“There’s going to be a lot of talking tonight,” The Mixed Space (TMS) founder Lili Stiefel excitedly announced as she pivoted the spotlight to our community members. For the February Meetup, we took it back to the roots of TMS as we discussed the journey of mixed identity. Lili along with TMS co-founder Ariel Bastida started by sharing their growth with the company since its beginnings. “I have grown tremendously since we’ve launched moderating meetups, holding space and continuing to learn new words and dynamics that shape our society,” Ariel said. The two founders then opened the floor to the community to share their journeys of mixed identity along with a deep discussion on a few important vocabulary words: mixed, intersectionality, and code-switching.
Prior to the meetup we asked our community: What is the “who, what, where, when and why” of your mixed journey? At the meetup, we encouraged members to have an open conversation where they could freely take up space to express themselves, learn from one another, and define the key terms from their own experiences. It was an enlightening feeling to see each other’s vulnerability when sharing the different experiences of our mixed heritage, ranging from the labels we’ve dealt with to our pride in the identities we own. As one community member said, “I am the flower that bloomed from the soil of many lands and hands.” We were able to delicately unpack the word “intersectionality,” which stems from the renowned essay by Kimberlé Crenshaw who coined the term. We discussed the connotations we’ve carried in our day to day, and learned everyone’s definition and understanding of the historical context of intersectionality. Through this discussion, we recognized the term’s function in advocating for black women who live at the intersection of race and gender discrimination.
Since some TMS members might not have the opportunity or privilege to discuss their mixed identity so openly, we began our breakout room sessions earlier in the meetup and kept them open longer until we resumed as a group. During the breakout rooms, each group shared their journey of mixed identities and spoke about the moments that shifted us. “The conversation around mixedness and identity continues to grow in recognition,” Bastida said. “However, we find there are still plenty of gaps in finding resources and even raising awareness about this topic.”
We are consistently touched by our community members’ honesty, their openness to vulnerability, and ability to learn from one another. Stating the importance of heritage, one community member said, “We need to tell our story or else someone will co-opt our story for their own.” We were also moved by some of our member's lifelong experience in code-switching, delving into both its burden and (to some) its benefits. One member brought to light a quote by the journalist Ida Harris: “Code switching is not trying to fit into white culture–it’s surviving it.” All of us left the meetup having been a little more enlightened, evolved, and proud of the skin we live in.
Overall, it was our community who brought the most knowledge to our meetup and we felt so honored by their presence. Here are a few gems that were dropped during our discussion: