Black Abroad: The Roses

By Rachel Hill

Q: Hi there! Tell the world a little bit about “The Roses”!

We are LaToya and Tiffany, a black lesbian couple that have been married for two years. We have an insatiable thirst for wanderlust and enjoy living the expatriate life. For the past three years, we’ve called Shanghai, China home.

 

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Q:Where did The Roses meet?

Tiffany and I were both living in South Korea one year before officially meeting. She organized a lesbian meet-up group with the goal of connecting lesbians in the Seoul area. Fellow lesbians met up, at brunch, for drinks and gay friendly conversation. We met at this brunch and became instant friends. Had anyone told us on that chilly Saturday in February that four and half years later we would be married to each other, living in China ,trying to have a baby we would’ve laughed in their face. But that’s life, always giving you the unexpected just when you need it.

Q: Speaking of living in Shanghai, how is life there, as a young, Black, married, Lesbian couple?

Living in such a homogenous country, we are the ULTIMATE other. Black. Lesbian. Women. Living in China. Working at an International French School. We tick all of the above on a minority survey. Living in Asia, in general, people are curious about our melanin rich skin and kinky hair texture. Having locs heightens their curiosity often with puzzled looks and round table discussions.

Although our marriage is not recognized by the Chinese government, working for the French government, we receive full marital benefits. A “closet” doesn’t exist for us. We are very out and open about the life we share together.

Q: What are some of the most interesting things you experience culturally living in Shanghai?

Contrary to popular belief, Shanghai isn’t a true depiction of Chinese culture. With 24 million people living in the city, it’s a metropolitan hub with booming night life. The difference between Shanghai and New York, however is eventually, Shanghainese people do go to sleep.

It is a true East meets West paradox. Within ten steps, you can buy 6RMB ($1) noodles from a street vendor before test driving an Aston Martin.

Q: What have the major differences between living in Seoul and Shanghai, China?

Prior to living in an Asian country, I thought Japan, China, and South Korea were synonymous with noodles, knock off luxury items, and Kong Fu. I was certainly wrong! Seoul is truly the city that never sleeps. From Noraebang (karaoke), movie theaters, and night clubs to Korean BBQ, cafes, and tempting street food vendors, there is always something to indulge the night owls. Clothing and cosmetic shops are plentiful. The people are very fashionable, kind mannered, and not as aggressive. My wife and I like to describe Seoul as the transient city for expats. Every foreigner you meet is either an English teacher (from an English speaking country) or works for the military. In a nutshell, you work, party hard, save a little, and then you leave.

On the contrary Shanghai is for the more focused expats. People move to Shanghai to advance their careers. Here, you’ll find foreigners from a plethora of countries across the globe. When we go out with friends, we look like attendees at a benefit dinner for United Nations. I love it! This is also great when it’s time to travel.

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Q: This is a common question I am sure – “How do you all make a living in China?”

My wife and I work for the French International School, Lycée Francais de Shanghai, as teachers. Not to brag, (but kind of) the benefits are amazing. The best being our vacation time. Because the company observes both Chinese and French holidays, every five to six weeks, we have vacation. It’s perfect for our travel addiction.

Q: In your opinions, do you think Shanghai is a great place for a young, Black professional to live, grow, and thrive professionally, financially, socially?

  • Professionally: It truly depends on the occupational field and company you work for. Benefits and privileges vary, based on origin country of the company. For Educators in the International section, it’s a fantastic place to live and work. As well as those in Fashion, Marketing, Business or Engineering. We must you warn you, the Chinese work week is much longer and grueling than our 40 hour work week in America. However on the flipside of that coin there are numerous opportunities once in China as an ex-patriate to open businesses and make meaningful business connections. If are hard working, adaptable and hungry for the hustle Shanghai could a great place for you.
  • Financially: Absolutely. Depending on your line of work you can make a good living in Shanghai. The cost of living is less than in the states. You earn enough to pay rent/bills/student loans and still have money to shop and travel. Who doesn’t love that?
  • Socially: Shanghai has a booming nightlife. From 5 star dining, live shows, fantastic cocktail hours, and bar hopping to jam packed clubs, Shanghai’s social scene is parallel to that of New York City. It’s often dubbed as the an affordable New York night life. Bottle service? Yes please!

