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Mentor Profile

Bio

mentor picture Kemi
 
Kemi
Programming and Outreach Coordinator at an independent film co-op
Victoria Society of Independent Film Makers
My name is Kemi, and I was born in Maryland and raised in the Carolinas. I basically grew up on the campus of Western Carolina University where my mom, my sister and I lived in faculty housing. I completed high school and college... My name is Kemi, and I was born in Maryland and raised in the Carolinas. I basically grew up on the campus of Western Carolina University where my mom, my sister and I lived in faculty housing. I completed high school and college while living in Clemson, South Carolina. In 1997, I earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Clemson University and I have a postgraduate certificate in cross cultural training from the University of Victoria, in Canada, Bristish Columbia. My final year of university, I delayed graduating to do one semester abroad at the School of the Americas in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico. I had traveled outside of the U.S. before (once on a road trip with my mother to Canada as well as a site visit to the Dominican Republic with her), but I hadn’t traveled independently or lived away from home. The following year I went to England on a work exchange program (BUNAC) and lived in London for six months. I returned to the U.S. for two years before being accepted into the Japanese Exchange Teachers (JET) program. I lived in Mie prefecture in Japan for two years teaching English in a public junior high school and visiting local elementary schools for the same purpose. While living in Japan, I met my husband, a Canadian, who was also part of the small English-speaking community teaching in Mie-Ken. After two years living in Japan, I moved to Canada and enrolled at the University of Victoria . I have lived on Vancouver Island for the past five years where I work with the Victoria Society of Independent Film Makers. Through my work I am also able to engage the community and direct discussion groups on anti-racism. With the use of film we are able to involve university students and civic leaders to work toward constructive solutions to bridge the racial divide in our community. I also teach film production to some of the immigrant girls who live in Victoria.

Responses

  1. The importance of being represented internationally brings me to an occurring concern that I have had traveling abroad: would I experience racism abroad? The irony is that racism is something that I had experienced everyday, but it was a racism I knew. Going abroad meant the possibility of not only dealing with an evil I didn’t know, but also, the inability to surround myself with a supportive community. I would be on my own. As I rode the train from Tokyo to Mie Ken, the village where I had been assigned to teach in Japan as part of the JET program, I remember thinking, “will the teachers and students at my school be disappointed that I don’t fit the image of real Americans- “blonde-hair blue-eye” authenticity. After all, I had already been informed that I would be the first African American to teach in this village. I may have been the first African American to teach there, but I met a Kenyan woman who had immigrated to Mie Ken and we shared many common cultural perspectives. Nonetheless, I was surprised that everywhere I traveled, my Japanese host had heard about racism in the states. After traveling to both Japan and Mexico, I realized that traveling to places with different histories and experiences meant that many of the racialized identities which were imposed upon me in the U.S. were not ingrained into the discourses of Mexico and Japan. Racism does exist in other societies, but being black in the U.S. means something different from being black in Japan or Mexico.
    6 answers – Racism
  2. My fears and misgivings about acceptance quickly disappeared as I immersed myself into the Japanese culture. Two of the teachers whom I met in Japan were present at my wedding this year. They joyfully proclaimed that they had to be present at the wedding because they were there when my husband and I first met. This lasting friendship is one of the treasures of my JET experience. My husband and I also traveled to New Zealand to participate in a friend’s wedding whom we met in Japan. The friends that I made and the lessons learned through international travel have been priceless.
    3 answers – Re-Adjusting to Home
  3. The English students who were enrolled at the University of the Americas, where I studied abroad, invited me to England. Because of their friendships, I felt comfortable in making plans to participate in the BUNAC program. My work permit allowed me to work in London for six months. I found a job as a hostess at the Texas Embassy Cantina, located just five minutes from Trafalgar Square. I could walk to the National Gallery of Art on my lunch break. My weekly activities consisted of visiting art galleries and great museums. All monies earned were spent seeing wonderful plays at the Royal Theatre. My experiences in London were priceless and needless to say, I did not want to leave London when my six- month work permit and visa expired. I ran around frantically trying to discover a way to immigrate. Does that tell you how much I loved living and working in London?
    7 answers – Personal
  4. As a child, I dreamed of traveling to far off places. Now, I no longer dream about traveling, I have stood at the Great Wall of China, held a conversation with Tibetan Monks, climbed some of the mountain trails in the Himalayas and visited the Taj Mahal. My travels outside of the United States are even more valuable to me than my college degree. They have given me an appreciation of world cultures and an acceptance of differences.
    25 answers – Personal
  5. There were a few common misgivings that I had about studying abroad which often serve as deterrents for marginalized students. For the most part my reservations revolved around financial limitations, as well as concern about personal well-being and being accepted. Too often, before embarking on a new venture, I allowed myself to reflect on language barriers, safety concerns; (being an African American female), and fear of acceptance.
    3 answers – Before You Leave
  6. I wanted to see and learn about new places and cultures. I also wanted to be more competitive in the job market. Becoming proficient in another language as well as proving that I could take the initiative to carve a different path for myself and adapt to a new culture would give me a competitive edge. This was my thinking when I embarked upon my very first study abroad experience.
    9 answers – Personal
  7. Traveling to places with different histories and experiences meant that many of the racialized identities which were imposed upon me in the U.S. were not ingrained into the discourses of Mexico and Japan. Racism does exist in other societies, but being black in the U.S. means something different from being black in Japan or Mexico.
    16 answers – For African Americans – For Asian/ Pacific Americans – For Hispanic/ Latin@ – Personal – For Native Americans
  8. La experiencia de vivir en el extranjero me ha mostrado que en países como México y Japón no todos saben diferenciar la diversas identidades étnicas como en este país. El racismo existe en otros paises pero ser negro en los Estados Unidos significa algo totalmente distinto de ser negro en Japón o México.
    4 respuestas – Consejos Utiles
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