Mixed Roots Stories Performance Sampler @ CMRS 2017

Mixed Roots Stories Performance Sampler 2017

February 26th, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m.

At the 4th Critical Mixed Race Studies conference, four dynamic performers will share a sampling of their work followed by an open discussion with the artists on craft, process and engaging with themes of the mixed experience.


Elizabeth Chin and the Laboratory of Speculative Ethnology

The Jefferson-Hemings Complex
Elizabeth Chin is an ethnographer and anthropologist with a multifaceted practice that includes performative scholarship, collaborative research, and experimental writing. A professor at Art Center College of Design in the MFA program Media Design Practices/Field, she has published widely on children, consumption, anthropological practice. She has performed and done ethnography in the United States, Haiti, Uganda, and Cuba.

Gregory Diggs-Yang

Becoming Korean, While Growing Out My Afro: A Personal Narrative about a Moment in My Own Identity Development as a Mixed Korean and Black American
Gregory (Chan-wook) Diggs-Yang has a Bachelor’s (BA) in Education from Illinois State University and a Master’s (M.Ed.) in Educational Administration from UCLA. Greg has most recently moved from South Korea where he worked at Seoul National Universities as the Curriculum Coordinator for the IETTP (Teacher Training) and was a co-host of the Arirang Radio segment, ”Footprints of Korea with Chan-wook”. In addition he served as the President of the M.A.C.K. Foundation (Movement of the Advancement of Cultural-diversity of Koreans). A grassroots organization that supports multicultural schools and increases recognition and awareness of the diversity of Koreans. His areas of interest include multicultural education, mixed-heritage, and social justice. Greg is currently a doctoral candidate in the College of Education, Multicultural Education program at the University of Washington, Seattle. His dissertation looks at the support of biracial identity development through educational spaces.

Genevieve Erin O’Brien

Sugar Rebels

Genevieve Erin O’Brien is a Queer mixed race Vietnamese/Irish/German/American woman. She is an artist, a filmmaker, an organizer, a cook/private chef, and an educator who lives and works in Los Angeles. She holds an MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. O’Brien was a Fulbright Fellow in Vietnam, a recipient of the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles and Center for Cultural Innovation’s Creative Economic Development Fund. in 2016 she went to Hanoi, Vietnam as a US Dept. of State/ZERO1 American Arts Incubator Artist for a project highlighting LGBTQ visibility and equality. Her newest work More Than Love on the Horizon: West Coast Remix and Sugar Rebels were recently commissioned and presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.


For additional conference programing and other details visit the CMRS website.

Mixed Roots Stories LIVE 2017 performers

Mixed Roots Stories LIVE Performance 2017

February 25th, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Mixed Roots Stories will open the 4th Critical Mixed Race Studies conference with live performances by the following:

karimi-standing-72Robert Farid Karimi

Disco Jesus – new work TBA!

Robert Farid Karimi is a community engagement specialist and comedic storyteller. He works with everyday people in cities, companies, and health centers worldwide on making healthy messaging delicious using comedy, culture and food with his culinary cultural engagement project: ThePeoplesCook Project. And, he speaks on issues as mixed race/consciousness, food politics, community deliciousness and the power of the Fool/Trickster to change the world. www.KaRRRimi.com

crystal-alad-3Crystal Shaniece Roman

Black Latina the Play

In 2008 Ms. Roman launched The Black Latina Movement, LLC (BLM) and began performing BLM’s first written theatrical piece: a one woman show about the lives of dark-skinned Latinas and African American Latinas entitled Black Latina. In early 2013 Black Latina received a new format featuring an all female ensemble cast starring Judy Torres; during the fall the revamped Black Latina saw the success of multiple sold out shows. Since 2013 Black Latina the Play has been on tour in the Northeast at campuses such as: Hamilton College, Penn State University, Community College of Baltimore County-Essex and Lehigh University. Most recently Crystal revised the one woman version of Black Latina the Play after being invited to perform at the Smithsonian Institute for Hispanic Heritage Month Festival Latinidad- Looking into Latina Women’s American Experiences September 2016.


carly-headshotCarly Bates

Musings of Rachel Dolezal

Carly Bates is an emerging artist from Phoenix, Arizona. With a background in music and piano performance, she is active in the Arizona arts community as a creative collaborator with musicians, movers, poets, actors: storytellers. Having recently graduated from Arizona State University, Carly is currently working with a local playback theatre company called Essential Theater and is also the editor for the Mixed Roots Stories Commons.


zave-martohardjono-mr-5-2-16-6337-credit-david-gonsierZavé Gayatri Martohardjono

Untitled (Balinese dance study)

Zavé Gayatri Martohardjono makes intercultural, geopolitical, boundary-defying, high glam performance, video, and installations. Interested in embodied risk-taking and cross-cultural imagery, they combine improvisation with their own cultural roots: Indonesian mythology and dance, queer iconography. Brooklyn based, Zavé has shown at Aljira Center for Contemporary Art, Boston Center for the Arts, Center for Performance Research, Center for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Movement Research at Judson Church, Recess, SOMArts, Winslow Garage, among others. They have been an artist in residence at the Shandaken Project at Storm King, La MaMa Experimental Theatre, Chez Bushwick, and an Lambda Literary Emerging Writers Workshop Fellow.