Q: How would you honestly say the perception of Brown people in Shanghai is compared to that of being back home in the States?

Most Chinese people we meet, think we’re from Africa. While this is not completely false, I do correct them and let them know we’re Americans. As I said before, they are fascinated with our skin and hair. Most days, I ignore the stares and whispers. Some days, I get annoyed and respond with, “Hello! Yes, may I help you” Tiffany’s favorite response is, “What, you see something you like?” We both chuckle and go on about our day.

Q: How has living overseas shaped your views and perception of the world?

I’d like to answer this question with a quote, “So much of what you are is where you’ve been.” Through travel, we have been exposed to different cultures, food, family values, tradition, music etc…it has truly broaden our world. We no longer see the “American Dream” fitting for us. Giving each other the gift of travel is our American dream.

Q: Okay, craziest story since you all have been out there?

Where do we begin? Part of living overseas is embracing a new culture. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be completely culture shocked from time to time. One in particular stands out. Let us preface this story by noting that we don’t eat Chinese food, our friends often ask us “Are you serious that you don’t eat Chinese food? It’s so delicious! There’s so many dishes to try !” For those of you Americans, let us tell you there is no beef and broccoli, shrimp fried rice, shrimp Ho fun, spareribs , crab rangoons or egg drop soup in a white box cartons. Traditional Chinese food is nothing like the sometimes strange, yet amazingly delicious version of Chinese cuisine that we have in United States. We are by no means picky eaters. Having lived in Asia for many years has opened us up to a number of strange delicacies which we wholeheartedly indulge.

However in China there are many things that for lack of better words, we just don’t fuck with. In our first weeks in China, still wet behind the ears trying to figure out where we fit. We found a nearby restaurant which always smelled amazing. Inside there were lots of people, had delicious looking dishes on the table, so we figured we give it a try. We went up to the counter to look at the menu which was all in Mandarin. I proceeded to take out a notepad and pen and draw pictures of animals one would probably eat. A pig, a cow, a horse, a fish, a chicken. We then proceeded to point to dishes and then point to the pictures on my notepad to find out what meat was in which dish.

We each picked one we liked that looked delicious then pointed to the chicken the woman nodded I gave her a thumbs up and we thought all was well. This bubbling bowl of awesome deliciousness arrived at our table . I rubbed my hands together and picked up my chopsticks ready to dig in. The first bite was pretty good it was it turned out to be some spicy chicken stew. As Toya took the first bite of her order she frowned and spit out a weird gelatinous ball. I laughed and dug my chopstick back into my bowl for a second helping, this time not paying attention still conversing with Toya, I put the chopstick to my mouth and as I did a hook cut my lip I looked down to see a chicken foot and the nail hanging from my lip I was utterly disgusted and totally done. I made a disappointed face!

Dug even deeper into my pot to see that 90% of the meat in my bowl was chicken feet I put down my chopsticks shook my head and said let’s go I think we have Ramen in the room! Since then we’ve had multiple occasions to try Chinese food with similar food fails. The chicken foot debacle has marred us forever. Needless to say we won’t be trying any new Chinese dishes until further notice. With that said we do partake in the staples fried rice, sautéed vegetables, noodles, dumplings, rice porridge, green tea and hot soy milk. So, if you’re going to a traditional Chinese feast, you can count the Roses…Out!

Q: To be transparent, what is one of the worst or most challenging experiences you have had in Asia?

