Blackness Behind White Skin

Professor: Now everyone stand up

Class: [shuffling around to stand up]

Professor: Take a look around at all the Black men standing around you.

Class:[Everyone begins looking around awkwardly]

Professor: Now, everyone sit down, but all the black men remain standing…

It is in this very moment I begin to panic. My mind starts to race at a 100mph and I begin to nervously look around as I see everyone sitting down, but all the black men standing tall. “Do I keep standing? Maybe I’m not black enough? Will I get the ultimate side eye from the class and from the black men standing up? Will my professor kindly remind me to sit down?” What my professor wanted to show to the class was that young black men are a presence on our college campus and that these young men should not be unjustly handled or killed for acting out their youth, just as a 17 year old Jordan Davis did as he was shot and killed for playing loud music with his friends back in 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida. While this was indeed a tense, but important, moment in our class, I could not help but to question my own racial identity in those short moments of panic. In case you’re wondering, I ended up sitting down, and not standing tall with my fellow black men.

If you were to see me on the street you may not stop to look twice in wonderment of what or who I am. I am a mixed man but it’s an invisible mixedness, or blackness, whichever you prefer. I don’t look like your token mixed men like Colin Kaepernick, Drake, Michael Ealy, or even Barack Obama. I am such a “high yella” brotha that I actually look more like my father, who is a white man. The only time my blackness shines through is if i pick out my light brown hair into my cherished “mixed fro” or shave my head all the way down. When I do either I get comments such as, “oh, you actually look black with your hair like that” or “Oh my God! You weren’t lying, you are black!” With so many “white” features one can begin to guess why I couldn’t get myself to stand in class. I believed that it was wrong of me to stand up and proclaim myself as a black man who shares the lived experience of a fellow black man who can get stopped at any moment just for the complexion of his skin. I have never been stopped by a cop based off of my skin color, who am I to stand tall with my classmates? I believed in that moment that I was not black enough.

“You should be absolutely ashamed of yourself!” were the first words my mother spoke when I told her about my identity crisis in class. My mother, who I inherit my blackness from, was livid at my choice to sit down and choose not to take away from the experience of being a black man with darker skin. While I don’t have the lived experience of a darker skinned black man, my mother made it very clear to me that we should never deny who we are and we should always stand up for our family, our blackness. Following the discussion with my mother, I began thinking back to when men and women had to hide their blackness to great extents just so they could pass the racial color lines into a better life. These men and women were forced to deny a whole part of themselves because that part of them was looked at as dirty, unclean, not white. I can’t get back my decision to sit down in class that day. To live with my decision is to never forget the feeling I felt as I denied an entire part of myself, and all of my family that made it in America as a black man or a black woman. My blackness may be invisible behind my white skin, but the next time I am called to stand up for my blackness I will stand proudly. If not for me, for the men and women who were forced to deny their blackness, and for my ancestors who were brought over from the coasts of Africa. I am because they were.

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Kenneth Miks was born in Tracy, California, a small town right outside of the Bay Area. He is in his final year of his undergraduate studies at the University of California Los Angeles. Kenneth will be graduating with a major in sociology paired with a minor in African-American studies and will be continuing his intellectual journey into graduate school, with a focus on the social and cultural impact of the African diaspora that is felt globally.


Celebrate Multiracial Heritage Month with MICA

March is Multiracial Heritage Month at the Multicultural Involvement & Community Advocacy (MICA) center at the University of Maryland’s Stamp student union! Mixed Roots Stories is proud to partner with this exemplary university group and think it important to tell the stories of student leadership. Check out the re-cap of last year’s mixed heritage month and see this year’s awesome line-up of events (below)! Go participate in a talk, hear spoken word, see a film screening at UMD or, if you’re not a local, get inspired for your own multiracial heritage celebration! Tag your mixed heritage month posts on Twitter and Instagram @UMDMICA and @OurMixedStories.

If you’d like to get involved with MICA, contact coordinator Dr. Naliyah Kaya at nkaya@umd.edu; if you’re interested in partnering or would like to see your student group events/leadership story featured with Mixed Roots Stories, email kaily@mixedrootsstories.org.

Multiracial Activists in Black Social Justice Movements
When: Thursday, March 2nd @ 7pm
Where: Stamp Student Union Thurgood Marshall Room
Members of the UMD community will gather to discuss the role of multiracial activists in Black social justice movements such as #BlackLivesMatter. This even is cross-listed on the Black History Month Calendar. *Dessert provided.

