As we reflect on the end of this year’s Black History Month, we would like to highlight some of the experiences of our Black Peace Corps Volunteers. The following are brief snap-shots into the lives and experiences of these volunteers. Please enjoy the humility, boldness, and beauty that they choose to share with us this month and every month.
My heart is just so full. Although I am only with these kids for a little over an hour three days a week, throughout the remainder of training I cannot help but be excited for the time I get to spend with them.
With the little English these children have, they are so much fun to be around and I am learning so much in such a short period of time.
Thank you Peace Corps Thailand for giving me this opportunity to not only teach these wonderful children about things I know but also be taught by them; for allowing me to see a glimpse into their lives and get a better understanding of how and why things work the way they do here in Thailand.
Thankful for every opportunity. Alhamdulillah.
– Kiana Favors, YinD 132
Being in Thailand this past year has really showed me the importance of diversity in not only Peace Corps, but travel in general. I have been asked questions and have heard comments from Thai people that stem from a lack of knowledge about Black Americans. I recognize that these people may have never encountered a Black person, especially one that they can communicate with in Thai. I embrace these interactions and use them as an opportunity to educate and challenge stereotypes about Black people. I’m blessed that my community has been accepting of me, embracing my story so the knowledge of black Americans can be passed on even after I leave Thailand. I’m also happy to see diversity in Peace Corps around the world increasing, and Black people occupying new spaces where our voice was previously missing.
– MaBinty Bangura, YinD 131
Your Black is meant to shine, so no matter where you are make sure it’s the brightest light around.
– Mariama Bah, YinD 131
In the states I come from a huge family with deep roots in activism and humanitarianism. It naturally made sense for me to want to join the Peace Corps, so when then opportunity arose, I jumped. I chose Thailand because it is the only country in Asia to never have been colonized by Europe and as a Black American, that concept was mind blowing for me. I had never stepped foot on land that wasn’t stolen or cultivated by a stolen people. I’m excited to be here in Thailand, as a Black American woman to experience the rich culture that is so deeply ingrained here whilst also sharing my own lived experiences.
I was really apprehensive moving to Thailand because of the color of my skin. Living in a culture that glorifies skin bleaching had me beyond nervous. Today a man in my community approached me and in front of everyone, told me in Thai that the hue of my skin was beautiful. Even though it was one person, one view and one moment, I felt this immense sense of peace. His skin was the same color as mine and he created a space where we were both validated. I’m going to continue creating these spaces on my own from here on out.
– Kayla Myelle, YinD 132
I’ve always known that I wanted to help people. Whether it was people in America or people around the world, I’ve considered myself a global citizen for some time. Getting the chance to serve in Thailand has been a life changing experience. Although it has been life changing, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been without its challenges. As I celebrate Black History Month, I reflect on and am reminded of the seemingly insurmountable challenges my ancestors have gone through. It is not without them that I have the privilege to serve in Peace Corps Thailand.
As Oprah Winfrey says, “we get to see and feel the sense of connection to our past that allows us step out of our history and into a future brighter than any of them could have imagined.”
“We have thrived with passion, compassion, humor, and style. The nights were long. The wounds were deep. The pit has been dark. Its walls were steep. Now, clap hands! Celebrate! We deserve it.” —Maya Angelou
– Jacob Martin, YinD 132
I’ve never thought I would be here in Thailand as a Black American; serving others. Having the opportunity to truly indulge and experience a culture so rich yet also exchange and share my own is an opportunity of a life time that I plan to take full advantage of. In my short time of being here I have had countless Thai people assume I am from Africa and eyes bulk when I smile and say “Mai Chai, Dichan Maa Jaak Brateet America Ka”. There is no doubt that I am the first black woman many of them have seen. I can tell they have so many questions for me; just as a I do for them. I can’t wait until my Thai improves so we can dive into it more. We have so much to share with each other. Nevertheless, I believe representation is important. And I am honored to be able to represent my country as a black woman in Thailand.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you” – Maya Angelo
– Jada Smith, YinD 132
One thing I have appreciated during my time here is that I’m able to celebrate American Holidays days with my students. I never really celebrated back home because usually I would be working some random customer service job. Even though I still have a job to do here, my work is much more impactful and fulfilling. Just recently I purchased a camera (so I can better document these holiday celebrations) and it has definitely given me a new outlook on my service. I love doing photography projects with my students whether it’s illusions, sports or portraits etc. No matter what, we always have a good time. It’s fun and exciting learning new hobbies and I’m glad I can discover them with my students.
“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” – Robert Frank
– Desiree Brown, TESS 131
Being in an environment where a majority of its factors are foreign to me, whether it be: food, geography, work style, has allowed me to expand my cultural awareness and growth in many aspects. As a super minority in Peace Corps Thailand, I’ve been given the opportunity to interact with Thai nationals and clarify common misconceptions about African American males. I’m also utilizing this opportunity to share about my Nigerian heritage and the many similarities it has with the Thai culture. It’s amazing to see how much of family I’ve become with my community as we accomplish the Peace Corps goals.
– Chukwuma Osuji, YinD 131
My whole family line is laced with a willingness to serve. It’s in my blood to be a part of a larger global community. I chose to serve in Thailand because I wanted to immerse myself in a culture I knew absolutely nothing about. I have purposefully placed myself in an environment where I will be challenged to open my mind, consider new ideas, adapt, grow, and discover new parts of myself. I feel that is the only time when we as human beings truly evolve, and it is a state of being I chase to usher me into every new stage of my life.
This Black History Month I have the opportunity to reflect on the privilege I have been afforded that generations before me have not had. It takes privilege to pursue the life I aim to lead. It takes privilege even to serve in the capacity that we do here in Thailand. Generations of black people all over the world have toiled for my generation to have the freedoms we do, and it’s only right that we continue that legacy by doing what we can, by being a drop in the bucket, that may afford opportunity to others someday.
– Mahogany Ahenkora-Kwakyi, TESS 132
These experiences and insights were featured on Peace Corps Thailand Magazine’s Instagram throughout Black History Month. For more content like this, please follow @peacecorps.thailand .