The most challenging experiences have been truly and wholeheartedly accepting their culture. Common practices we are accustomed to in America are not norms here. For example, waiting in line, not staring, giving up your seat for an elderly person or a pregnant woman, and pedestrians having the right of way, are all normal “common sense” social rules. This is not the case in Shanghai. We must constantly remind ourselves that this is not America and they are not being rude.

 

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Q: What has you inspired you the most about living in Shanghai?

Although we are teachers professionally, we still feel like teachers after hours. There are moments when curious soles are respectful enough to ask about your hair. This opens the floor to engage in mutual dialogue. Some will politely ask for your permission to take a picture of you or with you. When you oblige, they are the happiest! Other times, our local fruit vendor will give us the biggest and the best dragon fruit because we are loyal customers. All of these simple yet beautiful interactions let us know that we are succeeding here. Living and thriving in a country completely different from America.

Q: What has been the greatest lesson you both have learned living overseas?

Once you step foot outside of America, you realize that life is truly an adventure. To date, it has been the best decision we’ve made. Our lives are richer, our experiences are vast, and our adventures are never ending!

Q: Where to next for The Roses? Do you all plan on moving back to The States?

As of now, we plan to live in China for a few more years. We have no plans to repatriate. We see ourselves settling in sunny South America or growing roots on the coast of Spain with our future baby Roses.

Q: And the greatest piece of advice for people who would like to live overseas at a point?

Do it! Research your country of intent, book a ticket, and go! Succeed or fail, it will teach you 1,000,001 unexpected lessons to carry you through a lifetime.

 

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This post originally appeared on Rachel Travels.

No Charges For Officer Over Shooting Death of Tony Robinson

Tony Robinson

There will be no charges brought against Matt Kenny, the officer responsible for shooting 19-year-old Tony Robinson. District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said that he believed the shooting was justified. Robinson’s family told a local news station that they are determining what further legal action to take. Local activist group, the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, has called for a Blackout Wednesday to protest the lack of charges.

Photo: Tony Robinson/Facebook

Tyler, The Creator Wins at Trolling, Uses White Supremacist Symbol for His New Gay Pride Shirts

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Tyler, The Creator just released his new set of anti-racism, gay pride shirts that turn a white supremacist symbol on its head. Of his shirts, Tyler says,

“Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that these guys aren’t fans of Blacks, Gays, Asians or anything else that doesn’t fit in “white” box.Now having the thought process that i have, i asked myself some questions: What if a black guy wore this logo on a shirt? Would he be promoting self hate? Would he be taking the power out of a shape? What if a gay guy wore this on a shirt? Would he promoting Homophobia? Then BAM! I Had it. Throw a little rainbow in the logo ( i still wonder, who was the guy that said a rainbow is the gay symbol? thats another article stay tuned) and take a photo with a white guy in it and we have an amazing photo. The thing that tops it off is the homo erotic tone of the hand holding, which to some degree HAS to piss off the guys who takes this logo serious. This made the photo even more important to me, because it was me playing with the idea of taking the power out of something so stupid. Or maybe my whole idea on this is stupid. Who knows, but why not try it out?”

Photo: Tyler, The Creator

George Zimmerman Is a Thug

George Zimmerman

Jay Dodd

As reports broke from Florida of George Zimmerman Shooting incident, the timeline reacted to every developing detail. The shock that Zimmerman was in legal trouble again, the complicated annoyance of the minor injuries, and the “urgent” call for empathy. Zimmerman has illustrated the complete farce of the judicial system. From his acquittal for murdering Trayvon Martin in 2012, Zimmerman has modeled the face of 21st Century racism. He benefits from proximity to whiteness and legal absolution and has seemed to consistently flail these privileges. Even his documented hunting of Black boys seems to be stripped from his narrative. Before unpacking further, a full disclaimer: I unapologetically am unconcerned with the well being of George Zimmerman, clearly White Jesus is on his side regardless.

