By Vladimir Duthiers and Adeline Chen, CNN
Harlem, New York (CNN) - At the heart of West Harlem, West Africa is buzzing.
Nestled inside one of the world's most diverse cities, over the years the thriving neighborhood of Harlem has become the hub of New York's African American community.
At the start of the 20th century, throngs of African Americans migrated from the southern United States into the big city, lured by the jobs and opportunities of urban life.
But in the last 30 years or so, another group of people decided to call Harlem home. Scores of immigrants from several francophone West African countries moved to the borough to start a new life. At the center of it all, a vibrant Senegalese community has created a new home away from home, adding their culture, fashion and tastes to Harlem's diverse mix.
Known as Little Senegal, or Le Petit Senegal, the strip of blocks around West 116th Street is packed with inviting restaurants and colorful shops, powerful reminders of life back in the homeland.
"We're the ones who built Harlem," says El Hadji Fey, vice president of the Senegalese Association of America. "When we got here, all the stores you see over here, it was absolutely nothing. We bought a lot of stores here, a lot of Senegalese businesses right here.
Editor's note: Michael Hung is a chef and writer living in San Francisco.
By Michael Hung , Special to CNN
(CNN) - I've had three long-term relationships in my life, all with Asian-American women.
It was never a conscious decision to date solely within my race. In most ways, those relationships were serendipitous. I'd met intelligent, loving, beautiful girls who happened to look like me. But this idea of happy coincidence, in retrospect, was only partially true.
While I never sought to date within my race exclusively, it was, admittedly, easier.
Easier in that she automatically removed her shoes at the door. Easier in that I could slurp noodles and gnaw at chicken feet unabashed. And easier on my ego, because when I asked an Asian-American girl for her phone number, she would give it. I would not be dismissed, or snickered at, or overhear, "But he's Asian," from a friend on the wing.
I attributed the difficulties of dating outside my race to external factors, social forces I'd learned about in college classes. I was subject to the model minority myth: How sexy can a calculator toting conformist be? I was castrated by the Chinese Exclusion Acts, where my own government once declared it illegal for my ancestors to enter the country I call home.
Those laws, in existence until 1943, surely pervaded public consciousness, and as such affected my love life, didn't they?
Mainstream media portrayals of Asian males –Mr. Yunioshi in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," William Hung on "American Idol," Hiro Nakamura, the Japanese computer engineer turned supermutant on "Heroes" - consistently cast me as a socially deficient, sexless jester.
Even the Korean pop music phenom, PSY, is known for his clownish giddy-up dance rather than his ability to croon to the ladies like Frank Sinatra.
Under these influences, how can the American public see a young Asian-American man as an object of desire? How can a young Asian-American man see himself as a sexual creature? FULL POST
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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