MOSAIC Provides Community for Multiracial Students

[MOSAIC] is a place on campus where I feel like I belong. Although people are from different backgrounds, races, and ethnicities, everyone can relate to the experiences and difficulties of living as a mixed race individual,” said Sadie Cheston Harris ’20, a member of MOSAIC, Andover’s affinity group for multiracial students, in an interview with The Phillipian.

The board of MOSAIC celebrated Mixed Heritage Awareness Week last week by displaying pictures and quotes of multiethnic and multiracial students in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL), hosting a themed dinner, and screening the movie “Loving,” a 2016 historical drama which follows Richard and Mildred Loving, a biracial couple.

Max Vale ’18, co-head of MOSAIC, said, “We set up the library display. We have a photo project this year in which we took photos of some mixed students in MOSAIC, and we asked them to write out little blurbs about themselves. We had some prompts they answered. We set up a library display table where we went into [the Community and Multicultural Development Office (CAMD)] and took a bunch of books from mixed authors.”

MOSAIC meets once a month. Typical meetings range from discussing current events that intertwine with mixed heritage people or doing ice breaker activities that call for sharing personal stories.

Vale said, “Last year we had an alum come back who goes to Columbia and was doing a film project with mixed students there, and she came back and played it for us. We might read newspaper articles or read things from ‘The Huffington Post’ and talk about what’s wrong with them or what we agree with.”

Aya Murata, the club advisor to MOSAIC, also identifies as biracial. Murata mentioned that the rise of MOSAIC stemmed from requests made by students in the 90’s. The idea, however, faded away because of the scarcity of mixed students.

Murata explained that the idea resurfaced in the early 2000’s when the population of multicultural students grew.

“[Linda Carter Griffith, Assistant Head of School for Equity, Inclusion, and Wellness] and I went to the [National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color] Conference, and there was a gentleman named Matt Kelly who was giving a workshop. He identified as mixed, and he had started a magazine… We walked out and found each other. We were like, ‘I think it’s time,’ ” said Murata.

Vale says that this club is important to him because of the connections he has made with other members.

Vale said, “That helped me find a community of other people at Andover who don’t know where to fit in because, even though I look a certain way, it doesn’t mean I have to define that way exclusively so it’s always nice to be in a group of people that feel the same as I do.”

The name “MOSAIC” promotes pride in the entire individual and dismantles the belief that multicultural students must split their identities in order to be understood and related to.

“[The purpose of MOSAIC is] to give students the confidence to share their whole self and not feel like I just need to present this part of who I am, especially if the way you look causes people to put you in a particular box racially or ethnically,” said Vale.

Murata added, “We had our dinner in [Paresky Commons] last Wednesday, which hopefully students understood. It’s sort of like strawberry banana smoothie, the Philly cheesesteak pizza — it’s a little bit of tongue-in-cheek and a little bit of fun. Hopefully, people took time to read the factoids the students had collected together to learn a little bit about its history.”

According to Murata, MOSAIC is unique because students join through the commonality of difference, a connecting factor that drives the club.

Murata said, “There is just value in camaraderie and fellowship around shared experiences and shared identities, even though we come from lots of different mixed identities… There are those threads of common experiences where you don’t have to explain the frustration you feel when someone asks you a particular question.”