Mixed Monologues
When: Wednesday, March 8th @ 7pm
Where: Stamp Student Union Art Gallery
Join TOTUS Spoken Word Experience for an evening of poetry performances hosted by UMD alum and spoken word artist Tony Keith. *Refreshments provided.

50 Years of Loving: Interracial Dating Across Generations Panel
When: Thursday, March @ 9th
Where: Stamp Student Union Pyon Su Room
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, which banned anti-miscegenation laws nationally. Join a panel of students and local community members as they share their experiences with interracial dating and offer reflections on challenges and changes across generations. This event is cross-listed on the Black History Month calendar. *Refreshments provided.
From Black/Red Power to Hip Hop: Black & Indigenous Solidarities in Unexpected Places  When: Tuesday, March 14th @ 7pm
Where: Stamp Student Union Grand Ballroom Lounge
Join us for an exciting evening with Dr. Kyle T. Mays, historian of modern US, Afro-Indigenous, and Indigenous studies! *Food provided.
The Mixed Experience Brown Bag Lunch
When: Wednesday, March 15th @ 12pm                                                                                                                 Where: Stamp Student Union 1121 MICA/LCSL Conference Room 
Come out for an engaging dialogue focusing on the experiences of bi/multiracial people. You do not need to identify as bi/multiracial to attend. Lunch will be served, so come hungry!
Loving Film Screening
When: Monday & Tuesday, March 27th & 28th @ 8pm
Where: Stamp Student Union Hoff Theatre 
The story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, whose challenge of their anti-miscegenation arrest for their marriage in Virginia led to a legal battle that would end at the US Supreme Court.
Your Cup, Your Culture: DIY                                                                                                                         When: Wednesday, March 29th @ 6-8PM
Where: Stamp Student Involvement Suite
Come decorate your own personal coffee mug with designs inspired by your culture and heritage. Mugs and materials will be provided, courtesy of the brothers of ATS. Designs will be part of a #yourcupyourculture social media campaign.

Multiracial Asian Americans In Dialogue
When: Thursday, April 6th @ 5PM
Where: Stamp Student Union 1121 MICA/LCSL Conference Room
This event is a space for people to share experiences related to multiracial identity within the Asian American community. Participants will engage in dialogue around community and build awareness of the needs of multiracial students at UMD. This event is cross-listed on the Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month Calendar


Growing an Exotic Flower

I grew up in an entirely White neighborhood, in a predominantly White school system, and interacted mostly with my White family members. I watched decidedly Western TV (read: Hannah Montana) and read books with similarly homogenous characters (I still have all 58 of the Hardy Boys books). As I grew older and began my life-long obsession with historical fiction, I identified my history more with the stories of Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I than I did with those of Princess Chikako of Japan and Princess Jahanara of India. My second grade Ancestor Report described the immigration of my father’s grandmother from Germany to the United States; no mention of my mother’s family was made on that sky-blue poster board.

American and European history, however, do not represent the story of all my ancestors. Half of me is graced with my mother’s rich Filipino blood that incorporates heavy Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish influences, a far cry from the Irish and German traditions of my father.  Although I was blessed with multiple trips to the Philippines, frequent Tagalog between my mother and aunts, and monthly get-togethers with the local Filipino community, throughout childhood I continued to identify myself as an enthusiastic and whole-hearted Caucasian-American. For a while, I never felt torn between two cultures or thought that others separated me from my neighbors and their blonde hair, freckles, and fair skin.  In her essay “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” Audre Lorde introduces the idea of a mythical norm, which in the United States is most often defined as “white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, and financially secure.” She claims that most people acknowledge in some part of themselves that they do not fit that norm – that they are an “other” who identifies differently than that unspoken norm. I did not feel that way. My mother’s heritage simply served more as an interesting accent to spice up my traditional, White, Midwestern upbringing than an inherent part of my own identity.

It was not until the fifth grade when my “otherness” from my own community became a truly salient factor in my own identification. Two young girls about four years my junior, one from Spain and the other from Nigeria, approached me as I waited impatiently in the lunch line for my coveted Thursday ravioli and asked me, with huge smiles on their faces, if I spoke another language. A little taken aback but nevertheless pleased to once again add a little sprinkle of Filipino to my Midwestern community, I replied the negative. Almost as an afterthought, I asked them why they chose to ask me – out of all the other kids in the line –such a question.

 

“Well – your eyes are a little different,” one replied before scampering off with her friend.

 

I ran off to my best friend and urgently asked her if she saw something different too. She awkwardly avoided eye contact and told me that “yea –  they’re a little smaller than usual.”

