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One in a Billion

“One In A Billion” is a podcast about China, through the voices of Chinese millennials in America. They have personal ties or deep roots in China. They also have big dreams and high hopes in America. “One In A Billion” is a platform for this rising generation of entrepreneurs, artists and other creative types. Hosted by Mable Chan, “One in a Billion” listens to China, one person at a time.
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Nov 16, 2016
The first time I wanted to deny that I was Chinese, I was 17 years old facing another 17 year-old. She was tall, blonde and huge from Chicago. 
 
“Where are you from?” She taunted me as I was sitting quietly in the corner, watching with wide-eyed wonder every teenage girl dancing up a storm on a chair or on a table.  It was our Friday night “break out and dance” party inside a private high school outside of Detroit.

“Hong Kong.” I muttered softly because she looked intimidating. She was three times my size, a full head taller, and scowled while staring me down. I had just arrived in America several weeks ago. I was the only Asian girl in the room, and this was my first encounter with a mean white girl.

“What? HANG? KANG? Where’s that? What are you? Japanese?”

Her rapid-fire, mid-western accented English coming out of her big mouth was bitingly cruel. I first stuttered a little, then gave it a go. “I am Chinese... from Hong Kong.”

“Chinese!? No, you’re not. You are Japanese!!!” 

She started cracking up so loudly that I suddenly felt an urge to quickly agree with her, just to shut her up! Can you believe that? No, I didn’t say a word. She kept it up for another minute, calling me Japanese and pulling my hair. I felt shame, small and shrinking in fear.

What made me think of this insulting bullying scenario from my teenage years, were the numerous intimate stories I heard while moderating the “Why Not Me” open-mic storytelling forum at Harvard on Oct 14th. The event was designed for Asians to share experiences of bias and barriers that put them on the outside looking in.

Many students who previously kept secret their immigrant experiences of being ostracized, ridiculed or shut out have decided to come forth and share their painful experiences. Some have described a breakdown, others recounted their breakthrough. Throughout the evening, I saw many in the audience wiping their weepy eyes, including me. 

What dawned on me is how the “ugly American” image is still alive and kicking today, decades later. Not only in high school or college, but in the larger culture. We see it play out in politics, on TV, and even in our own homes and neighborhood. 

But I also believe that we can enable the better angels of our nature to emerge and embrace our diversity – in our schools, our workplace, our churches and our communities. 

I invite you to listen to One in a Billion “Why Not Me? Part 2.”

We want to include you in this conversation.

To send us your stories, just go to our Facebook page or our website at ChinaPersonified.com under “Pitch a Story.

Share your thoughts? Pitch me a story?

One in a Billion” is listening to #China, one person at a time.
 
Music Used:

David O'Brien's Busy Bees, 1648/5 (Album) Audio Network

Jason Shaw’s Acoustic Meditation, Music by Audionautix

Andy G. Cohen’s Warmer, Creative Commons License

Axeltree’s The Thorn Revisit, Free Music Society

Julie Maxwell’s Dark Wonder, Bandcamp

Josh Woodward’s Hollow Grove, Jamendo Music

Kevin Macleod’s Cattails, Incompetech
 

 
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Subscribe to my podcasts below:
PRx | iTunes | SoundCloud
Nov 10, 2016

Snap Judgments. Stereotypes. Implicit Bias.

They exist everywhere, across and beyond Harvard.

When I was a graduate student in the Regional Studies East Asia Program, I had experienced attitudes and comments that were sprinkled with presumptions from faculty and administrators whom I thought, would or should know to suspend judgment before they begin an enquiry. That enquiry could be as simple as a casual conversation or a probing question that would lead them to know me, as a person, before making reckless remarks. That was my assumption or expectation, you see. Well, I didn’t see it then. This is what I still recall.

The day I handed in my thesis (more than 20 years ago), I went into my department program administrator’s office and yelled, “I did it!’’ Margaret looked up from her desk, cluttered with piles of paper, and smiled,  “Nice job! You’ve proved to be more than a pretty face!”  “What? Wow…” My heart froze a bit. “Was that a back-handed compliment!?” I stood and wondered, stunned and speechless.

Margaret knew me as someone with a TV on-air background as an international correspondent with field experiences in a glamorous profession. Perhaps she thought I could run around the world covering breaking news but not buckle down to read books and write a paper? Perhaps she thought I would throw my hands up one day and just drop out?  Perhaps she has seen that happen at Harvard? Whatever that was, I would never know. But what I know is this – it felt so out of line. What was particularly striking was the emotional gusto in her tone as if I was to be congratulated for having succeeded in surprising her, and proving her wrong.  Obviously that was a rather harmless incident, one of several other instances where I felt like I was viewed as a “less than” until proven otherwise.  My response?