dsc_7157_tLisa Marie Rollins

Performing an excerpt from SIDE CHICK: This ain’t no Harlequin Romance

Lisa Marie Rollins is playwright, poet, freelance director and dramaturg. Most recently she co-directed Young Jean Lee’s The Shipment (Crowded Fire Theater) and a reading of Tearrance Chisholm’s Br’er Cotton (Playwrights Foundation). She is the director of All Atheists are Muslimby Zahra Noorbakhsh and was co-producer of W. Kamau Bell’s “Ending Racism in About and Hour”. Lisa Marie performed her acclaimed solo play, Ungrateful Daughter: One Black Girl’s Story of Being Adopted by a White Family…That Aren’t Celebrities in festivals, universities and academic conferences across the US. She was Poet in Residence at June Jordan’s Poetry for the People at U.C. Berkeley, a CALLALOO Journal London Writing Workshop Fellow and an alumni in Poetry of VONA Writing Workshop. Her writing is published in Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out, River, Blood, Corn Literary Journal, Line/Break, As/Us Literary Journal,The Pacific Review and others. Currently, she is finishing her new manuscript of poems, Compass for which she received the 2016 Mary Tanenbaum Literary Award from SF Foundation. She is in development with her new play, Token. She holds degrees from The Claremont Graduate University and UC Berkeley. She is a Lecturer at St Mary’s College in Performance Studies, and a Resident Artist with Crowded Fire Theater in San Francisco. Lisa Marie is a 2015-16 playwright member of Just Theater Play Lab and Artist-in-Residence at BRAVA Theater for Women in San Francisco.

sasaki_fredFred Sasaki EAT TO JAPANESE: Achieving ethnic authenticity by eating, shopping, emojis

A step-by-step guide to being genuine authentic

Fred Sasaki is the art director for Poetry magazine and a gallery curator for the Poetry Foundation. He is the author of Real Life Emails (Tiny Hardcore Press, 2017) and the zine series Fred Sasaki’s and Fred Sasaki’s Four-Pager Guide To: How to Fix You.



The Performance will be held at the Norris Cinema Theater 850 W 34th St, Los Angeles, CA 90089

This event is Co-Sponsored by the USC School of Cinematic Arts

Free tickets will be limited. Check back for a link to register.

For additional conference programing and other details visit the CMRS website.

Day of walk-ins will also be welcome pending ticket availability.


White Dads

Being brown and having a white dad means something, whether people want to acknowledge it or not. Right now, I’m working on an anthology project—“WHITE DADS: Stories and experiences told by people of color, fathered by white men.” I’ve been loving the ways people are taking this idea, supporting it, and helping it grow. Thing is, though, absolutely none of us have the same story to tell about what it’s like being brown, raised by a white guy in a society that ranks validity based on melanin and race. This is a part of my story and the story behind WHITE DADS.

Answers are never just black and white–but in the case of biracial identity, sometimes, that’s exactly what they are.

When I was about five years old, I learned the phrase, “Pedestrians have the right of way.” To me, this translated to, “I am going to walk into the road, and you have to stop.” So with all the wonder and arrogance of a new kindergartener, I unfortunately made habit of walking out into traffic with the confidence of a queen. My mother calls this my “Bad Seed” phase. My older sister had to literally grab me by the shirt and yank me from harm’s way as cars backed out of the driveways I didn’t care to notice.

One evening in 1996, I was on out on a stroll with my dad downtown. While I don’t recall it being a particularly bustling evening, I know there must have been enough cars buzzing by to practice caution when near the road. What I do recall, though, is that I was being a brat, most likely because I didn’t want to hold my dad’s hand. I was probably insulted by the sheer fact that he thought I needed help crossing the street at all. Didn’t he know I had the right of way?

I broke away from his grasp and took off tearing down the darkening street. My dad, 6 foot tall, took off running right behind me, no doubt yelling for me to “get back here!” You’ll have to catch me first.

And then, right as the chase was getting underway, I almost ran right smack into a young couple out on a date. The woman was almost frantic.

My dad has told me about the brief interaction he had with that man and woman, all those years ago. Now, he laughs at this story.

“Those people thought I was trying to kidnap you!” he bellows.

It’s funny, you see, because I was little brown girl, being chased by a big white man on a darkish, half deserted downtown street.

I laugh at this story, too. My dad may be a lot of things—someone who, for example, doesn’t fully understand racial fetishization or the panicked terror of police brutality against people who share my skintone—but a stranger or my kidnapper is not one of them. How could those people not see that?

I’m African American on my mother’s side, and I’m a Russian, Polish Jew from my father. In a world where we’re so often told black and white issues don’t exist, I have been coerced into telling the world that’s exactly what I am: A black and white issue.

I don’t have my father’s hazel eyes or his ruddy, pink cheeks. I’m a brown girl, not as nearly as light as my father or quite as dark as my mother. I’ve got my mother’s melanin and big, brown eyes. My sister has the high forehead of the Native Americans we’re mixed with from our mom’s side of the family, and I’ve got the babushka face from my ancestors in Eastern Europe from our dad’s. You probably wouldn’t guess that’s why my cheeks are so round, though. And why would you? I’ve got my mother’s melanin and big, brown eyes, and that’s what people see. When I’m asked that degrading, yet common and impolite question, “What are you?” I know what they’re really asking is not “Who are you?” but, “What made you that color?”

