The May Meetup was a momentous wave of emotion for our community as we gave space to tell stories of mixed identities and their effect on mental health. But before The Mixed Space (TMS) founders Lili Stiefel and Ariel Bastida started the discussion, they gave a warm introduction to the newest member of the team: Mike Avila, TMS’s new Meetups Coordinator. Before joining the team, Avila was no stranger to the TMS community. He has been a monthly meetup regular and contributed to TMS as a Meetup 2.0 speaker last November.
Before the meetup, we asked the community three questions: What role does mental health play in your life with your family? How do you help yourself maintain a healthy mental state? What are signs that indicate your mental health needs help?
Since the TMS team are not therapists nor mental health professionals, they chose to open the meetup with a brief video by clinical psychologist Dr. Jenn Noble. Noble’s focus of work is the intersection of mental health and mixed race. Her video discussed the various false beliefs projected onto mixed-race folks that cause deep insecurity and anxiety.
The community showed a wonderfully diverse age range. One community member opened up about his life when Jim Crow laws were active. He told us about the snowball effect on his life, recounting when he felt like a “freak show,” tearfully sharing his relief in telling his story to a community of people who are accepting and can relate. Others shared stories of discrimination and erasure of their other cultures.
Members shared the great lengths they’ve taken to assimilate into American culture. Such stories included letting go of their native tongue to be fluent in English to having one parent deny sharing their culture with them because they thought it wasn’t as important as the dominant Western side of their culture.
The community shared the frustration of not being mixed enough by the perception of others. Not being dark enough, not light enough, and generally not whole enough leads to a complete loss of identity. It took years of perseverance to dismantle their compulsion to “fit in,”-- a status that only brings temporary satisfaction and more reason to feel erased. It took finding places of shared values and experience, much like The Mixed Space, to begin embracing their entire self and feel the permanence of belonging. After what many said was an intense breakout room, we all left the space knowing that none is a percentage: we are all 100% of what makes us whole, and we are all enough.