black travel movement is redefining home.
Where is home to you?
“The world and all of its beauty is for us to share and that connects us, too. Whether you love beach destinations, rural areas, authentic small towns, or big cities and bright lights, travel experiences connect us all”Jamilia Grier, Travel Noire, Black Expat