Alex: Within, Between, & Beyond
Within, Between, and Beyond is a multi-layered art installation and participatory experience sharing an evolving archive of stories from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who identify as Mixed Race or Transracial or Transnational Adoptee. Interviews for the video portion of the installation were conducted by Lola Osunkoya, who here introduces our subjects and shares a few highlights from their stories.
Alex self-identifies as a mixed race Black person, and uses he/him pronouns.
Alex, Leslie and I met on a hot summer day in 2020 outside of Juxtaposition Arts’ Textile Studio, in front of some graffiti works in progress. It didn’t take long for us each to realize it was our first time in safe space with just other Black/white mixed folks since the murder of George Floyd. We took the opportunity to compare and contrast our experiences as individuals and in community, reflecting on the complexity of being racialized in a variety of ways all our lives, while in this particular moment in history, being suddenly and completely racialized as Black by everyone, all races, for the first time in our lives. It was a poignant conversation.
Alex has a way of naming concepts that is simultaneously clear and plain, while very specifically descriptive. Regarding the erasure of your identity:
What happens when you’re a Black mixed kid in white spaces, developing your sense of identity in those environments? Wishing it was different… people either mess with you cuz you’re different or don’t acknowledge that you’re different.
Realizing that when you are mixed in white spaces, no one’s gonna tell you, “you’re mixed, you’re different,” or “You’re Black.” We’re just now having these conversations about race. There was none of that.
Before it was just like, you’re here… you’re something, maybe some people are gonna mess with you about that, most people are gonna ignore it and act like you’re like everyone else around you. Which is also problematic.
Alex also discussed his navigation of the ever popular and triggering question, “What are you?”
How I respond to that varies greatly on who’s asking and what the context is. If I can tell that someone is trying to figure out how to best direct their racism, then I’m going to give them a really hard time with that.
Well one of my favorite answers to that question is “what do you think I am?” And that usually gets an interesting answer, very rarely the correct one. So yeah, it’s a fun game.
Having that always be a question affects you for sure. Yeah, it’s a thing. And it’s something that I’m just now really unpacking. And I’m also realizing how much of my life I’ve spent doing everything possible not to address that. Because those are hard questions, and it’s really not that fun to think about. Especially when you’re young and you’re struggling with the issues of just being a young person anyway. And throwing issues of identity on top of that? Especially in MN? I fit in with not fitting in.
I can’t wait for you to see the rest of his interview and portrait at Mia! Within, Between, and Beyond runs 7/16/21-10/31/21.