The idea of having my father mistaken for a stranger wasn’t something that really registered with me until I was older. My mom and I were both brown, but my dad and I were both Jewish. Two of a kind on either side. It wasn’t until I was older that the fact that I didn’t get to be in control of how other people saw me, and by extension what they saw when they looked at my dad and I, honestly came as a shock of hurt. Because we didn’t immediately register as looking like the family unit norm, society told me that he and I weren’t two of a kind after all; not really.


I came to realize that rather than being seen as unique individuals, people of color are seen as a blur of the narratives and stereotypes centered around our ethnicities. This is the kind of faulty thought process that has led so many people to ask me, “How can you be Jewish if you’re black?” Or worse, the definitive, “Black people aren’t Jewish.” There’s always this opposition of my identity. I’m either too black to be Jewish, or too Jewish to be black.

In our society, black people don’t get to be dynamic. Black people don’t get to be seen as diverse within the general population. We’re seen as one big lump mass of the same experience, “The Black Experience,” it’s often called. And if you don’t fit neatly into that preconceived fold, the immediate conclusion is that there’s something wrong with you, not something wrong with the narratives that have been concocted around race identity. There’s this false idea that we all have the same, one story to tell from start to finish. We don’t even get to claim an ancestral nation most of the time. People simply say, “Africa,” like it’s all the same. And because we’ve been stripped of the privilege of knowing those nations, that’s almost  just what it’s become. We don’t get very many opportunities to be seen in the mainstream as individuals. We’re used as diversity, but not seen as diverse.

In parallel strides to the systematic and institutionalized racism that’s rampant in our country, this is a colorist society. “White” is typically and continually seen as the default race—even down to little things, like the color “nude” being a light skin tone—and it’s seen as the opposite of brown. Again and again in our male-run world, white men are the gatekeepers who make the decisions for us all. It’s obvious and undeniable that they’re the demographic with the most privilege in our country, and more often than not, the antagonists in stories about seeking social and racial justice.

These are things I know to be true about the climate of our world. My dad and I both know that they’re true. But what it also means, on a personal, individual level, is that I, a young, black woman, am seen as the the opposite of the older white man who is my father.

Enter WHITE DADS. This is the push back, the retort, the response, the healing process. This is a chance to share, laugh, process, and expose the immense diversity that exists in our communities, even within this one sliver of racial identity. This is a chance to tell our stories and say that we, the people of color with white dads, are valid, strong, and that we are not fractions of mismatched cultures inside a single being. We are whole, and who we are is enough.

Don’t let the specificity of the title fool you. In fact, it’s meant to be provocative. In some ways, it’s at odds with itself. Having to preface “dad” with a label, an explanation, can be an othering experience all it’s own. The theme may be specific, but it is by no means narrow.

On top of that, these days, so many brown folks are united under the “people of color” umbrella. This kind of budding unification is an astounding display of support. By choosing an often overlooked focus, potential is created to expand that unification in new ways and to publish those who are bursting at the seams with untold stories.

WHITE DADS is accepting all forms of creative expression from black, brown, mixed race, adopted and/or POC who have the unique experience of having a white father. This is meant to be an intentional, creative opportunity to speak on truths, tell stories and share art that fall within the thematic focus.

I’m tired of defending who I am. Fighting white supremacy and patriarchy, two things I care greatly about,  are political issues I invest a lot of myself into. At the end of the day, though, theory, “-isms,” and social constructs are not going to make my dad less of the father who raised and loves me. These are political issues. My relationships with my family are not.

It’s isolating be unsure of where your identity lies.There is not a universal truth or a simple answer. This project, like identity itself, is far too nuanced and complicated to ever be restricted to binary modes of thought; to ever be about just one thing or another.

These are matters I recognize to be authentic about my own story and experience, but there’s so much more to say. WHITE DADS can be a place for those stories to be told. It’s a space to explore the crossroads of where social and political constructs intersect with personal experiences and family, loving or otherwise; an opportunity to look into the nature of identity and family ties that are anything but black and white.

Submissions are open from Dec 1st, 2015 – Jan 15, 2016. Check out the WDZ Tumblr page for more information. Email whitedadszine@gmail.com with questions. Find more writing from Sarah here.



white dadsSarah Gladstone is a writer based out of Oakland, California. In addition to being a contributor for online sites such as Ravishly and The Huffington Post Blog, she also works on personal writing endeavors. WHITE DADS, a new zine anthology of stories, art, and experiences told by people of color fathered by white men, is her most current project. Most of her writing is creative nonfiction, poetry, and prose on topics relating to identity, race, and orientation. She appreciates all great forms of storytelling, magical realism, and the interconnectedness of art with social justice and humanity. When she’s not entangled with the written word, you can find Sarah debating the merits of pop culture, indulging in discount cinema, and generally trying to live a story worthy life.

