Mixed Mamas explore identity
- Published: April 9, 2015
People of mixed racial heritage face different challenges than most when figuring out their identify, but all of us are negotiating our identity all of the time, according to Jocelyn Robinson. That’s why the “Mixed Mamas Remix” performance she’s bringing to Yellow Springs is for everyone.
“Being able to explore our differences as well as our commonalities brings us closer together,” she said recently. “That’s what this show is all about.”
“Mixed Mamas Remix,” a two-woman show by Sage Morgan-Hubbard and Stacy Rene Erenberg will take place Friday evening, April 10, at 8 p.m. in the Antioch Foundry Theater. On the following day, the women will present a workshop for teens from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church. Both events are free but registration for the workshop is required and space is limited: call 241-4618 to register.
“Mixed Mamas Remix” is a “multimedia performance art and storytelling experience that explores the intersections between race, class, gender and sexuality,” according to a press release for the event. The performers use story, song and poems to talk about their childhood, middle school, high school, college and adult experiences, exploring issues such as “the use of the “n” word, the “b” word, the “fat” word, discovering a healthy relationship with our hair, our booties, our bodies and ourselves.”
The show is “also about creating a collective healing space and creating dialogue, asking questions, investigating assumptions, exploring, re-imagining and wondering — we are all works in progress and we welcome the audience members’ thoughts and critiques.”
Morgan-Hubbard, of Chicago, is an artist, poet, activist and educator who is the academic partnership coordinator of the dance department of Columbia College, Chicago. Erenberg, of Washington, D.C. is a singer, activist, healer and community organizer.
Robinson of Yellow Springs first saw the women perform several years ago at the annual conference of the association of Critical Mixed Race Studies. Robinson, who is of mixed race herself, had earned a masters from Antioch University Midwest with a focus on mixed race studies. From that she developed an AUM class that she still teaches on mixed race women’s memoirs with a focus on narratives, including oral history, written memoirs or other forms of storytelling.
“However a person chooses to exercise their voice and proclaim their identity” is legitimate, Robinson says. “To me, it’s part of making a human connection.”
Within the larger discussion of diversity, the experience of mixed race persons is often marginalized, Robinson believes, partly because the topic itself can make people uncomfortable.
“A mixed race person is the result of intimacy, of a relationship between two people who are different,” she said.
And the historical context of that intimacy contributes to that discomfort, she believes. During slavery, interracial relationships most often involved white slave owners exploiting, often raping, their female slaves. More recently, most mixed race individuals were conceived during unions between black men and white women, relationships that caused discomfort for other reasons.
“These are very different dynamics,” Robinson said. “Looking at how fraught the issue is, is fascinating.”
Robinson hopes that the performance and workshop of the two mixed race women add to the conversation about racial diversity in Yellow Springs, although she sometimes finds that conversation frustrating. Time after time, the conversations cover the same ground, she believes, “recognizing that there are issues but not addressing them.”
And while individuals often proclaim that they are “color-blind” or beyond racism, Robinson believes that personal attitudes are beside the point. While this community may be relatively tolerant, it still suffers from the same systemic racism as the rest of the country.
“We have to do the hard work of addressing the systemic issues of race, not frame all of it around our personal experience,” she said.
Robinson hopes that artistic expression, and specifically the creative expression of the Mixed Mamas, helps to jolt villagers out of their customary responses to issues of race, gender and class.
“Art gives us the opportunity to engage with issues in a new way,” Robinson said. “And when we’re given the gift of someone’s creative process, we’re also empowered.”
Robinson included a workshop for teens in the Mixed Mamas visit because adolescence is the time when many struggle the hardest with identity issues, she believes, especially people of color. She hopes the workshop helps to provide young people new tools to help them evaluate their experience.
While Robinson is organizing the two events on her own, she has received financial support from a variety of local entities, including the Village Human Relations Commission, the 365 Group, the Yellow Springs Community Foundation, Central State University, Wright State University, Antioch College and the First Presbyterian Church.
“All of these entities are lifting me up,” she said.