And so began my decade-long process of self-definition. Erik Erikson, a psychologist known for his theory on psychosocial development, described this process of identity formation as a “process of simultaneous reflection and observation” in which a person constantly judges herself with reference to how she thinks others judge her in comparison to themselves. That is, I was constantly deciding between which race I “felt on the inside” and how others viewed me. Before that moment, I never thought that I saw something different in my reflection than what my classmates and friends saw. But now I had to choose. Until high school (when “more than one race” finally became an option), I alternated between “Asian” and “White” on standardized tests. It was not an option to embrace both identities simultaneously. When in the United States, I was undoubtedly Asian, as my olive tone and eye structure quickly gave away. When in the Philippines, my towering 5’ 9” frame and fair skin (not to mention that I don’t speak Tagalog) revealed my Whiteness. It was simply a battle I could not win.

As I transitioned out of high school, I intentionally chose the University of Michigan to escape that battle. Beverly Tatum, a prominent psychologist and educator on racial identity, argues that individuals belonging to a “dominant” group do not truly know the experience of “subordinates” due to extensive social segregation in both communities themselves and the wider social sphere (e.g. TV shows, books, movies, etc…). At Michigan, I wouldn’t be in a small, Catholic, White-washed school. I could interact with people from all different heritages and begin to challenge the epistemic dominance prevalent in my own experiences. I immediately enrolled in the class “Growing up Latino/a” because I wanted to engage in a discussion between myself, a self-identified privileged White woman, and those who oftentimes do not benefit from that same privilege. As Audre Lorde argued often occurs with those from dominant communities, I did not want to make it the responsibility of the oppressed to teach me about my mistakes; I wanted to seek out my own role in the cycle of systematic oppression.

The class was a small seminar of about 20 students seated around a round table arranged to facilitate student engagement. Roughly half of the students were Latino or African-American; the other half were Caucasian. As I quickly learned transitioning between Caucasian-American and Filipino-American communities, those who belong to the majority group often do not realize they are the majority until they’re suddenly not. This was certainly evident as I stepped into the classroom for the first time. The unusually high ratio of minority to Caucasian students was immediately salient; the atmosphere was not the same vaguely-interested flavor common to many first days of class. Normal lackadaisical attitude was replaced by an inexplicable edginess. As we each expressed why we wanted to take the class, some students fidgeted uncomfortably. Others did not make eye contact with their peers. Few looked absolutely relaxed. Regardless of their demeanor, the resounding theme was that each one of us wanted to learn about a culture with which half of us had limited to no exposure. It was exciting! I was finally with people who all had different perspectives and were excited and willing to hear about other interpretations of the American experience.

 

By the next week, every single White student had dropped the class.

 

Again, I was faced with the dichotomous choice of my racial self-identification. I had identified myself as an “other” in that class, an individual who usually passes with White privilege. I was a White student who enrolled in that class to learn about different minority experiences. But I did not drop the class, as my White peers did. The African-American students did not drop the class, even though they too were delving into a Latino experience different from their own. Did that mean I was actually a minority student, because I did not feel uncomfortable enough to drop the class? Or was I a White student who just happened to be more open to the unusual racial distribution? Or was I actually teetering on the edge of White and non-White, because I was alert enough walking into the room to notice the high proportion of minority students, but not uncomfortable enough to drop the class? I could not go beyond that form of binary thinking. To which group did I belong? Whom did I represent?

As I finished my junior year of college, I finally felt like I had found a rhythm in my college experience. I had found close friends, a welcoming faith community, and a field that I felt passionate about. Never before had I felt so included and welcomed in the university setting. As I sat down with a White Ann Arbor mother in a local psychological clinic, she expressed concern that her young child wasn’t making any friends. That is, he was making friends – just not friends they would usually “find in their neighborhood.” I brushed her oblivious microaggression off, chalking it up to the overprotective tiger-mom persona she clearly conveyed to the psychologist and myself. She was only one mildly racist woman in the otherwise welcoming Ann Arbor. As soon as she left the room, the psychologist turned to me to express her dismay at such a blatantly racist comment. Especially, she said, when someone “not from her neighborhood” was sitting right in the room with her. I looked at her for a moment, confused. Who was she talking about in the room who wasn’t “from her neighborhood?”  Only the three of us had been present. Then I realized.

 

She was talking about me.