Visit white-dads-zine.tumblr.com for more information on Sarah’s latest project, or email whitedadszine@gmail.com


Huff Post Blog


Twitter: @happyrocktalk

Fringers Part II

Despite feeling comfortable verbally sharing my story with friends and students it has taken me 15+ years to publically write about it despite numerous kind nudges from others. Somehow “putting it out there” in written form has always been somewhat of a foreboding experience that has kept me paralyzed in fear—that others may respond critically and perhaps like so many times before that those I identify with will reject me. So it is my hope that these words will encourage others to share their own truths, shake off fear and move forward embracing the freedom that comes from breaking free of silence…


Part II.

“From Turkish to Mixed”

As a child, I knew that my dad was from Turkiye and that this meant I was “Turkish.”  At such a young age all I could equate “being Turkish” with was being forced to wear “weird” clothes in cultural festivals once a year, receiving gifts and letters from my babaanne (father’s mother) that went unread until they could be translated and playing with my one Turkish friend (whose mother my mom became close with while taking language lessons from her).

Part II Pic 1Part II Pic 2


I carried around this identity without much thought for most of my childhood. Once my mother married my stepfather and had my brother, we interacted less and less with the Turkish community. With my mother working full-time and commuting 3-4 hours a day my Turkish identity only surfaced occasionally- most frequently at cultural events for school or when I brought store-bought baklava to potlucks.

Around middle school, this identity started to take on more meaning for me. Having been raised in predominately white, middle class, heterosexual, Christian spaces where most knew little or nothing about my father’s background no one ever queried much into the racial/ethnic identity I carried due to my fair complexion. There was often confusion around my last name differing from the rest of my family and my relationship to my younger brother whose blond hair and blue eyes stood in stark contrast to my own, but not to the extent of questioning my “whiteness.”

While I knew my mom, brother and stepdad were white, I personally had never given much thought to my own identity nor identified as “white.” I began to get frustrated that I did not know an entire half of my family—that I could not communicate with them without assistance, that I knew nothing of their culture, religion or location and I began to reject my “whiteness” and to solely identify as Turkish. As I entered high school I became increasingly angry at the lack of understanding I had of my family and self. In an effort to help, my mother contacted the family of my childhood Turkish friend and informed them that I wanted to learn more about my dad’s culture. They immediately invited me to participate in a Turkish fashion show. Excited I went to their home only to come back in tears as her mother had spent half of the rehearsal telling others to speak in English for me. Rather than feeling a sense of belonging and solidarity, the experience only further solidified that I truly was an outsider in both worlds.

When I returned to school after the weekend, the assistant principle, who happened to be at the fashion show, decided to pull me into his office to question my racial/ethnic identity and tell me about his Turkish immigrant wife before asking me to be a buddy to an incoming Turkish international student. Surprised and agitated I tried to explain that I was American and had little connection to my Turkish heritage and that any student on campus would be about as much help to the new student as I would be. The student either never came or something I said convinced him that it was not something he should further press me about, as I never did meet the student.

While I’m sure he had the best of intentions and likely thought he was being “progressive” by learning about his wife’s culture and trying to connect people from the same racial/ethnic background this interaction simply illustrated to me that he considered all of “us” to be the same and was yet another situation in which my lack of connection to my heritage was exposed.

Throughout high school, I continued to wrestle with my identity. The first two years I began to make new friends, most of whom identified as Mexican, Black or biracial. Within this group, I felt more comfortable exploring and expressing my emerging racial/ethnic identity. However, this was not without it’s own bumps in the road such as when discussions about “white people” arose. I sometimes shared certain sentiments, but felt conflicted.  I would remind my friends that my mom and stepdad and brother were white and I was half white as well. This was usually met with a comment such as, “Well you’re different because you’re mixed.”  I’d sit there thinking, “You’re still talking about my family…” Eventually I started to realize that my stance of rejecting whiteness via distancing myself from white people was incompatible with loving my family and myself.

Part II Pic 3

My junior year of high school I began an early college program and started attending community
college full time. I remember one of my first courses was post civil rights history. The professor had us do an assignment that required us to interview family members about our cultures and history. Unfortunately, I was only able to complete half of the assignment. Once he found out that I knew little of my dad’s heritage and my own culture he went on a mission to “help me find it” and avoid assimilation! That day, we went around the entire campus until he found another Turkish student and left me with her. We had a polite but awkward conversation, which did little in helping me “find my culture,” but did serve to further highlight my status as an outsider.

After the awkward encounter I quickly found my way to the multicultural center, which soon became my home away from home (I literally slept there in the morning before classes to avoid traffic). I began to gain an eclectic group of mostly African and Middle Eastern international friends, two of whom were other bi/multi racial women. One was of a Turkish Pakistani background, but was raised in America and another, Amnah, shared almost the exact same story as myself except her father was from Dubai and she phenotypically did not pass for white. I was elated to finally have a friend who understood what it was like to be raised in a white American household, while wondering about the other half of your family and identity. Amnah and I quickly became close friends and sought out a cultural organization to join.

Part II Pic 4

At the time, there were few cultural student organizations on our campus. The closest one to being multiracial was the Muslim student union, which was comprised mainly of international students from numerous countries. However, being raised in Christian households, Amnah and I didn’t see this as a group in which we would fit in. Despite neither of us identifying as black, many of our friends were in the Black Student Union, so we decided to ask if we could join. While we may not have identified the same racially we connected with many of our friends in the BSU as most of our parents/families were recent U.S. immigrants.