Despite his lack of melanin, have no doubt George Zimmerman is a thug. He’s a thug in the “literally fear inducing criminal” way that gets passed off on Black people for simply breathing in public.  He has been arrested for assault, complained on by his neighbors, and the dude that shot him reported Zimmerman for threats just last year. How quickly are Black boys made monsters made dangerous? How quickly are Black children denied childhood? How quickly are Black women dehumanized and discarded? And here, we have a by the book, irrefutable meance to society now playing victim. How many times have Black folks been caricatured as superhuman?  George Zimmerman got shot in the face and survived. I know White Supremacy don’t have voodoo, but damn.

For the more kind-hearted among you, the apathetic framing may seem callous. You may genuinely believe that “all lives matter” and that wishing ill on Zimmerman is wrong. Your thinking may consolidate to “why stoop that low?”.

Ok. Fair.

Zero sum games, like binaries and dichotomies, do little service for our society and nothing for justice. Whether serious or not, frustration Zimmerman hasn’t suffered more stems from the fact that he is a living reminder of how justice is a myth for Black folks in the eyes this country. The fact a known aggressor and murderer can wave a gun in traffic without recourse but Tamir can’t play in a park calls for callousness. Whatever fatalistic shade Black folk may be sending Zimmerman’s way, it’s from anger and frustration. Still, whatever vitriol Black folks declare toward Zimmerman (and the Whiteness that protected him) only carries so much power in our society. For Black folk to truly “stoop that low” would require centuries of unquestioned power that pit all others against each other. In a political and cultural system that does not see all lives as valuable, Black folks can more than declare vengeance. Our words unfortunately do not readily translate into laws, ideologies, and safety.

The long and short of it is this; George Zimmerman, even now, is getting more humanized than Trayvon was on that tragic night in 2012. George is getting to play victim despite his history of abuse. Someone (a white dude, thankfully) shot him after Zimmerman waved a gun AT HIM. I can’t tell you how to feel about GZ but unless he has passed in the night, let’s hope we don’t hear any more headlines about him.

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Jay Dodd is a writer and performance artist based in Boston, originally from Los Angeles. After recently graduating Tufts University, Jay has organized vigils and protests locally for Black Lives Matter: Boston. When not in the streets, Jay has contributed to Huffington Post and is currently a contributing writer for VSNotebook.com, based in London. Jay Dodd is active on social media celebrating Blackness, interrogating masculinity, and complicating queerness. His poetic and performance work speaks to queer Black masculinity and afrofuturism.

4 Celebs We Wish Were Our Moms

By L.G. Parker

1. Jada Pinkett Smith

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Jada is a very vocal non-traditional parent. In an interview with Sway, she said “I tell my kids to worry about being respected, not liked.” Just this past April, she joined Jaden and Willow on stage during their set at the Broccoli City Music Festival in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Jada Pinkett-Smith/Facebook)

2. Erykah Badu

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DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown brings her kids on tour with her, and they make a lot of videos in the process. From Mars singing “Let It Go” from Frozen to Seven awkwardly sliding across the kitchen, Badu and her kids stay busy and are always a pleasure to watch. (Photo: Erykah Badu/Facebook)

3. Phylicia Rashad

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Claire Huxtable, and therefore Phylicia Rashad, is the mother of Black America. Enough said. (Photo: Tumblr)

4. Lisa Bonet

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Is it too late to get adopted into the Bonet family? That’s the question we ask ourselves every time we see a photo of Lisa and her daughter Zoe. (Photo: Lenny Kravitz/Facebook)

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L.G. Parker is a writer based in Richmond, Virginia.

Nine Police Deputies Fired Over the Death of Matthew Ajibade

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A Georgia police department has fired nine sheriffs over the Jan. 1st death of Matthew Ajibade.

Ajibade, 22, was found dead in his Chatham County, Ga. cell after being arrested during a bipolar episode. During his arrest, he was handcuffed to a chair and tasered by officers.

The firings come after a probe led by Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The Chatham County District Attorney’s Office is still determining whether charges will be brought.

Read more at Huffington Post.