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Exploring Life & Business with Leroy Adams of The Buddy Pass

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leroy Adams.

Hi Leroy, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
During my junior year in college (2012) at the University of Houston-Downtown, I enrolled in a study abroad program that would allow me to spend two weeks in Taiwan studying Taiwanese literature and culture. Before this, no one in my family had ever owned a passport let alone traveled abroad.

I was both excited and nervous. The opportunity to travel and see the world ignited a joy in me that I had never felt before, but the mystery of what was waiting left me anxious and concerned about my ability to “exist” outside of the United States.

Studying in Taiwan, observing how Taiwanese people responded to my blackness (many of them had never met a black person before), and experiencing my *black* identity outside of the American context would become some of the greatest experiences of my life. After I graduated college, I was accepted into the Peace Corps. For two years and three months, I would live in rural Endabuguna in the northern Tigray region of the East African country, Ethiopia. My experience in Ethiopia in some ways mirrored my time in Taiwan. I learned about Ethiopian culture, customs, tradition, and languages. Entrepreneurship, as I think back on my time there, became a reality for me as I led a construction project creating a multi-use learning center in my village. And, similar to Taiwan, my being a black American was a novelty to local Ethiopians. There were so many experiences that helped me understand that black people were not synonymous with America and that being black in a black country (the first time in my life where this was a reality) came with wonderful and painful experiences.

For example, the constant comparisons to the rapper Lil Wayne helped me to understand that American media was only portraying a certain type of black image – and it was not a productive or healthy one. This type of representation would shape my experience of Ethiopia (and Taiwan) before I arrived to these countries. After the Peace Corps, I moved to China for two years and the experiences were more or less the same. In fact, I vividly remember one of my Chinese students (Apple, who was only 5) licking me because she was told I was made of chocolate by her parents.

This experience, coupled with similar experiences in Taiwan and Ethiopia, compelled me to start my first company, which I co-founded in Beijing, BLK GEN. The mission of BLK GEN (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPXe-C7Ykuw, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNMbBUtBpxU) to enrich the experience of the African-Diaspora in China and spread awareness of our global experiences to the local Chinese community and others through artistic events (poetry, spoken word, dance, and film). It was bold, ambitious pursuit that would shape the China experience of the Black ex-pat community and catch the attention of notable China media houses, like City Weekend Beijing.

One day, as I was sitting in the Bookworm – a local bookstore in Beijing – a young woman approached me and enthusiastically said, “I know you!” I had never met this woman in my life. She had just moved to Beijing from Atlanta, Georgia, and during her flight, she discovered the article written about BLK GEN in the City Weekend magazine.

“I was so nervous when I decided to move to Beijing because I thought I would be one of the few Black people here. Then I saw the article about you and BLK GEN. I had no idea there were so many Black people in China and that we were creating things like BLK GEN. After reading that, I felt a little better”.

The next day, I couldn’t silence the idea of what it would mean if more Black people saw themselves in travel magazines helping to quell the fears and doubts of “Can I do that?” or challenge the ideas of “Black people don’t travel outside of the U.S.”. I wanted to help more Black people feel empowered to take on the world, just as the woman in the bookstore now did.

So, I created The Buddy Pass podcast and travel magazine. For the past two years, I have traveled around the world interviewing black ex-pats and travelers to share their stories and experiences so that others would become inspired to start their travel journeys. In this first issue of the magazine, we highlight the stories and experiences of Black travelers from the first season of the podcast — The Buddy Pass.

This is the story of how I got to where I am today.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Today, I have more than 20 podcast episodes published, one magazine issue published, and a website that was recently launched. To some, these achievements may seem small but I’ve had to learn to celebrate all wins – big and small. Because along the way, challenges were faced. I have lost partners, friends, money, and time.

The greatest challenges have been building a team, finding the financial resources to help scale the podcast and magazine, and solidifying the branding, story, and social presence of the company.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
The Buddy Pass is a black travel media brand.

Inspired by experiences as a black ex-pat and traveler, I started this brand to capture the stories and experiences of black travelers as a way to inspire the people in my life and community to buy their passports and travel the world.

As a media brand, we produce a podcast, The Buddy Pass, and publish a quarterly black travel magazine, JOY. Regarding the magazine, we are unique because, currently, there is not a black travel publication that exists. We cater specifically to the black ex-pat and traveler to tell their stories, address their unique concerns, and celebrate the joy that is experienced by black travelers.

JOY is the premiere travel, lifestyle, fashion and finance magazine for black people. With our inspiring message, friendly and culturally relevant tone, engaging editorial lineup and vibrant design, JOY is the definitive voice of today’s black traveler.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
Perseverance – as an entrepreneur (the first in my family) I am learning as I build the enterprise. I have had to learn to be patient but strong as I face the known and unknown challenges of entrepreneurship.

Learner – continuing to learn what you don’t know and challenge what you do know is one of the hallmarks of a successful entrepreneur.

Patience – slowly is the fastest way to get to where you want to go.

Creativity – continuing to think out of the box and challenge the status quo of what is possible has led me to where I am today.

Fearless – if I had listened to the fears of my family and friends I would have never gone to Taiwan, joined the Peace Corps, or moved to China. There would be no Buddy Pass. Live fearlessly, there are amazing things on the other side.

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Image Credits

Tiphani Jones (London photo)

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