Once a year the multicultural center nominated a set number of students to attend the annual community college students of color conference. It was through these conferences that I found my way to the multiracial community. The MAVIN Foundation was just taking off in Seattle and they held a session at the conference. It was the first time I had seen a session description that I could really relate to and was elated. However, the students of color conferences were not all filled with fun, camaraderie, understanding and laughter. They were also places that brought out pain, frustration and reaffirmed boundaries.

I can still recall one particular incident in which I was reading a book in the hallway when another attendee approached me and began to engage in conversation. Unbeknownst to me he was conducting an authenticity test under the assumption that I was a white girl wearing a “black” hairstyle. Once he found out my racial/ethnic identities he began to go on and on about how he was wrong and how “my people” were actually one of the most targeted and oppressed groups due to the anti-Middle Eastern sentiments shared by many Americans post September 11th. That evening he expressed his interest in dating me. I found it interesting and perplexing that despite being the same exact person, within a matter of minutes, in his eyes I suddenly went from being a white girl engaging in cultural appropriation to a mixed girl who was beautiful and acceptable for a man who believed in Pan-Africanism to date. Reminded of the old familiarity of high school lunch conversations, this was not the first or last time I’d be told that one part of me redeemed the other. Those giving the “compliment” never seemed to understand how it could be interpreted otherwise and I could not understand why it still sometimes felt affirming.

When reflecting on these experiences I often recall a conversation I had with a friend during which she said, “Your race is part of who you are, but it is not all of who you are.” I think that was the beginning of my realization that being a fringer was okay. Not fully understanding my culture was okay. Letting go of societal labels and expectations of who I was and should be was okay. There would be many more uncomfortable and life changing experiences to come, but I was the only one who could define myself and regardless of who or what others perceived me to be, all that mattered was that I knew who I was—a mixed, frequently white passing, second generation American sociologist, who knows more Spanish than Turkish, loves spoken word poetry, 90s R&B and Rap, boxing, is still a fan of The Seattle Super Sonics and Allen Iverson, watches obscure documentaries, wears giant earrings and is obsessed with dog advocacy. I am a kaleidoscope of the sum of my social identities, experiences, interests, and talents, yet none of them alone adequately define me. I am happily indefinable.

bio elmsNaliyah Kaya is the Coordinator for Multiracial & Multicultural Student Involvement & Community Advocacy at the University of Maryland College Park where she works closely with Multiracial/Multiethnic and Native American Indian/Indigenous student groups, serving as an advocate for the needs of these communities. She currently teaches TOTUS Spoken Word Experience and Leadership & Intersecting Identities: Stories of the MULTI racial/ethnic/cultural Experience.

As a poetic public sociologist, Naliyah utilizes poetry as a medium for teaching and social change. She encourages students to engage in artistic expression as they examine their own identities, beliefs and values and as a form of activism in promoting social justice. It is her hope that through this process of self-exploration students will embrace cultural pluralism, find commonalities across differences and engage in research and dialogues that seek to benefit the greater good of society through positive social action.

A native of Washington State, Naliyah grew up just outside of Seattle. She earned an A.A.S. from Shoreline Community College, a B.A. in Sociology from Hampton University, and received her M.A. & Ph.D. in Sociology at George Mason University. Her poetry has been published in Hampton University’s literary magazine The Saracen, George Mason University’s VolitionVoices of the Future Presented by Etan Thomas and Spindrift Art & Literary Journal.

Learn more about Naliyah and her work on her website.

Pocho–Going Rogue

For as long as I can remember, identity by choice or force has wrought conflict and contradictions. Who am I? What am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?

My surname implies I’m white, but my brown skin begs to differ. Am I Mexican? My Mother’s family tree most certainly is, but my Father’s Celtic, Euro-Iberian branch bears my Anglo surname.

Am I more culturally European than ethnically Latino? Am I a Native American, rooted to my beloved Yaqui Abuela? To which tribe do I belong? The truth of the matter is that I’ve teetered on the edge of dueling race and ethnicities all of my life. My admission accepted or denied for equally irrational cultural and color coded reasons. My detractors accused me of acting too white; being too dark-skinned; not being Yaqui enough. They ridiculed me for, not speaking Spanish fluently; for, not being from the “barrio”; for speaking “fancy” like a gabacho.

By many, I’m considered a “Pocho” – a half-breed; an Americanized Mexican, who has “lost” his culture. I’m an exile in the land of my birth.

So after a period of dealing with these socially engineered absurdities I decided to go rogue. My previous applications for club admission were less about acceptance than it was about attaining membership.

Membership, after all, has its privileges. Just ask any country club crony, politician, and corporate executive – any member of any union or fraternal organization, or a religious shill.

Race, religion, and ethnicity are no different. Why not join the club and reap the rewards? Ironically, rejection by each group did me a huge favor. Being summarily rebuffed inspired me to find out who I was at my core.

Although I primarily identify myself as Latino, I discovered I wasn’t solely Mexican-American, ‘White,’ or Native-American or any other “pure” or artificially coalesced American classification. To support what I “felt” instinctively, I sought “scientific” corroboration through racial and genealogical DNA testing. My DNA results revealed a wealth of ethnic diversity. I am:

41% Native American;

40% White European;

7% Middle Eastern;

4% African;

4% Caucasus &

4% East, Central, South Asian.