 

I was the person my supervisor (a lovely, kind, intelligent woman) considered “not from her neighborhood.” Never mind that I had grown up in the upper-middle class of Lansing, MI. Or have a two highly educated parents. Or only speak English. Again, my identity formation was challenged as I was forced to confront the difference between how others perceive me and how I perceive myself.  To many, I am an “other.” To myself, I was indistinguishable from my Caucasian peers. I believe I have a pretty hefty invisible knapsack that allows me to pass with unearned privileges that many are not privy to. But do I, really? I’ve been pulled over three times and never received a ticket… so yes? I’ve had people tell me to go back to China… so no? I’ve had strangers call me an “exotic flower” … so maybe?

Perhaps the answer, though, isn’t so easy. I am Filipina. It would be an insult to my mother and our family to deny the history that has been such a formative part of my mother’s life, and consequently, my upbringing. Yet I know without a doubt that I do live a privileged life. I’ve always assumed that neighbors will be pleasant to me. I feel comfortable wearing used clothing without people attributing that choice to my race. I’ve never had trouble finding makeup that fits my skin tone. So, perhaps, this dichotomous approach between White and non-White does not fully account for the identities that shape who I am. Maybe, after all, I am not either White or non-White. Maybe I can be an “other” in the communities in which I live, yet still experience White privilege because I am not only an “other.” And I am not only White. I am an entire being made of the intersection of experiences that have formed my world perspective, including experiences of privilege, marginalization, and some hazy in-betweens. These experiences cannot be so easily binned into two categories. Perhaps then, social expectations that so definitively categorize entire identities, including entire social movements, do not give justice to the depth of the populations they serve and their intersectionality. Maybe social justice itself, at least in part, is the process in which individuals acknowledge and engage in their intersecting identities, combine them with those of others, and use that more comprehensive viewpoint to instigate change and awareness in their communities.

Everyone has a variety of intersecting identities that shape the way he or she views the world and interacts with others. Gender, sexuality, race, and able-ness are only a few of the identities that people can claim to be their own and that can affect the way individuals interpret their world. Many people grow into adulthood fully aware of their many overlapping identities. I did not. I am continually adjusting my interpretation of myself in terms of both race, womanhood, social class, and education and reflecting on the ways different interpretations of these identities affect how I present myself to society and how society views me. And this, in a narrow lens, is the foundation of social justice. Social justice relies on both the process through which individuals and communities can reflect on and acknowledge themselves as a coalescence of many identities as well as the progress we’ve made to empower that coalescence. I have realized that I don’t need to neatly bin myself into White or non-White. That simply doesn’t do my person justice. I am a White, Filipina, educated young woman…and so much more.

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Andrea Maxwell was born in raised in the Lansing, MI area. Her mother grew up in Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines, and her father is originally from Indiana and is of Irish and German descent. Andrea is currently a senior at the University of Michigan studying Neuroscience and Psychology and is interested in the intersection of biology, psychology, and social justice. She hopes to serve as an advocate for human rights through both clinical and research involvement in the mental health field.

Interracial Dating

Being the products of an interracial marriage, we never felt the need to limit ourselves to a certain race when dating. Being interracial meant just about any and all relationships we engaged in would be an interracial relationship, but this didn’t stop society from having a say in our dating lives.

Alexis’ Dating Story:
My friends always used to asked my why I never dated “white” guys, and my response was always “they’re just not into me”, and we’d end up laughing it off like it was nothing. But then one of my “white” friends told me that “they’re just intimidated by us”. So I always wondered am I really that intimidating? I’d always hear from others and my mom “don’t lower your standards, you can have any guy you want”, but I never really captured the whole essence to that advice that was given. It’s like in society, we put mixed kids in a category of “out of this world”, like we are “the catch” to have. I have had a friend tell me that he likes dating mixed girls because “we’re a challenge”. It is as if we’re unicorns among a herd of mustangs, standing out some way because our hair and skin color is just different. Our background is a little bit of both worlds so it’s follows the whole “get you a girl who can do both” as they say. I am currently dating an African American guy in relationship that isn’t seen as a challenge or a game, but a companionship where we help each other to improve, and grow to be the best versions of ourselves.

Amanda’s Dating Story:
Through high school and my first years of college it just so happened that I dated mainly African American (black) guys and even one guy that was interracial like myself. We never received any odd stares or comments about being together because of how we looked. It wasn’t until my Junior of college that I began dating my current boyfriend, who just so happens to be Caucasian (white). Things just clicked between us and we are happy to be together, but I have realized the perception of our relationship changes before and after they see us together. We get odd looks from time to time, and the occasional question, if our families approve of us being together, but neither of these were typical when I dated the African American guys. Friends have admitted that after meeting my boyfriend, or seeing him for the first time, they were expecting for him to be a black guy. After spending time with us, they understand better what brought us together; again, this is a companionship that we wish to grow and improve to be the best versions of ourselves, together. My boyfriend and I are blessed with family and friends that are so supportive of our relationship.

