In the first of a series of profiles of FIGT members, Diane Lemieux asked Amanda Bate about her links to FIGT and her latest project, The Black Expat website.
DL: How long have you been an FIGT member and what attracted to you the network?
AB: I have been a member since 2014. Honestly, I knew very little about FIGT beforehand. I was doing some online research on Third Culture Kids and found a link to Ellen Mahoney’s (of Sea Change Mentoring) website. While I was reading her bio, I learned that she had been a 2013 FIGT Pollock Scholar. I was intrigued about that. I had a chance to meet David Pollock when I was a high school student at an international school many years before. So I reached out to her and she told me about both being a Pollock Scholar and subsequently the FIGT conference. She encouraged me to attend the annual conference in 2014 and I’ve been a member ever since.
DL: You have just launched The Black Expat, an online magazine that gives voice to individuals whose life stories link globally mobility and black identities. How did this project come about?
A myriad of factors led to the launching of the Black Expat. As the founder of Bate Consulting, I found that there was very little in general about the black Third Culture Kid experience. There seemed to be a real lack of resources about how racial identity plays a role in international living. This has been apparent as the co-founder and co-moderator of TCKchat on Twitter. I started to notice that some of the black adult TCKs were talking about specific issues related to their race that hadn’t really been discussed openly before, much less in a space that deals with the impact of an internationally mobile life.
In addition, I mentor a number of young black adults. Many of them are considering studying abroad or an international career but they don’t know where to start or what to expect. Most of them have not necessarily been exposed to people who are living the expatriate life and so for them, there’s a lot of mystique around it. I wanted to remove the mystique and say ‘this is accessible to you to’.
Beyond that, I wanted to reclaim the word expatriate. Many black folks do not realize that the word includes them, too. They think it’s for the glamorous and those who do jobs far more important than theirs. You’d be really surprised, especially those coming from an African or Caribbean background. I wanted members of the Black/African diaspora to understand that they are part of this migration story too.
DL: How have you been able to accommodate this passion and desire to have an impact on this topic with your day job?
AB: Well, anyone who knows me, also knows that I basically run around from sun up to sundown. My schedule is a bit bonkers. I work full time as a college access director. Essentially, I help first-generation and low income students in my city (Richmond, VA) figure out their post-secondary options. This is separate from my private practice (Bate Consulting), where I work with students who live abroad. I am fortunate that I have a lot of flexibility, which at this point is a priority for me. Because The Black Expat pulls stories from people who live all over the globe, its important to be accessible, and sometimes that is at 01:00 my time.
But more importantly, my day job focuses primarily on students of color so I actually have a lot of conversations around travelling, international living, my experiences of being a third culture kid and how to find an international job. So, yes, I do end up talking about The Black Expat a lot!
I am currently finishing a Masters in Counseling Education with a focus on College Student Development. One of my requirements is a practicum which includes facilitating a counseling group throughout. In a moment of complete providence (because they found me!) I’m currently running a small counseling group for black female undergraduate students who have all studied abroad and are considering going back abroad once they graduate. In fact, one is going to Benin this summer with the Peace Corps. One thing they all have in common is that they want to see more of their black, undergrad peers (here in Virginia) have international experiences. The conversations and the stories shared in those sessions most certainly affirm why I launched the Black Expat.
DL: Can you comment on diversity in FIGT and the role it could potentially play in the lives of black expats?
AB: FIGT is a great organization. I have met some of my favorite people and love the community. That being said, I think more people have to feel like they have a place at the table.
Perhaps, we need to think more intentionally about reaching within our networks and saying, hey, you should really be a part of this: you, your experiences and your voices are needed. We [Ellen Mahoney and I] did that really well this year with TCKchat. We put out a huge word to our network and we personally contacted our folks and told them to come out. And I think every one who did really contributed to the conversation about global mobility. I saw a lot of big and small conversations happen that I didn’t see in previous years. So I think diversity, and really I mean inclusion, is great for all of us.
Diversity happens at so many levels. For example, as the sister of someone with significant developmental and physical disabilities, I would love to hear more about how expat families receive support for family members while abroad. I also think an even greater presence from younger expatriates is important. I think hearing the experiences of single parents and single expats is needed. I mean, we really are just scratching the service as to who could be at the table.
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