I discovered that the whole of me was greater than the sum of my parts.

I’m an everyman. I’m good with that. I like being whole.

I embrace my ethnicities entirely, not as separate distinctions capable of wielding favor or force. Mine is an inclusive, universal existence rooted in the interconnected conservation and fate of mankind and the planet.

An early proponent of this perspective was Alexander von Humboldt, the preeminent 19th-century Prussian naturalist and explorer of Latin and South America. When asked about the connection between places, people, and culture, he opined:

“The only way to understand the world is to look at it as a whole instead of breaking everything down into isolated parts. The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.”

Amen, brother. Expand your horizon. All human beings, regardless of race, place, and society are interrelated.

Yes, of course, I realize that racial and ethnic lines deeply divide this country. And no, I don’t believe in the cockeyed notion and optimism that we live in a post-racial America and that we’re all simply Americans, kumbaya. Government doctrine clearly lays out what American distinction is: we’re either “white,” Americans by amalgamation or nonsensically, all “others.” All, I am saying, is that I chose not to be racially or ethnically manipulated by anybody or anything.

Identifying me by color or socially engineered dissimilarities is to marginalize my consciousness, humanity, self-worth, and empowerment. Artificial classifications have expiration dates, and I’ve reached mine, thank you very much.

I understand I can’t change how the world defines me, but I can change how I view my world.

To me, self-awareness began with the past. I believe in the adage that, “To know where you’re going, you must first know where you’ve been.” I accept as true that the discovery of our origins and our impetus for ancestral emigration links history with today and today with the future.

It’s the conduit from which independent cultural identity and sensibilities are born, cradled, nurtured and grown.

When it’s all said and done, my life is a multicolored collage of imperfection, as it should be. It’s not a work of art; it’s more a work in progress. Even so, it’s mine to paint. To quote Jackson Pollock, the influential American drip painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement:

“My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the outstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor, I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.”

In my “Pocho” eyes, the human race is a kaleidoscope of colors cascading down on the canvas we call a planet. That’s a painting, worldview, identity and life worth exploring, and where it takes me is entirely up to me.


Frederico WilsonFrederico Wilson is currently the owner and President of an International Fluid Power Procurement and Sourcing Company; founder of a non-profit organization (under development); blogger at mestizoblog.com, focusing on multicultural perspectives and issues. He is a USAF veteran (environmental/missile inspection specialist); and former domestic and international professional in the Airline, Telecommunications, Sales, and Financial Securities industries. Originally from Arizona, he is a lifetime student of cultural anthropology and applied behavioral science. He attended Arizona Western and the University of Arizona and holds numerous military technical, and corporate management certifications and licenses.

He is of mixed Mexican, Indian (Yaqui Tribe), Euro-Iberian, and Cornish Celtic ancestry. He lives, works, and writes in metropolitan Seattle, Washington.

He is best described by a quote attributed to Anthony Bourdain when recounting the preparation of a Burgundy wine-base rooster entrée.

“So, they take this big, tough, nasty-ass rooster, too old to grill, too tough to roast. Marinate and simmer the shit out of it, before it’s tasty.”

Frederico is the author of a new book, Escaping Culture: Finding your place in the world. Find out more on his website: mestizoblog.com

Musings of Mixed Race Therapist in Training

It was difficult to know where to start writing a blog about my experience of being mixed race. I’ll admit I felt over-whelmed. I decided to the easiest thing to do would just be to start where I am which is coming to the end of training to be a counsellor and reflecting on this whole experience. I am a 34 year old woman of Black Jamaican, Nigerian and White British heritage. My father’s heritage is Black Jamaican, Nigerian and White British, my mother is White British. I currently live in Yorkshire in the north of England where I was born and grew up.

Over the last three years I have been doing a counselling diploma in order to have a career change after several years of working in the academic publishing industry (a predominantly white middle class industry which I must admit I felt out of place in at times, arguably though I have moved into a very similar working environment). As part of the counselling training it was necessary to explore all aspects of my identity in order to raise my self-awareness so I can assist my clients in doing the same. As part of examining my identity I have spent a great deal of time exploring what it means to me to be a mixed race woman. It’s been a massive journey for me and of course it never ends. As I look back at my personal history I can see how being mixed race has expanded my perspective in life and added a lot of richness. I also have had to re-visit some of the difficult aspects. I can’t deny I have had that experience of feeling I do not really belong anywhere and still do at times. The flipside is that I can probably fit in in more places and scenes than a lot of other people can and be more comfortable with diversity in general. There have been periods of confusion around my racial identity (probably made more difficult by the stereotype of the tragic and lost mulatto), periods where I have felt angered d limited by the racism and micro-aggressions of others and times when I have faced a severe lack of understanding about what it means to have a mixed race identity in society in general but even within my own family.