Megan’s Dating Story:
Interracial dating can be tricky! During my service with the Peace Corp I began dating my current boyfriend, a local Panamanian. Aside from the obvious language barrier, there was major cultural differences as well. He doesn’t understand the same racial references, the significance of “soul” food, or that I grew up in a time when I prefered to listen to Britney Spear and 90s pop songs over rap. He is more passive, while Americans, like myself, can be more aggressive because we have grown up in a society where have been taught to seize opportunities as they come. Interracial dating has helped for me to keep an open mind and to have patience. While I continue to grow in my relationship, I have learned new things about Panamanian culture while being able to share my mixed culture and how it has shaped me into who I am today.

Now, all three of us are dating someone along the race spectrum. Someone who’s Hispanic, Caucasian, and African American. To love and care for another should not be limited to only those that look and have similar skin tones like themselves. We all agree that relationships should be based on the respect we have for each other and the trust and genuine connection we share together. We truly feel when that happens you won’t see relationships as “interracial”, we will see them just as two people together by love. #lovewins

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Megan Rudnik received her B.S. in International Business with a minor in Spanish and her MBA from Winthrop University. Since graduating, Megan spent 2 years in the eace Corp, serving in Panama. She also recently completed 4 months in China teaching English.

Amanda Rudnik received her B.S. in Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting from The Citadel. While at The Citadel, Amanda played all four years on the Citadel volleyball while serving in various leadership roles in the South Carolina Corp of Cadet. Amanda now currently works for a large company and pursues her dream of modeling.

Alexis Rudnik is currently a student at Winthrop University, studying Middle Level Education Math and Social Studies. Alexis was a member of the 2016 Winthrop Volleyball team and is currently coaching volleyball at the club level.

We all grew up in Minnesota for 10 years before moving to our current residence in South Carolina. Our mother is African American and Native American and from Alabama. Our father is Polish and German and originally from Minnesota.


Blended Families

What does it mean to call a family blended? The term still refers to families formed after divorce and remarriage—step-parents and step-children and step-siblings pieced together in new patterns. The term can also encompass families that are interracial; in these families, blending takes on additional permutations that certainly have puzzled some throughout history.

Like other interracial families, those that are also blended through remarriage contend with external assumptions and judgments—the confused looks and questioning glances, the “ah-ha” moments or oblivious denial. When I was married to my daughter’s father—who, like me, has both a black and a white parent—I slipped into the ease of relative inconspicuousness for the first time in my life. Raised with my white mother, I had experienced the questions about whether I was adopted and had felt defensive about my own belonging. In my marriage, though, I was able to take for granted that others saw and accepted where I belonged. Releasing the guardedness I felt when I needed to defend my familial place, I nevertheless felt an alternative defensiveness that many “blended” families and people of color feel in mainly white communities.

Now that I’m divorced and partnered with a white man, I feel the return of my childhood alertness to others’ assumptions about my family. Blessedly, our society in general and our community in particular do seem to have come a long way since Loving v. Virginia, but none of us can believe that racism is eradicated or that interracial unions are always accepted with open arms and open minds. My partner and I have had only one obviously racist experience in our two years together, and thankfully it was subtle, but I don’t kid myself that the obvious incident we experienced was all we’ll ever encounter.

As we slowly blend our families, I’m watchful of additional experiences we might have—of hostile or benign racism—and how our children might be affected. Of course, I also must ask myself if my very watchfulness amplifies negative experiences or even turns neutral ones into negative. On one occasion when my partner took my daughter out for ice cream, a woman asked him if my daughter was his, noting his whiteness and her brownness. “Sadly, no,” he replied smiling, meaning that he would be proud to be her biological father in addition to feeling like a parent to her. The woman then proceeded to comment on how lovely my daughter looks, how “Indian.” Hmm.

I wonder, too, the experiences I might have on occasions when I’m with his twins, one of whom is a freckled, blue-eyed, red-headed beauty and the other an as-yet smaller version of his imposing father. Will people assume I’m a nanny? Hmm.

