Brilliant!!! I love everything about this! I’ll admit that I felt what I would have described back then as “weird” about my (mixed)race. Looking back, I think “shame” fits the bill. I’m so happy to hear that acknowledged, and even happier that feelings are changing to pride. Mine included.
Danbury’s multi-racial students to star in film
DANBURY — The three boys wore jeans and long-sleeve T-shirts. The two girls each wore a dozen bracelets and necklaces. They looked like typical students in the library media center at Broadview Middle School.
It was their differences, however, that brought them together Monday. They’re subjects in a documentary in which Western Connecticut State University professor Marsha Daria is examining the identity and social relationships of multiracial children.
Daria is interviewing elementary, middle and high school students to help educators and teacher training programs consider multiracial students in the curriculum and school issues.
The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders carry the roots of about a dozen ethnic heritages, including African American, Spanish, Italian, Scottish, Irish, Chinese and Portuguese.
“It’s cool to be two races, because you get to experience two different cultures and those countries,” sixth-grader Jonathan Garcia, 11, said.
Jonathan, who is half Chinese and half Puerto Rican, was a little nervous to be interviewed but glad to express his feelings about the issue for the movie.
“This gives me a chance to say that what race you are doesn’t matter. If you look like one, you could be another,” he said. “Sometimes they say I am Asian, but what bothers me is that I’m not all Asian. They say things about Asians that I don’t think are nice.”
Sometimes he points out people’s negative comments, and they acknowledge they were wrong. Other times he ignores what people say.
Eighth-grader Kiani Oliveira, 14, who is Portuguese, African American, Indian and Scottish, wanted people to know that multiracial people are unique.
“Like we look different. Our skin color is different, and our hair and eyes can be different — unique,” she said. “It’s not harder to be multiracial. My friends take me as I am and think I’m cool.”
A Western Connecticut State University Professor, Marsha Daria, is filming a documentary on multiracial children. Daria and the film crew where filming at Broadview Middle School in Danbury on Monday March 29, 2010. From left, cameraman Scott Volpe of WCSU media services, Broadview student Kiani Oliveira, 14, and Professor Marsha Best. Photo: Lisa Weir
Daria is doing this project during her sabbatical as an education professor at WestConn, where she has taught since 1995. Her film crew is from WestConn –Rebecca Woodward, Scott Volpe and Renato Ghio– and she consults Emmy award-winning producer and director Karyl Evans.
“It’s critical to examine the ways in which we talk about race and ethnicity. There is a change in how kids view themselves. They used to be ashamed, but now you see a lot of pride. They want people to know who they are,” Daria said.
“It used to be a marginalizing experience, but not anymore. They feel special.”
Daria will use the results of the 2010 Census in the documentary, which are likely to be more specific about race than the 2000 census, in which seven million people reported they were of mixed race.
“I want to educate. To bring awareness to kids who are mixed race. We do become a better country when we accept each other,” she said. “There are good and bad in every group. We should accept people for who they are.”
Seventh-grader Robert Best, 12, who is Italian, African American, Indian and Irish, hopes the film will help people understand that multiracial kids are just like other kids.
“People think African-American people steal and white people are laid back, and I’m supposed to be like both of them, but I don’t like that,” he said. But he wouldn’t want things to be different for children who are multiracial, because it would put them in a separate group.
Seventh-grader Marissa Segura, 12, who is Costa Rican and Italian, and Nasir Fleming, 13, an eighth-grader who is Puerto Rican, African American, Italian, Native American, and a little Irish were also questioned.
The students, all American born, said they mostly celebrate American holidays and eat all types of food, including traditional food from their dominant cultures. They usually talk about typical teen topics — things like school and music — with friends from all over.
Marissa has friends from all over and wishes people would stop guessing and ask what nationality she is.
“All my friends are from different places,” she said. “My sister said I never have a friend who is actually from America. I just get along with a lot of people and have a lot of friends.”
Nasir said he’s annoyed when people think he is only African American.
“When I was younger it made me feel sad, but now it’s just whatever,” he said. “Some friends aren’t cool about who they are, because society tries to make them feel they are nothing.”
It might be easier to stay quiet when you are classified a certain way, he said, “but if you want to keep your rights you should explain who you are.
“People who are diverse are like a little community, but we’re all different,” Nasir said. “If you had to find a similar thing about us, it’s that we don’t like being titled one thing. It’s not OK to be judgmental, to stereotype.”