Behind the Great Wall Lies a Great Ambition!
Jo Kelly-Gan has never been inhibited by fear when going for what she wanted. Be it education, job, car, house or man. She has always admired Asian men and decided that is who she was going to marry — an Asian male. Girl meets boy, girl marries boy. It wasn’t as simple as that but Jo sure makes it sound easy. After the work slowed down at her job due to the economic situation plaguing Missouri and the rest of America, Jo made herself a plan and put it into action. She saved a few dollars, closed her business, got her teaching certification and moved to China.
Jo had no time for the negativity talk surrounding her decision to go overseas. So what she carried a few extra pounds. It was all in the attitude and Jo has plenty attitude to go around and to spare.
Jo was offered a position teaching English in China. So impressed was the management with her performance, that they quickly promoted her to director, the position she currently holds.
It was in China where Jo would meet the love of her life. Jo caught the attention of a young handsome Chinese man and he was on the hunt for her love. Jo was equally drawn to his outgoing personality, friendliness and charm. Extremely confident, Jo thoroughly vetted Michael and embraced his friendship. Friendship blossomed into love, then an engagement and subsequent marriage. Jo got the job, she got her man and got rid of the extra pounds. Looking good and feeling great, Jo is a true success story.
Where were you born?
I was born in Columbia, Missouri. After college I moved to Naples, Florida. Newly divorce and on my own with my children, I didn’t know anyone. I worked out well as we lived there for 18 years. When my mother died I moved back to Columbia, for 3 years until the recession hit.
What is your husband’s ethnicity?
He is Chinese, born and raised in a small villiage close to Yuyao City, Zhejiang Province, China. It is about two hours from Shanghai.
How did you meet?
I thought I would visit a Chinese dance club with some co-workers. Michael saw me and asked me to sit with him. I accepted a drink and later he asked me for my phone number. I gave it to him not really thinking much of it. I should have contemplated a little more. Michael called me everyday morning, noon, and night before bed just to see how I was doing and coming along in China.
I eventually allowed Michael to take me on a dinner date. From there it was more dinner dates, the park for long and romantic walks, traditional chinese shows, and galleries to show me his country. Michal did make the first move. That in itself was surprising to me since I was a foreigner and total opposite of a traditional Chinese. (chuckles)
When were you married?
We were married on March 3rd, 2010.
Wow, you really are a newlywed.
Yes, very much so. But because Chinese weddings are a little different than ours. It takes a lot of planning so we decided to get the process started since I was a foreigner. We had a simple civil ceremony, but will have a big celebration on 10/10/10. Since the Chinese are all about luck and signs, we were told that is a lucky day. It’s all in fun. The main thing is, we are married.
Was this your first interracial relationship?
Ohh heavens no! (smiling). I have always been in love with the idea of dating someone outside my race. This could be because I went to an all white school and there were no black boys around. Dont get me wrong, as I became a young woman, I did date black men. I just never had a connection with any of them. I did try as there are a lot of wonderful black men out there. In my personal experience, most were taken or simply not interested in me.
When I made the decision to date Asian men, you can imagine the flack I got. People told me things like I was crazy, “they” only dated their own kind, you’re too fat, or too dark, or just too strong. I laughed because the negativity did not affect me in the least. I reasoned that Asian is what I want and that is what I went after — and got.
Do you feel any different about interracial marriage and relationships now?
No. I have always been an advocate of black women loving who they wanted to love. At the end of the day, if you really love each other intercultural differences can be managed. You have to be willing to compromise. Actually, that is true with any relationship regardless of race.
Did you face skeptics and criticism from friends and/or family about your interracial marriage?
My goodness yes. My good friends were pretty supportive for the most part. But the skeptics made comments about their confusion and belief in the myths out there about Asian men. I heard things like: “Asian guys are not romantic, they are not sexy, they’re too small, they can’t satisfy you, they eat cats (shaking her head) and all kinds of crazy stuff. Even my family thought that Asians just didn’t marry black women. Again, I laughed it all off and explained that since it was my life, I made my own choices. They could accept who I loved or not. After this, I surrounded myself with positive and supportive people.
Do you recall how you first informed your friends and family of your interracial relationship and subsequent marriage?
I just called my family and told them. They knew he would probably be Chinese because I was living in China. It was not difficult at all, they expressed concern only because he is 14 years younger. But I again reminded them that I am a grown woman. (laughing again)
What about your husband’s family? China is a new ball game and you are in his field. Did you or he face any criticism from them?
Now this was where we had just a little problem. My husbands family are traditional Chinese. In China parents take their children’s marriages very seriously. We dated nine months before we told them anything. This was because we wanted to make sure that we were a permanent couple before we opened that can of worms. After we became engaged, we invited his dad for lunch. Michael cooked because this was not the right time for any kind of American cuisine. To my surprise, Michael’s father was not shocked to see or meet me.
The fact that I was American turned out to be a good thing. The Chinese people really like President Obama and Americans in general. We are talking just people, not governments. We then met with Michael’s mother, aunt and other family members. Some were not as welcoming, but my husband was very supportive and protective of me. He said that it did not matter to him what they thought. We do not live with them and they make no decisions regarding our happiness.