I swallowed it, in silence, in disgust and brushed it off.  

Twenty years later, Harvard is home to an ever-growing number of international students with complex and diverse backgrounds and experiences before they arrive. The university is increasingly active in exploring ways to invite them to speak up, share stories so we can understand one another better. 

Earlier this Fall, I was invited by the Graduate School of Education to moderate and produce “Why Not Me?” the first open-mic storytelling event at Harvard (The Moth style)  via live streaming on YouTube, and taped recording for my podcast “One in a Billion.” Tracie Jones (Assistant Director of the Office of Student Affairs at the Graduate School of Education) saw a critical need to better serve the rising number of Asian students who aren’t always ready to talk about anxieties and vulnerabilities due to race, class, sexual orientation or stereotypes. Their personal stories drive home the point “Why Not Me?” in their pursuit of a more fulfilling life.

Listen to this Special Edition of “ One in a Billion“ “Why Not Me? Part 1.”

We want to include you in this conversation. To send us your stories, just go to our Facebook page or our website at ChinaPersonified.com under “Pitch a Story.”

Share your thoughts? Pitch me a story?

One in a Billion” is listening to #China, one person at a time.

Music used:

David O'Brien's Busy Bees, 1648/5 (Album) Audio Network

Doctor Turtle’s It Looks Like The Future, But It Feels Like The Past, Flush Your Rolex
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Doctor_Turtle/Flush_Your_Rolex_1416/it_looks_like_the_future_but_it_feels_like_the_past

Dave Keifer’s New Moon, Howdy Persephone
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Dave_Keifer/Howdy_Persephone/NEW_MOON

Doctor Turtle’s Know No No-Nos, Flush Your Rolex
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Doctor_Turtle/Flush_Your_Rolex_1416/know_no_no-nos

TRG Banks’s The Silver Bus, Dreamland
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/TRG_Banks/Dreamland/The_silver_bus

MMFFF’s The Army's March, The Dance of the Sky
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/MMFFF/The_Dance_of_the_Sky/The_Armys_March

Andy G. Cohen’s Monkeybars, Through the Lens
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Andy_G_Cohen/Through_The_Lens/Andy_G_Cohen_-_Monkeybars


 

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Subscribe to my podcasts below:

PRx | iTunes | SoundCloud

 

Oct 25, 2016

I spent most of my 20s pretending that I had no fears. Fears are messy. They mess up my optimism, my can-do spirit, they hold me back. I turned a blind eye to them so they wouldn’t slow me down. I realized that I had chosen a career, television news, that is relentlessly fast-paced and fiercely competitive especially in America’s top media town - New York. I was laser-focused on learning everything I could about the nature of the industry, the demands of my job, and the dynamics of my colleagues and supervisors. I tried to make friends with everyone, I did my best to deliver results as asked, and sometimes I even pushed myself to exceed expectations. I thought I had everything right and well and I would surely get that promotion I was eyeing next. I was dead wrong.

One day, I found myself lying on the floor, having collapsed from hyperventilating over the loss of the promotion to another colleague. I was a mess, crying uncontrollably over the blatant bias in favor of a co-worker whom I thought was lazy, manipulative and frequently flirtatious. “Where’s justice in the world!?” I still remember yelling out inside myself even as I was being wheeled out on a stretcher to the hospital emergency room. I couldn’t contain my emotional outburst. I had a nervous breakdown. I was 24.

That incident scared me about myself. I lost my nerves! Wow, I could handle breaking news stories from 4 alarm fire to bloody shooting in Chinatown, but I couldn’t handle my own emotion. It also taught me that I had been investing so much energy and even attachment to a promotion. I wanted to be recognized for my work, and I thought I deserved it. But when I was in the ER, a kind colleague came to visit me and reminded me that even if I was right and my boss was wrong, I was not in charge. This promotion isn’t about me, it’s about the boss and what he saw was the right fit not just for the job, but also for the workplace. It dawned on me then that I was probably working for the wrong person at the wrong place and the wrong time.

I share this story because among other things like office politics or implicit bias in the outside world, it exposes deep pride and fears in my inner world that I never quite explored until I had a breakdown.

In my interview with Alison Chen and Franklin Chen (no relation to Alison), they opened up their struggle in their journey to find a job after graduation and to find acceptance and recognition in American workplace. What struck me about our conversation, is their candor and acceptance about what scares them. As I listen and think back on what was lost on me in my 20s, I learn that fear will pass if we let it come to us, let it stay and show its nature, and also let it go away.

