Question: What would you die for? It was once said by a great man that if you haven’t found something worth dying for, you aren’t fit to live. In talking to Marshae Francis, she makes it clear what certain things she is willing to die for and what things she is currently living for. I’m a big fan of Marshae Francis, firstly because she is from my neighborhood, Jamaica Queens. She told me about her background and the reason why she left the States. With this particular interview, I was confused as to what my reaction should be. I wanted to cry and as well as I wanted to burst out laughing but both sentiments came from a place of joy. Marshae helps kids in China, as an English teacher and as a kind of facilitator. Her other job is a kind of a service. She provides on the ground support for new arrivals in China. This service could include things like buying you a toothbrush when you arrive in China because you may not know where to get one. It could also include buying a winter coat and having it waiting for you at the airport for people coming from warmer locals who just may not have thought of that. Marshae has a positive way of looking at the world and that vibration can be felt across distances. From what she says, where ever she has gone in the world, she has carried a sense of gratitude with her and holding on to that has taken her a long way. Has a down to earth kind of common sense. There’s a maturity or a kind of wisdom in how she talks. It comes across that she is well educated and also well-versed in the subject matter at hand. She knows what she is talking about which is a fact that instills confidence in people who listen to her. I would imagine that this is also what makes her a good counselor. The students Marshae helps are not just the ones native to China. She has a pretty vast network. She recruits students from The USA, Canada and her native Caribbean, who intend to go to college in China. This is a remarkable program not only because college tuition in China is just a few thousand dollars a year; on top of that, students who go through her program are guaranteed a job after they graduate. I was floored when I heard that. She and I both agreed that the opportunities provided by her program especially to our young people are beyond measure. Lastly, it is obvious that Marshae gets a deep sense of satisfaction from what she does. That spirit is infectious as well.
On July 13, 2017 I had the pleasure of speaking with Jamasian Christie who currently lives in Guang Zhou in southern China. The first thing that strikes anyone about Jamasian is that she is a genuinely positive person. After that, you will notice that she has a definite love for different cultures. From what she told me, this is what prompted her to start traveling in the first place. What she brings to her work and her life is a religious as well as a historical perspective. These perspectives come from her educational background. In listening to her speak, it is clear that she has a very analytical mind.
Jamasian works in Guang Zhou as a translator of written Chinese texts. She has worked for TV and film, academic organizations as well as for individual clients. Apart from text translation, Jamasian also provides an escorting service. Here, she picks clients up from the airport and shadows in what ever city they may happen to be. She interprets and translates for them in real-time which apparently takes a lot of thinking on your feet. Jamasian presented to me a very unique take on eastern culture. She described for me, from her own experience, the differences she has noticed between eastern and western cultures. Her insights surprised me. I previously thought that the concept of individualism was a western idea and the east was ultra conformist. From listening to Jamasian, it is quite the opposite. The east is more individualistic in that there is one person making all the decisions.
What we did agree on is that in America, for young people, especially young black people, we aren’t really pushed to learn other languages. At least we aren’t pushed in any realistic sense. If a second language is part of almost every school curriculum, why is it that most young Americans can only speak one language? The foundation she created addresses this very issue. The second thing we clicked on is the fact that our generation of Black Americans needs to change our relationship to how we earn money. We are trained to be good workers, to earn a good salary and save money…in someone else’s store. We hardly ever even consider the prospect of being our own bosses and starting our own businesses and that needs to change.
What I took away from the interview with Jamasian was a feeling of hopefulness. It is obvious from talking to her that the spirit of our people is alive and well and doing what it has always done. She is someone who wants to see Black people (including those of us here in Asia) make progress. She has a clear vision for herself and what she wants to do in life.