Black in Mexico by James Adolphus McBean

Suffield students enrolled in Spanish III with Joyce Bolanos welcomed international educator, innovator, and social entrepreneur James Adolphus McBean, MPP for a virtual talk on February 9 and 11. Originally from Jamaica, James grew up in New Haven, Connecticut where he attended Hopkins School. After earning a Master’s in Policy Studies at Brandeis University, he accepted a one-year contract in Mexico City which turned into a five-year adventure. His talk entitled “Black in Mexico: Finding My Black Power” centered on culturalization and subjectivity, preconceived racial norms, and his individual identity as a black man in Mexico.

“I entered a pre-established bias based on cultural norms attributed to my race as a foreign black man,” he explained. “They viewed me as a black man from the US but I am in fact a West Indian man from Spanish Town, Jamaica. It is important to recognize that my nationality is Jamaican but my ethnicity is West Indian. I learned to shed these preconceived notions of racism while living in Mexico.”

James’ presentation examined three principal phases: (1) his identity as a black man, (2) the socialization and intersection of cultures as an African American with foreign status, and (3) living outside but within the pre-existing racial structure already existing in Mexico. “Was I exempt from racial prejudice outside the US?” he asked students. “We often feel the color of our skin is a short-circuit to the many people we encounter when presenting ourselves. I learned that we are our own brand. Subjectivity is a central philosophical concept related to consciousness, agency, personhood, reality, and truth, which has been variously defined by sources but not ourselves. These three phases make up the ideological road map to who we are and where we are going.”

James’ visit was part of the many ongoing events recognizing Black History Month at Suffield. His talk along with several initiatives aimed at enhancing the school’s vibrant community help ensure that the educational and campus life experiences at Suffield promote a healthy, warm climate and a community based on mutual respect, generosity, kindness, and genuine concern for others.