• MidWestMixed

Ricardo: Within, Between, & Beyond

Updated: Jul 17

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.

Ricardo is a mixed race person born and raised on a small farm in the western mountains of Puerto Rico. Ricardo uses he/him pronouns.


Both his parents were born in New York - his father was white, of Russian-Jewish-Ukrainian background, and his mother was Puerto Rican. There is a charming story of his parents’ engagement and relocation to Puerto Rico featured in his video!


What I thought was fascinating about Ricardo is seeing a history of activism and solidarity personified. Equally interesting were the ways he compared and contrasted the cultural norms of movement spaces, past and present. His family moved to Chicago when he was 11, into a primarily Black and white community.


My speech patterns have always changed depending on where I am, so that when I came to Chicago, I spoke differently when I was on the Black and white sides of town.


And in the strange language of today, speaking the way I did with my Black friends would be appropriating, and with my white friends would be called assimilating.


But the same thing happened when I moved to MN, I learned to speak a kind of hybrid Spanish that combined Chilean and Mexicano that was easier for everyone to understand rather than my fast mountain Puerto Rican pattern. But when I’m back home, I’m talking Jibaro. The language is part of the shape shifting of the code switching that has never been part of a conscious strategy for me.


He also reflected on a solidarity in movement spaces that we don’t always see today, with some personal insight on what has influenced this shift.


What Grace Lee Boggs calls being a part of, and apart from… it’s knowing who you are and knowing that you are part of a common struggle.


So it wasn’t uncommon for the Panther Defense Committee to meet in the home of the chapter leader of the Gay Liberation Front, with members of the Women’s Liberation Union graphics group coming to help plan guerilla theater in high schools to demand the freeing of Bobby Seale.


The cross fertilizations meant that people considered themselves to be different wings of a movement, rather than after 40 years of the nonprofit it’s thought to be different movements - you’re in the Tenants’ Rights Movement or Equal Rights or LGBTQ+ or you’re in the Black Freedom Struggle and so forth.


Separate lanes… when you organize in that way, you might annoy the powers that be, but you don’t threaten them. It’s when you start creating one narrative out of all these different threads… and that’s true of identity, that the identities we hold are different threads in a fabric. And as long as we’re just so passionate about our thread that we’re not willing to see how it’s woven together, then we’re really no threat to the powers of empire.


It was such a thought-provoking interview, and so valuable to hear from an elder in the activist community. We hope you will enjoy Ricardo’s story as much as we did, see you at Mia! Within, Between, and Beyond runs 7/16/21-10/31/21.

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