Listen to “One in a Billion” “Face Our Fears.”

We want to include you in this conversation.

To send us your comments or stories, just go to our Facebook page, or our website at ChinaPersonified.com under “Pitch a Story.” Share your thoughts? Pitch me a story?

 “One in a Billion” is listening to #China, one person at a time.

 

 Music Used:

David O'Brien's Busy Bees, 1648/5 (Album) Audio Network

MMFFF’s Rebirth of the Golden Sun, The Dance of the Sky (Album)
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/MMFFF/The_Dance_of_the_Sky/Rebirth_of_the_Golden_Sun

Julie Maxwell’s Redefining, Piano Soul (Album)
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Julie_Maxwells_Piano_Music/Piano_Soul/Julie_Maxwells_piano_music_-_Piano_Soul_-_19_Redefining

Julie Maxwell’s Hide and Come Find, Piano Soul (Album)
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Julie_Maxwells_Piano_Music/Piano_Soul/Julie_Maxwells_piano_music_-_Piano_Soul_-_26_Hide_and_Come_Find

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 4, 2016

Before I launched my media startup in 2012, I never imagined that one day, I would form a company to create a digital platform for young people from China and America to share personal stories and to build a network community.

That was a quantum leap from my job for decades as a TV journalist writing and producing for American network news in New York.

But over the years, I knew I was also getting restless and curious about what else I could do with my background as a producer and storyteller.  I had served as a volunteer in different roles and contexts, including being a mentor to young Asian journalists, and a “Big Sister” to a “Little Sister” born to Chinese parents from Fujian province struggling to adjust to new immigrant life in America. These were highly rewarding work. But I was never ready to quit my job to pursue that type of work full time.   I let my restlessness and curiosity sit for one year after another. I did nothing to tend to them. I enjoyed the stable income, a stimulating work environment and exciting lifestyle in New York. In essence, I lacked motivation to jump ship.

 But one day, something pushed me over the edge.

My job at ABC News was on the line. The network was about to restructure the news division; thousands of jobs including mine could be cut. I faced a fork in the road that offered two choices – I could accept a buyout that gives me the cash and freedom to pursue something else, or I could sit tight and let the axe fall where they may once my contract expires in a year. Although there was no imminent threat that I would be laid off, somehow, the idea of taking the money to pursue something else was highly liberating.

 I had already invested more than twenty years of my life working in American network news, I felt I had maximized the opportunities available to me. When I talked to my close friends and advisors, I was encouraged to hear that they thought I had always been an entrepreneurial problem-solver. Their optimism boosted my optimism. Once I decided to take a leap, a net appears.

Like Q, founder of 2RedBeans, I dared not quit my job before I felt I had some resources and time to take risk. How do you think about risk?  

In our two previous episodes with Q, she shared her incredible search for husband in “Finding Love in America: Reality Bites and Are You The One?”

In this episode “Is Entrepreneurship Right For You?” we listen to the back story of Q’s journey as an entrepreneur. We have included your voices in this conversation – including this question “is it every too early to become an entrepreneur?” I have also interviewed Tim Rowe, founder of CIC (Cambridge Innovation Center) who began his entrepreneurial life when he was a kid in middle school!  

Listen to “One in a Billion” “Is Entrepreneurship Right for You?” 

In our next episode, “Face Our Fears” I’ll talk with two young Chinese who recently graduated from Harvard and Boston University about unpredictable challenges they face in trying to land their dream job in America.

What is holding you back from getting your foot in the door?  What scares you? How do you manage your anxiety?

We want to include you in this conversation.

To send us your stories, just go to our Facebook page, or our website at

ChinaPersonified.com under “Pitch a Story. “ 

 Share your thoughts? Pitch me a story?

One in a Billion” is listening to #China, one person at a time.

Music Used:

David O'Brien's Busy Bees, 1648/5 (Album) Audio Network

Jahzzar's Good Night, Sele (Album)
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Jahzzar/Sele/good_night_f

Andy G. Cohen's Land Legs, MUL/DIV (Album)
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Andy_G_Cohen/MUL__DIV_1198/Andy_G_Cohen_-_MULDIV_-_02_-_Land_Legs

Lee Rosevere's Puzzle Pieces, Music for Podcasts 2 (Album)
freemusicarchive.org/music/Lee_Rose…_Puzzle_Pieces

TGR Banks' The Silver Bus, Dreamland (Album)
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/TRG_Banks/Dreamland/The_silver_bus

 

 

Sep 20, 2016

Finding Love in America: Are You the One?  