The counsellor training was difficult in itself and at the moment I feel I am recovering somewhat from this experience. I suppose I had been somewhat naïve about what training to be a counsellor would be like. Ethnicity, culture and racial diversity were given minimal space on the course (until I launched a long and emotionally costly protest). I spent much of the time in training feeling like I had to educate others about black identity and mixed race identity because there was pretty much nothing in the training that addressed white privilege or the issues of racial minority groups in any kind of meaningful way (except for what I or other racial minority group members were bringing with us). This is horrifying when you think most counsellors are white middle class women and the majority will not have had much reason to spend time meditating on race or the implications of cross-cultural/ racial counselling. It’s well documented (and was also my experience) that counseling trainees struggle to discuss issues around race openly and without fear. This has serious implications for the work we do with clients. I know for myself how difficult and frustrating it can be to find counsellors who can work effectively and non-defensively with the hurt of racism and issues to do with race.

During the course I became aware of the woeful statistics around the over-representation of black and mixed race people in mental health care and in prisons in the UK. I was also depressed to learn that mixed race children are the ones most likely to be put up for adoption. It’s so obvious that these communities are among those being failed by mental health care practitioners and society at large but very little is done to rectify this in the counselling world. I must admit there were times when acknowledging this and the general ignorance I’ve come across in the field so far in these areas has made me wish to leave the profession but the over-riding feeling has been that actually these facts make it more important for me and others like me to be there representing a different voice and perspective and doing our best to meet the needs of our clients.

I think I’ve noticed a pattern for myself in life in general. There are times when I identify more with being black and more with being white and then times when I feel ‘mixed’. My racial identity definitely feels fluid. It’s been a long hard battle over my life resisting the perimeters others have drawn out for me with regards to race and my identity. When I was studying on the course because I detected a lot of ignorance and some real unwillingness to have open conversations and race and culture (which I experienced as oppressive) I felt more aligned with my black identity and used that to explore what being part black felt like for me in that position. The current debates around asylum seekers in the UK seem to have stoked British racism and news filters in daily from the US around the fight for black lives there. We are not immune to being failed at the hands of the police in the UK either (my family has had personal experience of that) but this seems to get less attention here. Again such issues make me feel more in touch with my black identity and like I need to stand up for issues affecting those in racial minorities.

I was just at work the other day when a colleague said to me ‘You know when you’re family came over in the past seeking asylum…’ I stopped him there. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked. ‘My family were never seeking asylum. My grandfather was in the Royal Air Force. That’s how he ended up in Britain’. Not that I have any issues at all with asylum seekers but it worries me that anyone could adopt the idea that all brown-skinned people in the country could only be here because they have been seeking refuge. I’d love to say assumptions and ignorance of this kind are not the norm but a week without racial micro-aggressions from casual conversations or some aspect of the media or life in society would probably be a week spent at home with a blindfold over my head and ear plugs in my ears. Then people wonder why when you are in a racial minority you are overly pre-occupied with race not realising the extent to which our lives is affected by it. In general the British public seems to have little knowledge about history and race in this country particularly when it comes to the British history of the colonization and slavery, and the ramifications globally of this.

Well I said I would start where I am and I guess this is where I am at the moment when it comes to being mixed race and discussions around race in general. I’m feeling pretty angry. Especially when mixed race people are being hailed as the ‘face of the future’ and evidence that people in general are less racist and more open-minded. I’m just expressing my own experience here but my experience is that people are not more open-minded and we are pretty damn far away from this mixed race utopia that everyone is talking about. I don’t think more mixed race relationships or people in the world are necessarily reducing racism and moving things forwards. I would love to be proved wrong though and I’m waiting and watching.

photoNicola Codner is 34 years old and currently training to be a person-centred counsellor in Leeds, UK. She is biracial and her heritage is White British and

Black Caribbean. She has a strong interest in difference and diversity which led her into re-training as a counsellor. Prior to training as a counsellor she worked as a publisher in academic publishing. She’s keen to continue to develop my writing experience hence part of her interest in blogging. She has a degree in English Literature and Psychology.

In her spare time, she loves reading, music, art, theatre, traveling and cinema.

Switching it Up: Mixing Identities Over Time

I couldn’t understand why my mother was so outraged. I was eight, perhaps nine, and my great-aunt – my mother’s aunt – had just graced me with what she clearly thought was a compliment: “She could pass for Spanish!”

My great-aunt thought I could “pass for Spanish,” and that was enough to make my mother invite her own aunt to leave our house. I was young and probably even more naïve than some of my peers and had no idea what “pass” meant or why it would make my mother so angry. It was obviously a bad thing – I sure never wanted to pass, whatever that was! I didn’t see much of my great-aunt after that, though my mother fumed about that comment from time to time for years after.

Let me give you some background. I have two families of origin. I’ll talk about the second one first because it is the most important. I was adopted as an infant by what some would label “light-skinned” African American people and I was raised as Black. I was seven when my first adoptive mother died, my father remarried soon thereafter – again to a light-skinned, African American woman. But here’s where it started to get complicated. I learned I was adopted when my first adoptive mother died. The shock of that still echoes five decades later. I remember clearly that I desperately wanted to understand my story. My WHOLE story, not just what happened after my first few months in a Chicago orphanage. This is not a comfortable conversation for most adoptive parents, especially those who adopted in the 1950’s when birth parents were erased from birth certificates and new parents were assured that, through the miracle of careful matching, no one need ever know that their child wasn’t born to them, that their adopted child could pass as a birth child. But my place in the world had suddenly changed very painfully, my anchors ripped away, what I knew to be true turned into lies, two mothers lost before I was a decade old. And I needed to put the pieces together.

