When Maria Amorosso ’14 walks into a room, she is almost immediately asked “What are you?” To some, she looks “too black to be white”; to others, she looks “too white to be black.” But Amorosso does not identify with a single culture; she considers herself biracial, a mix of her parents’ African-American and Italian heritage.
To raise awareness about students of mixed heritage like Amorosso, Mosaic—Andover’s affinity group for biracial or multicultural students—is holding its first-ever Mosaic Awareness Week, which started on January 10 and will continue until January 19.
Julia Jackson ’15 reflected on the struggles she faced as the only biracial kid in her neighborhood growing up. At Mosaic’s open club meeting, she said, “People wouldn’t say anything to me. As I got older, people got bolder, and began asking me, ‘Are you Asian?’ ‘Are you white?’ When I told them, ‘I’m Chinese,’ they would reply, ‘That’s so weird.’”
Confused by her friends’ comments, Jackson sought a club at Andover that could connect her to her heritage.
When she got an email from Aya Murata, Advisor to Asian and Asian American Students and Faculty Advisor to Mosaic, that began, “For multicultural kids or biracial kids,” Jackson thought, “Oh my gosh, that’s me.”
“During [my first] meeting, everybody shared stories and talked about their experiences that were similar to mine,” she continued.
Although Mosaic meetings are open only to members who identify as biracial or multicultural, Jackson and others exchanged stories with members and non-members alike in honor of Mosaic Awareness Week.
Hanover Vale ’15, who is of African-Filipino descent on her mother’s side and Russian-Hungarian descent on her father’s side, spoke of the tension an interracial relationship creates with grandparents.
“Not only are [my parents] on opposite ends of the race spectrum, but they’re also on opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum,” said Vale. “I’ve experienced my grandparents not accepting me because of my parents’ interracial relationship. That can be painful especially as a child, knowing that you’re at the receiving end of some tension in your parents’ relationship… When you’re a race not of color, it sometimes feels like you have to earn the white race’s respect. It’s like, ‘Let me prove to you that I’m the same caliber human being that you are.”
Other Awareness Week events included a screening of “The Loving Story” on Friday. Set during the Civil Rights era, the movie details an interracial couple’s enduring love in a time of anti-miscegenation laws. The screening was followed by a discussion with Af-Lat-Am. Themes of the discussion centered around love’s power to cross social or cultural boundaries.
“The story is one that is really powerful. It is essentially about love. But then it’s not about love because society thought to make it not about all these things. After all of that [anti-miscegenation laws] in the 50s and 60s we’re still at this point where we can’t look comfortably at an interracial couple,” said Sydni White ’14, Co-Coordinator of the event.
Efua Peterson ’14, Co-Head of Mosaic, said, “It was kind of shocking to realize that it wasn’t all that long ago that it happened. We chose to show it because the movie really speaks volumes. I think that this movie will be one of many that can help pave the way for racial equality and acceptance of interracial couples in the future.”
Paresky Commons also held a Mosaic-themed dinner, which included food from around the world to give students a taste of multiple cultures.
“Our goal is to provide a glimpse into the mixed heritage experience through conversations, films and our displays in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library. We hope to share with the broader community the joys, challenges and unique perspectives growing up as someone who identifies as mixed heritage,” wrote Murata in an email to The Phillipian.