I believe that me speaking Chinese definitely helped since my husband’s family do not speak English. I loved speaking with them as it only helps me with practicing my language skills, but I have learned to let my husband handle his family. I just am nice and polite when they are around and shower them them with gifts when we are together. If they don’t already love me, they will.
If I may interject, in China, my husband and I get lots of stares. Some have been rude but many people cannot believe that we are actually married. But my chinese friends tell me that it is just not common in china to see Chinese man with a black woman. Although there are many black women married to Chinese men and live in China, it is such a big country that many people just don’t see it often. I think this is the case in America somewhat as well. My Chinese friends have advised me to ignore the stares and live my life. I really am not bothered though.
I find that the more educated people are not so rude nor surprised. I am kind and friendly and always smiling to everyone. But, if anyone steps to me, I know how to deal with it.
Do you feel that there are societal criticisms and pressures concerning interracial relationships in the US and or China?
Actually the relationship between Americans and Chinese is very good (I have to diferentiate that I am not speaking about government issues, just people). They love America and the western lifesyle in general; they want to go to America; they want American products. I find the Chinese people a little naive about real Americans because they only know what they see on television — and that is regulated by the governement here.
As silly as it sounds, most assume that Americans are mainly white. President Obama and the first family has changed a lot of perceptions. The Chinese assume that the blacks here are Africans. And due to the fact that many, many Africans come to China illegally to work and live, they have a negative attitude towards them. Many commit crimes and those perceptions have made it bad for many of the good African people here and ironically Americans that have darker skin. I think there is aparallel between the illegal African situation here and the illegal Latino situation in the US. Humans in general tend to be judgmental.
Do you attribute or connect it to negative images of blacks from slavery or something else?
Maybe some, but the negativity is not just from movies where the blacks are doing bad things and killing people. It is mostly because of the Africans here that are trying to pass as Americans. Understand that Americans are treated better — like we have some kind of golden passport. It is a disservice to us when Africans do this for better treatment, but then are rude and treat people badly themselves. This is hurting us because most Chinese will not know the difference.
On the other hand, the NBA, black celebrities along with President Obama, are providing positive images and when people get to know the individual, we can dispel myths, fables and nonsense. At least I’ll do my part.
Will you have children?
Yes, I have 2 grown children from a previous marriage who are Blasians. There may be a possibility for more children in the future. We will see.
Whether you raise them in China or the US how do you think race will figure into child rearing for you?
More than likely we would raise any children we have in America. I believe the general education system is better and guaranteed. However, for any future children, their generational race issues won’t be exactly the same as it was for us. I would like to say that today’s youth are more tolerant.
Ironically, in china they believe that if a child is born from a mixed couple the child is smarter and more beautiful. So there you have it. We can deal with negativity as it happens. But I won’t go searching for it.
When and if your children experienced racism, what will most likely be your advice to them?
I would tell them like I told my other children. Love who you are and where you come from, those who have a problem with it are just sadly uneducated, and inexperienced. Do not get angry, just feel sorry for them they are not as blessed, fortunate, talented, intelligent and as beautiful as you.
Where do you live in China?
Yuyao City, Zhejiang Province
What made you decide to live abroad and do you have any regrets?
I knew as a former mortgage broker, it was time for a career change. I chose to teach English because of the opportunity to travel and do something different. I choose China because of my love of the country’s history. I sought the coaching services of a dear friend who runs Black American Brides. She helped me realize that sometimes there is a need for change and just helped me to better focus on the directions I should be taking for my life.
I do miss the USA and its openness — and the food (laughing again) but I’m living my life and that is no different. I have no regrets. Hey, I met my soul mate and it made it all worthwhile.
Do you recommend China for single black women who may want to just visit, go to school or even find a husband?
China is a wonderful experience so much to see and somethings are so amazing. Come visit, and attend school. I don’t recommend coming to just to find a husband because it is not that easy. Of course you can find husbands here with all these millions of people, but consider this fact. In China if a man is single over the age of 30, then he most likely not wealthy enough for the Chinese girls, or lives in a very small village that maybe poor. You also have to be careful and weary of Green Card seekers that want to use you. But if you can adjust to the culture, and are willing to give China a chance, you could find the most kind hearted men who will treat you like a queen and do anything to make you happy. This seems to be inate. I worked to develop a reciprocal relationship. We take care of each other and you can have that too. This is what marriage is suppose to be.
Do you have any suggestions for black women just entering interracial relationships in general?
Go in with an open mind, believe in yourself and that you are special enough to deserve the best from any man. Don’t look for reasons to fail as many black people may tell you (and want) to happen. Let the process happen naturally and nature will take its course. Vet your man carefully. Within a short time, you will know if he is right for you. You will see it with your heart. If he is worthy of your love, then love him. This is a recipe for a happy life.
We at Black Women Deserve Better express best wishes to Jo and Michael for a loving and long lasting marriage.