Last week, I traveled to Baltimore by way of DC for the Critical Mixed Race Conference. It was an incredible experience!
l spent the first day and a half in DC literally running from the Portrait Museum (Haaaay Obamas!) to the Holocaust Museum (wrecked me), down to the MLK Memorial (majestic), out to the Nigerian Embassy to renew my passport (I was welcome), to the African American History Museum (incredible for a first visit), and finally to sit down and catch up with my cousin who I hadn't seen in a year.
Whew. And that was before the conference even began!
I went to a variety of presentations at CMRS, which presented academic papers, fiction, memoir, and workshops centered on Multiracial experiences. Because I've been making more time for writing lately, my favorites were the keynote by Fanshen Cox-Giovanni and a writing workshop with Elizabeth Liang, both of which focused on ways to tell your own story.
Needless to say, it got a couple hundred Mixed folks amped about the importance of being seen and adding to the mosaic of our experiences.
I started this trip on my own. Going to DC has been a longtime dream of mine and this was a wonderful first experience. It was so cool to travel solo, navigate a bus-train-subway network, and run around to find exactly what I wanted to see in that limited day and a half. It felt amazing!
By the time I arrived at our Airbnb to meet up with the planning team from MidWest Mixed, my brain was so full of art and history and family that I thought my head might explode. I spent the first night with Leslie processing sensory overload from our individual experiences that day at the African American History Museum.
For me one of the big takeaways was that, when I talk about racial identity development in hour long presentations, I boil down the impacts of slavery to a few sentences. Which is straight up blasphemy after you've spent a few hours inside such a rich and dense history.
We had a lot of time to connect as a team, and as people. Fashion highlight: we wore matching MWM t-shirts - a different color for each day, accented by our individual styles, of course. By the end of the trip, I had bonded with each of these incredible women and now I truly see them as sisters.
One of the most humbling takeaways was that we traveled across the country together to check out how other Mixed conferences do it. And as it turns out, people in the national Mixed community who knew exactly who we were and wanted to support and partner with MidWest Mixed to build up our conference! It felt like a dream at times.
Another gift was to be among people who are trying to answer the same things I am - what do we do with all this academic research and theory? Who is it ultimately for?
Being at an academic conference (which was, I'm told, not even SUPER academic), we're exposed to all these interesting ways to think about Mixedness, and what people learn from our experiences. They're presented in the form of scholarly papers, beautiful writing framed by academic critique, heady theories about how we develop. Scholars have to present them in ways designed by White patriarchy.
So much baggage came up for me from my days as a Person of Color in higher education. We have to change our language and presentation to be acceptable in this system. But when we, ourselves, are the subject of the learning, who is the knowledge for? How do we translate it back into communication that our people can understand?
Go back and look at the link to Leslie's art. She has an MFA and used a lot of racial identity development theory to inform her work. What a beautiful way of translating!
So... yeah. I took an incredible trip out to the east coast that stimulated my brain, nourished my heart, and lit a fire under me to continue my work in the mental health of Mixed people. More to come!