By Nina Mesfin
“The training of the schools we need today more than ever,–the training of deft hands, quick eyes and ears, and above all the broader, deeper, higher culture of gifted minds and pure hearts.” – W.E.B. Du Bois, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” (2007: 5)
Before I arrived at university, I did not know that you could make a career out of academia. I expected to waltz in, study hard for four years, then waltz out again. I was completely unprepared for the world I would soon find. Despite my immersion in a hyper academic environment, pursuing a career in academia seemed intangible for me: a woman of color. This stemmed from the fact that professors who looked like me were few and far in between. Although many treat university as the great equalizer, a space where all of one’s past struggles and experiences cease to matter the moment one steps foot onto campus, academic institutions exacerbate differences in lived experiences. For the first time, I became acutely aware of my intersectional identity and acquired the tools necessary to articulate what I had only ever been able to describe as fleeting feelings. Continue reading
By Maria Mankin
I was raised in a relatively small suburb ten minutes outside of Chicago. While the city itself is home to people from all different walks of life, River Forest was not necessarily a breeding ground for diversity. All of my friends were white, and their parents came from the Midwest or somewhere nearby. They ate bland chicken for dinner, watched football at night, and took trips to their local country club on the weekends. My family, on the other hand, strayed quite a bit from this suburbian norm. Both my parents were immigrants, three different languages were bounced around in my home, and we never went to a single football game nor had memberships to the local country club. I wasn’t aware that this was different until I was exposed to the standard that all my friends prescribed to. When I would go to their houses after school, I realized that my living situation was abnormal. Being a young, impressionable child, all I wanted was to fit in. I began to question why my family couldn’t just be like everyone else’s. This yearning to conform bred a strong resentment towards my biracial identity. I grew embarrassed of my mom’s Mexican accent, and detested the abundance of Russian food that filled our refrigerator. However, as time passed and I became more assured, I started embracing my ethnicities. These various moments of self-realization ultimately led to an overwhelming sense of pride and respect for my heritage, subsequently resulting in a deeper understanding of what it means to be biracial. Continue reading
By Kelly Lehua
I’m sitting in one of the plastic chairs in our Thursday Youth Cultures work group. I had decided to shake it up a little bit today by sitting on the other side of the room today. I was feeling dangerous, young, and alive.
We were discussing the state of youths in today’s society. Listening to other people’s comments, I got that itching in my finger and up it went. Taking a deep breath in preparation to drop some major knowledge, I chimed in with a Hawaiʻi-related comment. I spoke with confidence because I knew what I was talking about. After I had finished talking, I remember the room being silent for a second. It was just enough time for me to start feeling a little uncomfortable when Yatun, my Youth Cultures instructor, looked me dead in the eye and said in her ever-calm voice, “You’re an activist.”
In that moment, you could have told me that I was the next Miss USA and I would have believed it more. I was absolutely floored.
By Gregory Stewart
One day I received a Facebook message inviting me to perform at a spoken word show for queer people of color. A friend of mine who attends Brown University with me and was also studying in Amsterdam had asked me if I’d be interested in performing and then gave my name to one of the event organizers. I identified with the term and write spoken word poetry, so I was intrigued to say the least in terms of who exactly fit into the social category of queer people of color in Amsterdam as well as what assumptions and meanings the term had. Coming from a liberal arts university back in the United States, I was used to the term but I recognized that the meanings wouldn’t necessarily transfer over. Continue reading
By Maddie Dimarco
As a university student in Southern California, I am a daily witness to the effects of racist immigration policies against Mexican and South American immigrants. Many Americans fear that their “American culture” will be lost amidst an influx of foreigners, and this fear is used as a reason for implementing harsh border control and deportation of undocumented immigrants. Immigration as a political topic is highly controversial because it engenders strong feelings of patriotism and national identity. I have participated in rallies and large events both at my school and in my Los Angeles community, showing support and solidarity with immigrants and hearing personal stories. Continue reading
By Taina Quiñones
“Here,” Rose says, tossing her royal blue bikini in my direction, “Try it on.” I hesitate before picking it up from where it lands on her bed and holding it up to my body. It will definitely fit. Due to our larger body sizes, Rose is one of the few friends I can clothes-swap with – something we both relish in whenever we are lucky enough to be in the same place.
This is my third summer visiting Rose in her hometown of Glencoe, Illinois. We are both sophomores in college at this point, and with permission from her parents, Rose and I will be roadtripping up to Wisconsin to spend a week in her family’s lake house. She tells me we have to go swimming, and for the first time since I was a small child, I am genuinely excited to. Continue reading
Preface – Minor identity crisis
Growing up, I’ve always identified as mixed race. If someone inquires further, as they almost always do, I clarify that I’m half-Japanese and half-French Canadian. I usually laugh a little after saying “French Canadian,” because I think that saying this always sounds a bit pretentious. It feels as though I’m implying that I have some sort of deeply rooted connection to my French Canadian heritage, when in reality I’ve never really been sure of what it means to be a “French Canadian,” or where that region even exists geographically. When I ask my dad, who grew up in Boston and whose entire family has lived in New England for generations, he seems to be about as lost for answers as I have been. Continue reading