Since I began dating seriously in my 30s, I found myself often asking if the guy I was seeing at the time was “the one” I wanted to settle down with for the rest of my life. Frankly, I was less “husband hunting” than on the lookout for a devoted life partner in a committed relationship. To me, devotion, honesty and loyalty are paramount. At various stages of my decades of dating, I had almost given up on the notion of “marriage” until one day, out of the blue, “Mr Right” walked into my life. Really. Almost literally. We first met through mutual friends on the street! (Harvard campus – on Alumni Reunion Day) That was April 2013. We clicked almost instantly. Our connection was constant and natural. It was as if, all our lives, our different choices and paths had prepared us for this moment, to meet and to fall in love. We got engaged in six months, and we got married six months later.

I think that’s how life unfolds for many of us. We keep looking and looking – for love, for a job, for that incredible opportunity that will change our lives forever. But we don’t often realize that every moment of our experience, when we are mindful of its lessons to us, is teaching us how to get ourselves mentally and emotionally ready for that moment when unexpectedly, it will just come to you.

Remember in “Finding Love in America series: Part 1: Reality Bites,"  Q (nickname for Qinghua Zhao, from Xian China) was under immense pressure from her parents to find a husband and have children when she was about to turn 31.

She had failed to find a match for years until one day, she unexpectedly stumbled on someone who signed up on 2RedBeans, the dating website she’d eventually launch to help herself and many Chinese singles like her find a life partner. 90 days later, she knew “he is the one.” How did she know? As an engineer, how did she get herself ready to launch a startup?

Share your thoughts? Pitch me a story?
“One in a Billion” is listening to #China, one person at a time.

In our next episode, “Is Entrepreneurship Right for you?” Q will tell us how she found light at the end of the tunnel? Why she kept going? And where is the source of her strength?

We also want to include you in this conversation! What are your questions about being an entrepreneur?

To send us your questions and stories, Just go to our website at ChinaPersonified.com under “Pitch a Story."

Or email me your audio story (maximum 5 minutes) to info@chinapersonified.com before our deadline next Tuesday. September 27th. I may contact you for an interview, or include your voice in our next episode the following Tuesday on October 4th. I’d love to hear from you.

 

Music Used:

Lee Rosevere's Puzzle Pieces
Dave O'Brien's Busy Bees
Philipp Weigl's Subdivision of the Masses

 

Sep 6, 2016

What do you look for when you are seeking “the one?”

I believe the answer lies mainly in when you are looking and why.
When I was in my 20s, dating in America was a form of self-discovery. “The one” was usually someone, Chinese or non-Chinese, who opened my eyes to something new, something fun and exciting, something profound and intriguing. This “one” would be a bridge made of all kinds of materials that made it unique. This unique bridge, not a final destination, was what I wanted.

I was always attracted to quirky, charismatic and challenging characters who would make me laugh, cry, think hard, think again, try hard and try again. You may call that a teacher figure, a father figure, a mentor, a hero – but never a husband. I suppose I was indulging in this kind of self and life exploration because I could. My parents in Hong Kong never gave me pressure to marry.

Now I realize it’s very different for Chinese millennials seeking “the one.” Most of them are the only child, facing tremendous pressure from their parents in China to settle down, get married and have kids while still in their 20s.

But finding love in America is challenging for anyone at any age. It’s especially tough if you’re a woman approaching 30, and suddenly single after a 6-year relationship was over. That was Q’s story.

“Q” is nickname for Qinghua Zhao, from Xian, China. Her parents in China were getting anxious, and she told me she began “aggressive dating.” She went online, met many “good people” as she called them, but none was her match. While husband hunting, Q also hit a crisis in her professional life.

What would she do to find her husband and turn her life around? Honestly, I found her choices and grit amazing.

Here’s a hint:
Before she found her husband, she founded a start-up 2RedBeans a dating website for Chinese in America. She turned her personal problem into a business opportunity that would help other people just like her. How?

Share your thoughts? Pitch me a story? 

“One in a Billion” is listening to #China , one person at a time.

Aug 21, 2016

If you are a parent, what does your child’s name say about you?

In America, most parents pick a name that reflects the femininity of a girl, the strength of a boy, or their own personality and individuality

In China, a child’s name often embodies the parents’ hopes and dreams. They are idealistic and aspirational. If you want your son to aim and fly high, name him “Ling!” That’s Richard Yan’s Chinese name.

 

 

His parents wanted him to follow in his father’s footstep to “fly across the Pacific Ocean” to America for higher education and a better life.

 

“Ever since I can remember, my parents have been telling me about the meaning of my name and stories about my dad while he was studying in the U.S. in the 1980s. We started learning English at a fairly young age as well, to prepare ourselves to go overseas to study. That has always been part of my identity and aspirations.”