I wonder in which configurations we’ll have our familial status silently questioned or vocally challenged. When David is with my daughter, will his belonging somehow be allowed, if not assumed, due to his whiteness and maleness? Will my belonging be overlooked when I’m with his children because of my brown femaleness? And when the five of us are together, what will people see? What, if anything, will they say?

Ever the optimist, I’m hoping people will see a happy family, not unlike most other families, regardless of race or marital history. It’s a utopian vision, surely, but I also hope people will allow us to reflect back to them a certain level of social awareness, acceptance, growth. Blended families really aren’t such a novelty, and ultimately it’s that simple fact I hope people see.


IMG_4147_2Tru Leverette works as an Associate Professor of English at the University of North Florida where she teaches African-American literature and serves as director of African-American/African Diaspora Studies. Her research interests broadly include race and gender in literature and culture, and she focuses specifically on critical mixed race studies. Her most recent work has been published in Obsidian: Literature in the African Diaspora and the edited collections Other Tongues: Mixed Race Women Speaking Out and The Search for Wholeness and Diaspora Literacy in Contemporary African-American Literature. She served as a Fulbright Scholar at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, during the Winter 2013 term.


2015 MXRS Retreat

Over Memorial Day weekend, the Mixed Roots Stories team gathered for our annual retreat. We spent two days evaluating where we have been and planning where we want to go.

We spent time looking at our mission and vision and decided it needed slight revising to more accurately represent what we do. This is what we came up with:

 

Revised Vision

A world that recognizes how it benefits from otherness, one that both celebrates and challenges identity categories in order to create more liberatory possibilities for our collective futures.

Revised Mission

Supporting and advocating for diverse Mixed communities through the power of sharing stories. We seek to act as a liaison, creating space between storytellers across academic and non-academic communities, and international and national contexts.

 

We began planning for the upcoming CMRS events. We also finalized our plans for this year’s Loving Day online event, and began planning for 2016 and 2017 Loving Day events.

We were excited to have our new board members Kaily Heitz and Stephanie Sparling Williams join us! They bring a wealth of experience, knowledge and energy to the team and are launching new student, community, and organization outreach as well as Arts & Education programing.

The highlight of the retreat was working on a Loving Day Mixed Media project, which was designed by Stephanie. You can join us in Visualizing Loving Day.

Stay tuned for the roll out of this and many other programing to come!


Mixed Roots Holiday Gift Guide

When purchasing gifts for friends and loved ones this holiday season, consider supporting people and businesses that enlighten us about and celebrate the mixed roots experience. Here are a few of our favorite mixed roots gift ideas for you to consider. We’ve included their social media info so you can follow and support them year round too!

In no particular order:

Mixed Up Clothing

“Founded in 2010, Mixed Up ClothingScreen Shot 2014-11-28 at 6.48.12 PM is a multiethnic children’s clothing line inspired by the textiles, cultures and people of the world, to develop friendships through fabrics. Mixed Up Clothing is an ethnic-inspired baby/children’s fashion line that celebrates diversity. The textiles, fabrics, and embellishments from all over the world inspire your mini global citizen to embrace and appreciate the beauty of the 21st Century’s Americana family.”

 Gift Ideas: Unique and fashionable clothes for all the littles (N to size 7) in your life.

www.mixedupclothing.com

Twitter @mixedupclothing

www.facebook.com/mixedupclothing

instagram.com/mixedupclothing

Belle

shopping If you haven’t heard of the movie Belle, it is time you did! Now you can own it and share with everyone you know!! The Mixed Roots Stories team saw the movie in the theaters. You can find our reviews here.

 

Gift Ideas: Belle is available on DVD to share with friends, family, and more!

www.belle-themovie.com

https://www.facebook.com/bellethemovie

Eighth Generation

“Louie [Gong] is the founder of Eighth Generation, through which he merges traditional Coast Salish art with icons from popular culture and influences from his mixed heritage to make strong statements about identity.”

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“The name “Eighth Generation” references the inter tribal value of “Seven Generations”, which suggests that we consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.  By naming my business Eighth Generation, I embed respect for the previous generations all my work and recognize that my successes are a result of our collective effort.  Eight is also a lucky number in Cantonese because, when spoken, it sounds the same as the word for prosperity.” –Louie Gong

Gift Ideas: With a wide array of goods, you can probably find something for everyone on your list from this Canadian mixed roots artist. Visit his site to see the variety of goods: jewelry, clothing, bags, pillows, blankets, skateboards, greeting cards, shoes, phone cases, notebooks/journals, and art work:

www.eighthgeneration.com

Twitter @8thgen

www.facebook.com/EighthGenerationbyLouieGong

The Singer and the Songwriter

Formerly Ampersand, The Singer and the Songwriter brilliantly fuse together pop, jazz, folk, and blues creating a unique new classic and sophisticated sound. “Their music is a stylistic hybrid, reflecting their diverse musical and cultural backgrounds.” Listen to our interview with them HERE.

