Loco in Yokohama, Sane in the States, Baye McNeil Comes Home
By: Octavia Farquharson
Travel Blogs – at least, most travel blogs—have a tendency to be well-mannered in respects to their romanticized destination. With intentions of portraying some creative lens and/or ability discovered in the quest of exploring new territories, some writers come up short. Varnishing their experiences with shiny pictures and whimsical stories of greener grasses. Blogger, English teacher and author of, now, two self-published books, Baye McNeil has literally created a name for himself distinguishing his work from his typical counterparts. Straightforward and to the point, he has gained the attention of international audiences with his inherent ability for forthright storytelling.
McNeil, who began taking his writing seriously after a professor at Long Island University compared his style to the likes of Harlem Renaissance author Chester Hines, eventually left his job as an account executive to pursue his gift. However, when tragedy struck in his own backyard on 9/11, the Bedford-Stuyvesant native left New York in hopes of getting away from the gloom and turbulence caused by the heinous acts of al-Qaida. Only to be greeted upon his arrival in Japan with superseded notions of social ignorance. Simple acts of not wanting to sit on either side of the only African-American on a crowded train perhaps out of fear, confusion or both aggravated an already-vulnerable McNeil. He soon turned his frustrations into a blog to build a platform to assert his less-than-ideal observations of his Japanese brothers and sisters.
Baye (also known as) Loco uses his blog as a medium to amplify his voice to a discrepancy untouched in most of the social and writing world: Race relations in Japan as told by an African-American from Brooklyn (no less.) His experiences, felt and blatantly witnessed in day-to-day situations, allow him to stir the social pot of stereotypes and ruffle the feathers of false conceptions of race relations. His high-traffic blog solicits forums discussing race and creates a snowball-like effect rousing the likes of his transplant constituents who have selflessly defended Japanese culture on all fronts.
I hide beneath the veneer of a boyish charm, artistic integrity and an earthy sagacity. All these things are of utmost certainty once reading the 40-something-year-old’s first memoir Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist. The book conveys a tone of disparagement told from his perspective during his early bouts in Japan where McNeil takes his time recollecting experiences growing up in Brooklyn where racism seemed more like an act of anger rather than fear.
The 7 years spent in Japan [10 if you count the 3 years spent in Saitama, prior to Yokohama] has given the expatriate more than enough material to inspire the content of his works.
Despite criticism, McNeil reveals many reasons why he enjoys and appreciates his time spent in Japan. Especially for love lost, then found and a short time ago, he honors and commemorates the loss of thousands of lives taken by the Tohoku Tsunami and Earthquake of 2011 and the damaging effects the disaster had on his students as well as close friends. McNeil expresses being in a space of compassion for the victims and families during the recent anniversary of their passing.
He also shares the similarities the Japanese school system has to that of his upbringing in Brooklyn’s Uhuru Sasa Shule. An active participant in peace and non-violent demonstrations as a student, he recollects a strong assertion of African-American history and advocacy at a very young age. He feels his current students are in an environment where they too are educated by their own, politicized and taught nationalistic love of self. His second memoir, Loco in Yokohama, shares a
humorous telling of his day-to-day classroom encounters with his students and his love of teaching English.
He continues to blog about his time spent in Japan and the small yet triumphant steps the community in Yokohama has taken to put an end to racism.
The Brooklyn native will soon be returning home this month for a book tour and readings in the local area. Both of his books, Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist, and Loco in Yokohama will be sold at the time of his reading at Sistas’ Place (456 Nostrand Avenue) on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 6:30-9:30pm.
For inquiries please contact Baye at http://www.bayemcneil.com/