My new mom – who will just be called my mother from here – didn’t know much about my story. I heard several variations of my origins; my favorite was that my parents had met as college students; my birth mother was white and my birth father a student from Africa. He was Black, of course. Clearly that could never have worked out so I was placed for adoption. Even within the variations, the races remained the same and, suddenly, I was a mixed race person. My mom was mixed, too, with Caucasian, Creek and African American heritage, but she was raised and identified as black so, when I tried to talk about this new revelation and my identity with my equally mixed new cousins, I was informed by my mother to drop that, I was Black and that was that. My new family primarily identified as black, even though I know that they were sometimes perceived as perhaps of another background. No one thought about passing, as far as I know. We were proud of being black. So, I never brought it up again, though I frequently wondered about that missing mom, the first mom, the one who’d carried and birthed me and then gave me to another family.

I secretly tried on this mysterious identity. But I didn’t know anyone who identified as mixed; there were no popular figures, no classmates, no characters in the many books I read, who called themselves mixed. So, without some model as to what that identity meant and looked like, that youthful flirtation with a different racial identity did not have any way to take root.

Two decades or so passed. When my first child was born one of my first thoughts was that here was the first person I knew who was related to me by blood. We try to pretend that it’s not, but blood is important in American culture. Adoption is outside our norm and often not even on our social radar. People who didn’t know otherwise, always saw a resemblance between me and my adoptive family – I’d hear, “you look like your cousin,” “you’re tall like your dad,” or “you have your mom’s hair.” The miracle of careful matching. I recall once having to do a biology assignment in which we had to trace a specific inheritable physical trait through our family tree – I never knew if the teacher realized that I made all of my information up, or if she guessed that I or someone else in my family had been adopted. Even my mother would occasionally use the phrase, “Blood is thicker than water,” to stress how family should stick together. I don’t think she ever realized the irony.

After having a child, I decided to find my roots, if I could. I had been grafted onto another tree – a wonderful, welcoming, hospitable tree, but nevertheless, not the place I’d started. The saga of my search is a long story in itself so we’ll skip to the happy ending – I found my maternal side, the long-lost womb and first love. I was extremely fortunate that I was welcomed into the family with wide open arms as if I’d only been away for a while. Suddenly this only child had siblings, a host of new cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles. It was overwhelming and wonderful and mostly white. My two (older) half siblings were also mixed and there were other family members who were people of color, all welcomed in the family, but still very much a minority.

My birthmother and I were pretty taken with each other and that meant, for me, finding an identity that included her. It was easy to start calling myself mixed then. My older sister, who had grown up with our shared mother, identified as mixed – check both boxes or check other, don’t let yourself be forced to choose. We weren’t white and didn’t want to be or to try to pass as such, but we both embraced the mixed heritage that contributed to who we were. I reveled in this new identity because it gave me a connection that I had never experienced before. I gleefully checked both boxes when that pesky demographic question showed up. Not, as my mother had feared, because I wanted to be less black, but because I wanted to connect to my biological family.

Fast forward again to today. My connection to my first family of origin is solid. We see each other from time to time, talk on the phone, send cards, share via Facebook. And my identity has drifted back. I now check one box, Black/African American. It’s not because it’s what people see when they look at me, but because it’s who I feel I am. Maybe it’s because of the identity that I lived with for so long, but I feel that I can be a Black person of mixed roots, retain that solid personal connection with both my birth and adoptive families, and embrace all of the history that make me the person I am today.

Out of curiosity, I recently tried the DNA test offered by Ancestry.com. It returned my genetic background as 61% European. In the Ancestry.com world, that means Caucasian. Africa contributed 38% of my DNA with the negligible remainder, traces of West Asia. This is interesting, I suppose, and if the demographic questions that come up on studies or surveys asked for my genetic identity, I would give a different answer. But, for now, I’m African American. It’s the identity that shaped my life and experiences in America. And it’s the one I’m happy with. For now. Check back in another 20 years.

By: Darlene Nichols


[rescue_column size=”one-third” position=”first”]20150213_092521-1[/rescue_column] Darlene is a proud Midwesterner born and raised, mother of two talented musical sons, librarian extraordinaire, and advocate for diversity and inclusion. Not only does she have a mixed race heritage, she is married interracially and has biracial children so issues relate to mixed identity, acceptance, role models, etc., have been of long interest. She has been a librarian at the University of Michigan for almost thirty years and, growing out of that role, co-edited a readers’ and researchers’ guide to finding information on mixed race people entitled Multiracial America: a resource guide on the history and literature of interracial issues. She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and Sheltie and, occasionally, sons.

Mixed in Love


Call for Guest Bloggers: 

Fun, story-seeking crew looking for guest bloggers who enjoy writing about their mixed experience and love. Must like discussing love in the context of mixed identity or interracial relationships.
Discussion should include, but is not limited to, reflections on one’s own or others’ interracial relationships; or a broader acceptance of loving one’s self, friends, communities, families, etc.
All stories (and story telling methods) welcome!
Send “Mixed In Love” Guest Blogger submissions to mxrsblogger@gmail.com, now through February 14th.