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Gift Ideas: A great stocking stuffer or maybe a gift for yourself: their debut album What a Difference a Melody Makes is a gift that will keep on giving.

thesingerandthesongwriter.com

Twitter @thesingthesong

https://www.facebook.com/thesingerandthesongwriter

instagram.com/thesingerandthesongwriter

6 Degrees of Hapa

“6 Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 6.50.18 PMDegrees of Hapa is a family-owned business that’s all about celebrating mixed cultures and spreading a little Hapa pride. What we think of when we hear the term “haps”: To us, hapa means that you’re a mix of cultures, you might be Asian, Pacific-Islander, or Hawaiian (or maybe even a combination!). But… We like to think that everyone’s got a little Hapa influence in their lives, which is why we decided to name ourselves 6 Degrees of Hapa.The idea for 6 Degrees of Hapa came about when our family and our friends, who are also a Hapa family, started discussing how there weren’t many brands that were created for and by Hapas. Think about it–we’re a very large and diverse community with our own cultures and subcultures, so why not celebrate it?”

Gift Ideas: For unique handmade jewelry, screen printed t-shirts for all ages and more check out 6 degrees of hapa!

6degreesofhapa.blogspot.com

Twitter @6degreesofhapa

www.facebook.com/6DegreesofHapa

Meditating Bunny/One Big Hapa Family/Mixed Match

“MeditatiJeff_Yellowstickynotes_Photong Bunny Studio Inc. was founded in 2001 by filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns. Based in Vancouver, BC, this Webby award-winning and Emmy® nominated boutique animation studio specializes in the creation of animated, documentary, and experimental films aimed at both children and adults that combine different philosophical and social elements together to create humorous inspiring stories.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 1.43.21 PMWe are big fans of Jeff’s ink drawings…Chandra has a set of his owl drawings framed in her living room! Many of #inktober drawings were mixed animals, like this rhino/unicorn. Though these drawings are only being sold at select events, follow Meditating Bunny throughout the year to see when you can get your pictures to hang throughout your home!

Gift Ideas: In the mean time you can support his work, specifically his current project, Mixed Match, by purchasing any of his number of films already produced: Yellow Sticky Notes/ CanadianAnijam, Ode to a Post-It Note, Yellow Sticky Notes, One Big Hapa Family, or “What Are You Anyways?”. These movies are great teaching tools!

www.meditatingbunny.com

Twitter @meditatingbunny

www.facebook.com/meditatingbunny

instagram.com/meditatingbunny

MAVIN

“MAVIN builds healthier communities by providing educational resources about Mixed Heritage experiences.”

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One of the resources that MAVIN has created is the Multiracial Child Resource Book. With the self-identified multiracial community continuing to grow, this book remains relevant and just as important as ever.

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Gift Ideas: The Multiracial Child Resource book is a great gift for educators, community workers, youth workers, librarians, parents, etc. and only $15 (including shipping!).

http://www.mavinfoundation.org/new/multiracial-child-resource-book/

https://www.facebook.com/mixedheritage

Mixed Roots Stories

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“We are a non profit that believes that stories have the power to strengthen communities. We support mixed roots storytelling through producing events, and through online, in-person and educational outreach.” Donations assist in supporting and bringing workshop facilitators, films and filmmakers, live performances and performers, educational programming, authors, and other artists to conferences and events near you.

 

Gift Ideas: Consider giving the gift of a donation in a family’s or friend’s name for the holidays. All donations are tax deductible and makes our work possible.

www.mixedrootsstories.com/donate

Twitter @ourmixdstories

www.facebook.com/MixedRootsStories



Skin. My Story Starter

Ten years ago this week, I was in the hospital with a rare acute allergic reaction called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. I had been taking a mild antibiotic that had Sulfa in it…I am allergic to Sulfa based drugs, but did not know it. It started with flu like symptoms and a sensitive rash that turned into blisters. Once my rash and blistered covered body worsened, and my ulcerated mouth made eating a challenge, I was admitted to the hospital.  I spent eight days and seven nights in the hospital as the Sulfa burned through my skin.

Skin.

