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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Mixing it up: Brandeis Mixed Heritage Club addresses important issues

Published: February 8, 2008
Section: Features

Browsing through the myriad of clubs offered at Brandeis to accepted students last spring, Kaamila Mohamed ‘11 found something missing.

Though there seemed to be something offered for everyone, Mohamed didn’t see exactly what she was looking for- a mixed race club. Mohamed stopped by the ICC’s table and asked the director Monique Gnanaratnam if they featured a club for people of mixed race, but found there was none. Gnanaratnam agreed with Mohamed that this was a good idea for a club and said she could always start one. And that she did when she came to campus as a first year this past fall.

Like Mohamed, Shira Moses ‘11 also noticed a lack of a club at the accepted student’s open house last spring. She too spoke to Gnanaratnam and began to discuss possible plans for such a club this fall when she met Mohamed.

Through this club, Mohamed hopes to offer the Brandeis community a “unique place for people who can’t find their identity completely within one of the other clubs offered by Brandeis.” She explained how many people involved in the mixed heritage club are also involved with other ICC groups, but as these groups are generally specific to one race, those groups don’t “speak to their whole person. So this is a good place to have their entire selves [represented.]”

At the present time, the club is in its early stages and focusing on “talking amongst ourselves,” as Mohamed described. “Often we haven’t been around other mixed race people and it’s been good to share experiences and understand that people [often] have parallel stories to your own, and it’s about sorting through those issues that we’ve had together.” Later on, Mohamed hopes to “bring up our issues to the larger Brandeis community and really make our presence as a community known” through events such as movies and panels.

When she met members of the now executive board of the club, Marissa Linzi ’11 discussed how difficult it is to find people who understand identity issues and expressed their shared interests in starting a club for these purposes. She said, “it’s always been kind of hard to talk about [such issues], and people don’t really get why we have problems with identity.” Linzi hopes to offer students a “place to be able to talk about identity issues and issues [relating to] identifying with two races….”

In an email, Director of the ICC Monique Gnanaratnam expressed her enthusiasm for the commencement of the club, saying she is “thrilled that the Mixed Heritage Club has arrived.” Like members of the executive board, Gnanaratnam described the club saying that it “affords the celebration of diversity through the lens of multiple heritages. It presents a bridging opportunity that will allow for deep discussion surrounding interest of various cultures; as well as what it means to be of mixed heritage.”

She added, “this is a wonderful addition to the Intercultural Center and the Brandeis University community” and said she “encourage[s] the campus community to take part in the dynamic activities and discussions sure to come from this group.”

The Mixed Heritage Club was recognized last semester by Brandeis and had its first meeting this semester. Its meetings are hosted Monday nights at 9 in the ICC lounge. To kick start the club’s beginning, they hosted a dance deemed “Let it blend,” the success of which Linzi discussed. She discussed how it was great to see a good turnout.

Moses discussed the clubs’ hopes to host programs and movies for the Brandeis community to offer people the chance to see “what people go through with different backgrounds, and the different struggles that they face.”

The Mixed Heritage club is not solely for those who identify as mixed race, as Mohamed explained. Echoing Mohamed’s explanation of the club as a place for everyone, not just mixed race people, Moses said “anybody can come…and talk about their own life experiences and problems that they’ve faced.”

Moses spoke of the comfort level which the club invites, as she is with people who truly understand the sometimes confusing, and frustrating issues which accompany being of mixed race. “I’ve never been able to talk to anybody else about these kinds of issues the same way.” She added how the club is a “nice place to talk about common problems we’ve faced, and how we can promote tolerance and acceptance of different types of people…[to see] what kinds of programs we could [create through the club].”

Because she and other members of the Mixed Heritage Club’s are first years, and thus somewhat inexperienced with the logistics of leading a club, the experience has been a good learning experience. Mohamed described, “it’s a little hard because I’m starting this as a freshman…but we’re getting through it.”

Speaking of the club’s modest number of members, Mohamed said “it’s a small group, but I think a really passionate and important one.” After all, the club has just begun and there’s plenty of time for the Brandeis community to get involved, something which members of the executive board encouraged.

Alex Luo ’11 wrote in an email “I think what’s really great about our club is that that while most clubs form to focus on one ideal, ours is formed around our differences and the common experiences we share through them. The club is extremely new, but so far the reaction has been very welcoming.”

Luo added “the environment is very open and comfortable, and it’s a fun way to bring all sorts of people together and acknowledge the different parts of ourselves.”

Marie Zazueta ’11 met Mohamed at Mosaic, a pre-orientation program and discussed their mutual desires for a mixed heritage club.

She spoke of the club’s chance to address certain issues, saying “it’s amazing this stuff isn’t really talked about in the wider community and we’re just kind of bringing it to the forefront at Brandeis.” She added, “it’s a great opportunity on campus, I’m really glad I’m a part of it.”

Of her experience with the club thus far, Mohamed said “it’s been great! All the people I’m working with are amazing and are really passionate about this, whether from within the club or other people from the ICC, [they’ve all] been a great support system.”

Mohamed spoke of her hopes for the club, saying “we hope this is going to be a learning experience for everyone in the Brandeis community, and I hope that with time, we can really make our presence known on campus and make our voices heard.”

Christina Luo ’11 spoke of the reality that people of mixed race are becoming a larger part of the population and how this club will aid those people in discussing certain issues. “We really just wanted to offer a space to talk and to come and meet other mixed students to talk about that and to identify as mixed,” she said.

Luo explained how at the first meeting, they had a list of fifty common experiences shared by people of mixed race as found in a study. They stood in a circle and read one on the list each. If you had experienced the one being read, you stepped into the circle, thereby enabling members to “see who had shared a similar experience we had in common.”

At the second meeting, members discussed these very issues in a more in depth fashion. Luo explained how it was “really interesting to hear how we had different experiences, but also a lot of times how [they were] similar.”