Mixed Heritage Awareness Week Celebrates Race Beyond Boxes

Students wandering into Paresky Commons on January 15 found an array of foods inspired by a variety cultures, including cedar plank salmon, quesadillas, fried chicken, and cannolis.

The dinner was organized by Andover’s mixed heritage affinity group, Mosaic, for the sixth annual Mixed Heritage Awareness Week. In addition to the special dinner, Mosaic hosted a movie screening, a photo essay exhibit, and a mixed heritage guest speaker, Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of “Real American: A Memoir” and “How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.” 

Sadie Cheston-Harris ’20, Board Member of Mosaic, said, “[Mixed Heritage Awareness Week] is a good opportunity for the school to know that there’s more mixed students on campus than it seems. [Mixed students] are not as outwardly recognized because we are not solely just one race.”

According to Cheston-Harris, the decisions regarding the food were inspired by the cultural diversity in the multi-racial community on campus.

“Going into [the dinner], there weren’t really any expectations for what type of food we were going to have as a big part of being mixed, [since] there is no one culture that everyone is representing. We went in with the mindset of ‘Let’s choose food that we know people are going to like,’” said Cheston-Harris.

According to Aya Murata, Associate Director of College Counseling and the Faculty Advisor of Mosaic, the timing of Mixed Heritage Awareness Week was chosen so that it could encourage both students of mixed heritage and their peers to think about how their racial identity affects their lives.

“We have purposely picked the week around MLK Day [for Mixed Heritage Awareness Week]… You hope that [the timing] broadens the engagement in thinking about in oneself but also how others move through life and see things,” said Murata.

Alexa Leach ’19, a Board Member of Mosaic, said she particularly enjoyed how Mixed Heritage Awareness Week involved many different members of the Andover community, even people who are not a part of Mosaic.

“The fact that we could all come together for Mixed Heritage Awareness Week and brainstorm these things and also have other community members that aren’t part of Mosaic be a part of it as well, I think that was probably the biggest success,” said Leach.

According to Leach, the introduction of new events was the biggest obstacle. One new event was putting a whiteboard by Lower Right in Paresky Commons. Inspired by the whiteboard in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library last year, the whiteboard for Mixed Heritage Awareness Week had a new prompt everyday relating to mixed heritage that encouraged people to write responses.

“We decided for Mixed Heritage Week that we wanted to bring [the concept of the whiteboard responses] back even though we didn’t have the library, so we set up with a new prompt each day…[It was] something that connected to Mixed Heritage Awareness Week that everybody could answer,” said Leach.

Diego Winsor ’22, who attends Mosaic, felt that the whiteboard could have been more successful in raising awareness.

Winsor said, “The whiteboard was a good idea but I feel like [it] could have been executed much better. They could have kept it more maintained. But then the other things like the photo essay and the dinner and the speakers, they were all really interesting and I do think they did a good job raising awareness to what it really is like being a mixed person on campus but then also in the world,” said Winsor.

Winsor said he felt that the week highlighted the variation of the mixed heritage community and that there is no perfect example of being mixed heritage.

“You simply just don’t hear a lot about people who are mixed heritage and in a way, it’s hard to spread awareness for us because we are so many different things. We kind of come from all different backgrounds and that’s what this week tried to get at, the fact that there so many different contributors to what makes you mixed heritage,” said Winsor.

While Cheston-Harris thought Mixed Heritage Awareness Week was successful in raising awareness, Celeste Robinson ’22, a member of Mosaic, thought that not enough people were exposed to it.

“I feel the community itself wasn’t very incorporated into it. I think that there were options for people to explore if they wanted to but I think that because it was held during midterms week and because people are very lazy a lot of the time, they don’t seek out those opportunities. For next year, I would make it more easily accessible,” said Robinson.