My skin has always been a perfect blend of my dad (who is Black) and my mom (who is White). I have always LOVED and embraced being mixed. As long as I can remember, I made it clear to everyone that I was both Black AND White. In the 4th grade I even spoke to a university class, with my parents, about being mixed.

As I got older, I recognized that my skin changed with the seasons. In the winter, I was lighter. In the summer, I was darker. My ever changing color always makes picking out the “perfect shade” of make up a challenge! In the summers, I would try and get enough sun to last as long into the winter as possible.  This was mostly because I felt I looked healthier with darker skin.  I know that sounds silly, but it’s just how I felt, and still feel sometimes. My skin has always ignited discussion from others. I have usually taken advantage of their curiosity by answering their questions, sharing my mixed story, and educating them about what it means for me to be mixed.

Changing Shades.

As I sat in the hospital, a few weeks before graduating with my Bachelors of Social Work from Azusa Pacific University, watching my skin literally flake off my body, I had a lot of questions for the doctors about what the final results would be. At this point, the skin that had fallen off was leaving very raw, fresh, pale pink, and sensitive skin. There were spots of this new skin surrounded by darker, unblistered, and unaffected skin. One day the infectious disease doctor came in for his daily visit.

 

Me: “What am I going to end up looking like?”

Doctor: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Am I going to look like Michael Jackson?”

(I know this might make me sound vain…and maybe it was a little…but I had stopped looking at my reflection. I no longer recognized myself in the mirror, and was having a difficult time remembering what “normal skin” felt like. I was beginning to realize that I might never look like my old self again.)

Doctor: “Well its hard to tell. We don’t really know.” (Looks at my mom) “You will probably end up being about her complexion.”

(My heart sank. Not because my mom isn’t beautiful, but because I LOVED my mixed skin. That is who I am, mixed.  If it is washed away…than who would I be? I was speechless.)

My mom pulled out my senior picture to show the doctor.

Mom: “This is what she normally looks like.”

It was written all over the doctor’s face. He did not realize that I was mixed. I had been in the hospital for at least three or four days, and the doctor didn’t know I was mixed!

Doctor: “Oh, well, uh, we will just have to wait and see. Time will tell.”

 

WHAT!?!  You are the doctor! You can’t tell me what is going to happen! As I was quickly learning, no one really knew the exact outcome of Stevens-Johnson. They didn’t even know what was the best way to treat it or prevent it from getting worse. Nurses from all over the hospital came to visit me. They had worked there for 10 years and had never seen a case. The only thing the doctors could tell me is that it has to run its course as it works through my system and out through my skin.

The doctor left and I was left in epidermis limbo. I was forced to start the process of coming to terms with my current changing color of skin.

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Picture taken May 1, 2004. This was Day 7 in the hospital.

As my skin continued to flake off, my face was light, and like new baby skin. My arms and chest and back were spotted. Slowly the light spots gained pigment.  I was hopeful that my skin would even out. However, the light spots continued to darken, eventually hyper-pigmentating. Now I had my color back, but I was spotted. After about nine months, lots of prayer, and a series of microdermabrasion treatments with my Dermatologist, my skin evened out. I still have a few lingering scars, but only I see them.

As I reflect back on the experience, I am thankful, and feel blessed, that my mixed skin was restored, but if it hadn’t been…I still would have been mixed, for mixed blood runs through my veins. My worry was never that I might be different, or having to come to terms with an altered appearance. I think my worry was that if my skin was lighter, spotted, or looked like Michael Jackson, that it would no longer be a catalyst for conversations where I could educate others about my mixedness. For someone who has always felt comfortable with my mixed identity, the thought of that being stripped away was scary. I realize now, more than ever, that being mixed, for me, is more than skin deep. My skin would have still been a discussion starter…but for a new purpose…surviving Steven Johnson. Now my skin tells an even more complex story, not only one of my mixed heritage, but of surviving Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. Who I am is obviously more than skin deep, but skin, for me… is a story starter.


PSA: ‘What are you?’ Is Not an Icebreaker

The “What are you?” question is a form of micro-aggression that is an all too common experience for blended/ Mixed (your word of choice) folks. Vocalist and Songwriter Andromeda Turre recently wrote a fascinating post in the Huffington Post about her – What are you experiences. As Andromeda states, “The problem with this question is, for lot of us blended people, that it doesn’t have a a simple answer.” The rest of the paragraph – for that matter the entire posting – is profound, succinct, and relatable. Read it then come back to mixedrootsstories for more sharing.