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  • Writer's pictureMidWestMixed

Sierra: 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.

Sierra self-identifies as Navajo and Dutch, and grew up in a small community just off the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. Sierra uses she/her pronouns. She is married to a Ghanian-American who immigrated from Africa, and together they have two small children. Sierra did a lot of thoughtful reflection on what it means to be mixed, in an interracial marriage, and creating the culture in a multiracial family.

I’m hoping to create a new model, a new standard, a new culture of what it is to be a multiracial family, because we’re having to draw values from both sides - from really all four of our parents - and pick and choose between those and new things we’re learning in life about what we want to teach our children. What values do we want our children to have?

America is so racialized and there is still tension over power, privilege, bias and initial prejudice. And I know that existed in all our parents and grandparents.

It’s hard to be part of the first generation of forging this path, finding a way to be a multiracial family, or to even heal and right some of the wrongs done, some of the wounds caused. By our ancestors. Toward one another.

We’re bringing in a new culture for them, and to build culture is difficult, it takes time. I believe that actually we won’t ever know the impact of what we’ve done for them. It’ll show up in our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. So I try to remember that, especially on the hard days. We’re breaking cycles, blazing trails, and what we’re doing is for the next 7 generations and it’s not gonna be evident next week.

One of my favorite parts of our conversation was something we have in common: working as a therapist doing culturally responsive work in our own communities! Further, and what a lot of therapists don’t talk about, is that the work you do with your community also heals yourself.

My work is my heart. It feels like it’s what I’m here to do. There’s no question in my mind that I’m here to support the healing of Native people.

The people I’ve connected with through my professional life are the people who have taught me the most about what it means to be Indigenous in the world today. They have connected me to a spiritual practice and a movement that is what I believe I am here to do.

And that has rooted me and grounded me in a family to find this path that I would describe as decolonization. We are valuing the process of decolonization and healing historical trauma.

I have an education and a background to do it in my work, but it’s also something I’m doing at home and with friends and when I’m with my family. I’m centering around that. That’s the goal, to move away from harmful values that came with colonization and restore and revitalize the Indigenous values that are better for the earth, for all people, for our health and wellness, our stability as a family, our children and grandchildren.

Shortly after our filmed interviews, Sierra and her family moved to New Mexico - her journey continues! We are so excited for you to see the rest of her reflections on identity, family, and healing when the exhibition opens at Mia! Within, Between, and Beyond runs 7/16/21-10/31/21.

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