Home Sweet Home. One of the most touching definitions of it tells us that “home is a place where you are understood without explanation or judgment.” With this definition in mind, most foreigners in China will have felt homesick at somepoint whilst living here, exacerbated by being misunderstood due to language or culture, if not both.
Unlike China, many major cities in Western countries (due in part to their history of colonialism or the slave trade) have enclaves of most cultures where people can go to reconnect with those who share their heritage – such as the Ethiopian community in Silver Springs (Washington DC area), a West African melting pot in the Parisian neighborhood‘Château Rouge’, Angolans and Mozambican enclaves in Lisbon’s Rossio Square, etc. Cultural hubs exist outside of capital cities too, St Pauls in the British city of Bristol is home to a vibrant Jamaican community, for example and the Canadian city ofToronto has a sizeable Nigerian population in the Brampton neighbourhood – the list goes on.
With immigration to China being a relatively new trend for obvious reasons, similar communities and thus enclaves are still intheir infancy. Thus, outside of Guangzhou and Yiwu –cities renowned for housing such enclaves – it can be difficult to find that home away from home that we all at times need.
So how do we overcome homesickness elsewhere in China? There is, of course, the obvious –calling loved ones, frequent visits home, and making new friends in our respective cities of residence. As most could attest to, we also recreate our own representations of home in the form of WeChat groups, embassy gatherings, and culture-filled get-togethers.
Broadly speaking however, many high profile events in China are typically orchestrated to build mutual understanding between both our own and Chinese cultures.
Whilst those play a crucial role in the social and economic integration of Chinese peoples and people of African descent, they don’t necessarily satisfy our yearning for connection within and amongst our own communities.
In and across China, black businesses are beginning to fill this void, through their crafts and events that give us a feel of home combined with the excitement of getting to know other cultures of the African diaspora both similar yet distinct from our own.
With these efforts coming from within our very own community, instead of relying on stereotypical ideas of who we are, they draw on authentic understandings and experiences to create spaces and offerings for China’s black community. Arguably there has never been a more exciting time to be black in China with the sheer number and quality of platforms opening up for black people to merge business with authentic cultural engagement.
Currently held in both Beijing and Shanghai, BlackEXPO is one such platform. For those who haven’t yet been to one of their events, at its core BlackEXPO is an exercise in group economics. It is a place where vendors and sponsors of the black community (and beyond) can come to showcase their goods and products. That’s just the surface though. Beneath the business elements, BlackEXPO is effectively one big family gathering.
Anyone who’s been to a BlackEXPO before or is in a BlackEXPO WeChat group knows one thing – The hype before the event is just as exciting as the physical events! The events themselves attract vendors, creatives, performers and attendees from across the community and provide members of the community, new and old, the chance to congregate and revel in eachother’s company. Vendors travel from neighbouring cities and far far beyond to take part in BlackEXPO, making it a rare opportunity to connect beyond the confines of our individual cities.
With the next two BlackEXPOs billed for this Saturday in Beijing and on the 20th of April in Shanghai, the next few months look set to be extremely exciting!
Much more than being a marketplace, BlackEXPO serves as a reminder that the legacy black businesses in China are building goes beyond economic gains. Instead, its gifts extend to giving us a home away from home, and friendships/family that willkeep our connections with our cultures alive.
It is in this same spirit of unity, and community building that Black Livity China’s aptly named Andinet Directory™, China’s very first Directory for all things black, was created. Named after the Amharic word for Unity, the directory was built with the support of several other community players – Dephlex Creatives, OPOPO, Black In China and Black Hongkies to name a few. With over 120 listings across the country, what initially started out as a way to build ties across black communities for the purpose of economic growth has now expanded into a platform that showcases the multifaceted nature of black cultures across Mainland China and beyond. Andinet Directory™ is today a resource that is home to black organisations, groups, skilled individuals and much much more.
China’s black community is growing by the second, and as it grows so too does our desire to find home in new places, both online and off. As increasingly more of us choose to contribute to its growth, be it through attending events, setting up initiatives or supporting black businesses, we take our community from strength to strength, all the while redefining what Home Sweet Home truly means.
If you’re a business, organisation, group or skilled individual (photographer, DJ, etc.) and are not yet listed, don’t worry – reachout to us today and we will take care of the rest!