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  • Writer's pictureMidWestMixed

Nicole and Seth: Within, Between, Beyond

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

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.

Nicole and Seth are the only couple we interviewed together, and they’re both mixed! Nicole uses she/her pronouns, and Seth uses he/him.

Seth is the child of a Japanese father and white American mother. Nicole’s identity is a bit more complex but she comes from a large Afro Latina Caribbean and Cameroonian family, with roots in India (she’ll give you a whole rundown in the video).

Nicole was pregnant at the time of our interviews and painting, and at the end of 2020 their family grew to four! They reflected a lot on what it means to be mixed parents of mixed kids and how their family is perceived in public.

Nicole: I continue to struggle with the fact that (Zo and I) have different skin tones. We look very similar but she has a very different skin tone than I do. And that wasn’t something I necessarily thought about or expected. But when we leave our house, people don’t always think that I’m her mother. And that really… it breaks my heart. And it brings me back to all the ways that Black parents have faced all sorts of things when raising mixed kids…

Every time we leave the house, especially as a family unit, I do feel almost a defensive stance that I have to get into where I need to defend against people thinking that we’re not together. And that still happens. Seth and Zo will walk into a restaurant and it’s like “Oh, are you with them?” And it’s like yes, friend, we’re a family.

Seth: I don’t know, sometimes I feel like I’m trying to help dispel their confusion.

We did leave the house and we did make the choice almost without really talking about it too much to participate in a protest in Rochester, and we brought Zo. It was really important to both of us that she be there. And to this day she still chants “Black Lives Matter” before bed… That was really important for us to bring her and to participate and to be a part of this moment in this time.

One of the challenges we’ve been talking about is how do we speak with her? She very well may be able to go through this world being able to pass. But at the same time she is Black and these are issues that are affecting her community and her family. I don’t know if we have an answer but it’s something we’re grappling with - how do we include her in the conversation and engage her and talk about these things?

Raising mixed kids, being thoughtful about their identities, it’s so important! It’s humbling that even for two parents who themselves identify as mixed, these are complex topics to process.

For Nicole and Seth, the pandemic has been a surprisingly comforting respite from the assumptions of others. They reflected on what they will bring forward from this experience.

Nicole: [Staying home] has been really healing in a way for me. It just reminds me that when we quiet out the buzz of the world outside… We’re just home in our intimate space. This is where we are who we are. This is family in all its complexity and diversity and beauty. And we don’t have to explain it. And so I’m going to carry that with me quite a bit.

Seth: And you’ve mentioned that even before the pandemic, that home was always a sanctuary. We don’t have to put up those defensive walls or even perform about yes this is our family.

The video you’ll see debuted at Mia focuses on their relationship to each other, and it’s every bit as insightful and endearing as you may already be imagining! Within, Between, and Beyond runs 7/16/21-10/31/21.

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