 

Born in Wuhan and raised in Shenzhen, 31 year-old Richard has been living the “American Dream” as a Chinese dreamer. He has succeeded in getting financial aid and scholarship, graduating with degrees from Dartmouth and NYU (MBA) that would soon put him in high paying jobs on Wall Street.

 

 

 

But one day, he hit a roadblock. He quit. He decided to launch his own company at 30. What is it? Why?

 

 

Listen to "One in a Billion" my podcast interview with Richard in “Living Your Father's Dream?” Share your thoughts? Pitch me a story? 

"One in a Billion" is listening to #China, one person at a time.

 

Music Used:
Lee Rosevere's Live the World
Dave O'Brien's Busy Bees
Mitch Hanley's The Dinghy, Bow
Angel Lam's Eyes in the Sky 2

Aug 7, 2016

Muyi Xiao first caught my eye with her urgently captivating photo collection titled “Married Young.”

It’s a story about teenage parents in China.

One photo shows a 16 year-old mother, gazing adoringly at the sleeping infant in her arms.

Another photo caption says Jian and Mei are expecting a baby in a few months. They were 15 and 16 when they got married.

I was scratching my head going…what? Why? Why so young? What about school? What’s the story here?

As I kept clicking more pictures for clues, I stopped asking questions. I started seeing each photo through the eyes of these children. The camera has turned my focus to the happy faces, thin bodies and tiny bed, projecting a reality that is immediately pure and profoundly provocative. They seem to be speaking back to me through these photos, saying “I’m a mother and I am happy.” “We’re having a baby. We are going to take care of each other.”

These touching images left me in awe.

Who’s behind the camera? That led me to Muyi Xiao .

Born in Wuhan, China, 24 year-old Muyi has worked for Reuters and Tencent for a couple of years before moving to New York for a Magnum fellowship, and a new media training program at the International Center for Photography.

I tracked down Muyi for a cup of coffee in New York. We talked like old friends for an hour, and I knew, I had to interview her for my new podcast.

Muyi’s story is about a girl who knew early in life that growing up in a rural family with no money, no connection, and parents with no college education or exposure to the West, she has to be independent, persistent and positive.

But still, how does a girl who’s failed the college entrance exam in China, notoriously known as Gaokao move on with her life? Where could she go? How did she end up in Beijing? Why did she pick up a camera and how did that become her passion and calling in life?

Let her story inspire you.

Music Used:
Angel Lam's Eyes in the Sky 2
Song of the Deep
Qi Gang & Chang Jin's Blueness
Mitch Hanley's The Dhingy, Bow
Mitch Hanley's Heroin
Mitch Hanley's The Dhingy, Stern

Jul 24, 2016

I saw Mojia Shen for the first time in a YouTube video G(irls) 2015 summit after a friend told me she would make a great interview for my new podcast, One in a Billion. The minute she started talking, I was intrigued.

Her voice is strong, earnest and engaging.

How did she develop such a passionate persona, speaking directly to camera in English, her second language? That was just the first of a billion questions I had. Where did she come from? What’s her back story? What is she doing now?

Next, I googled her. In 0.61 seconds, 1800 results popped up.

In her Linked In profile – she writes “ I am a Made in China Robot turned Creative Human.” Almost immediately, I felt like I understood her. Her essence and her quest.

At age 19, Mojia knew where she came from, what she was expected to do, and she had worked hard to follow rules, fulfill everyone’s expectation, earn her marks and deliver results. Then came a surprise. When she got early admission offer from Beijing University, a top school in China, she turned that down. Why?

Her story in Episode #1 “Choosing Uncertainty” epitomizes a dream that is commonly shared among all of us. A dream to live a truly meaningful and fulfilling life.

What’s perhaps most uncommon about Mojia is her courage to push her limits. In the eyes of her world – her parents, her friends and her community, she was already perceived as having achieved the best. Yet, she was defying that definition of success. She chose to disrupt her sense of identity of where she belonged. She chose to join a global community of pathfinders and innovators to explore what is possible for her in life.

Learn more at chinapersonified.com/episode-1-titl…reative-human/

Music Used:
Dave O'Brien's Busy Bees
Mitch Hanley's The Dhingy, Bow

Jul 15, 2016

A 16 year-old girl from Hebei province decides to come to America after spending nine years at a Chinese army youth school. She is 21 years old now. A rising junior at Wellesley College and a budding social entrepreneur, Mojia Shen calls herself a “Made in China robot turned creative human.”

One In A Billion is a platform about this rising generation of entrepreneurs, artists, and other creative types.

Learn more at ChinaPersonified.com

 

 

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