MOSAIC, an affinity group for students of mixed heritage, held an open meeting on Sunday, January 12 as part of Mixed Heritage Awareness Week. During the event, attendees watched an episode of “Mixed-ish,” a show which recounts the experiences of a mixed-race family in the 1980s. The screening was then followed by a discussion about the show’s common themes.
Sadie Cheston-Harris ’20, President of MOSAIC, explained the significance of holding the meeting as an open event rather than an affinity space.
“The reason why we wanted to have an open meeting was [because] we wanted other people to be able to look inside and see what it’s like to be someone who’s mixed, what our discussions together are like, and how we view the world on topics such as identity and self-expression.” said Cheston-Harris.
According to Ariana White ’22, a MOSAIC board member, the goal of Mixed Heritage Week is to spread awareness, similar to how other groups on campus host themed weeks throughout the school year.
White said, “We have a lot of awareness weeks for various things, and I think it’s a way to make sure everyone is getting the same information about the week plus there is an educational purpose. We have an agenda for the week, it’s just making sure people know what are the different events that are happening.”
According to Aya Murata, Associate Director in College Counseling and faculty advisor to MOSAIC, eight percent of the student body identifies with a mixed heritage background. With only a small number of students who share this experience, Murata believes that it is important to have a welcoming space on campus where these students can share their stories and perspectives.
“I think it is important to have an affinity space because the experience is not so singular where their needs might be met by going to any of the other [spaces], like Asian Society or Af-Lat-Am. So it’s nice to [have] a space where you can look across the room and sort of feel that affirmation of much more similar experiences and a feeling of acceptance and wholeness,” said Murata.
Cheston-Harris agreed with Murata in thinking about the importance of MOSAIC as it pertains to her own experiences at Andover. She feels that it provides a safe space to relate to other members.
“MOSAIC has been really important to me as a space in which I can share my feelings and thoughts about how I exist in a place like Andover, that sometimes tends to feel somewhat racially segregated, and how to feel supported in that. I think it’s important for everyone to have a space on campus where they feel like they can connect to others that identify similarly to them. There are many different groups for many different people on campus, of many different races, however it is difficult for mixed race students to sometimes feel like they fully belong in many of those groups,” said Cheston-Harris.
As part of Mixed Heritage Awareness Week, Paresky Commons held a MOSAIC-themed dinner on Tuesday, January 14. The dinner featured foods from a variety of backgrounds, such as cedar-plank salmon, ribs, macaroni and cheese, and cornbread, according to Murata. Cheston-Harris emphasized that MOSAIC members deliberately chose multiple kinds of foods to underscore the diversity within their community.
“Because the members of MOSAIC don’t share a singular unifying identity it’s hard to have a themed dinner because we wouldn’t be able to choose which culture to have food from. We just decided in the past few years to just choose our favorite foods that [Paresky] Commons offers and then have that as our theme dinner,” said Cheston-Harris.
Cheston-Harris continued, “The point of MOSAIC for me is to learn through other people and through myself, to feel comfortable in my identity and to love my identity more and more, and I think having our favorite meals [is] a representation of ‘We all love our identities, and these foods.’”
Murata added that the dinner is an extension of the week in general, as it prompts the community to reflect and learn about the different aspects of having a mixed heritage identity.
“The goal of themed-dinner is that there is this mixed-race population on campus and that as we think about ourselves as people, as we think about our own identities, and what that might be like… that it might just raise an eyebrow or a level of consciousness and awareness,” said Murata.