When I first went natural, back in 2005, I used Biolage conditioning balm as my leave-in conditioner. At the time and for many years after, it felt just right.
But recently, I noticed that while the conditioner did a good job of maintaining my curl pattern, the curls were sort of stiff, and my style lacked volume. Like Goldilocks, I realized that my “bed” wasn’t quite right after all.
On a recent flight, I wanted to pack a smaller conditioner and didn’t have much time to look, so I chose Mizani Thermasmooth. I love Mizani for my wash days, and at first it seemed like a much better choice than Biolage for a leave-in. My curls were bouncier and looser.
But, I soon realized that my hair got really dry. I noticed it especially when I did my nightly twists. I use Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie about once a week with the twists, but the smoothie had stopped being enough moisture. Mizani was also not the right daily choice for this “bed” of hair.
So, I tried CurlyChic “Your Mane Moisturizer” in place of Mizani for my everyday styling. The third bed was perfect. My curls are defined and moisturized while still maintaining that airy bounce.
I’m excited to try their other products too, like “Moisture in a Minute” and “Coconut for Curls.” In fact, I could have used that moisture in a minute today when I decided to hop in the shower after styling my hair. (What was I thinking?) And the coconut… My hairdresser recently commented on my hair’s proper moisture but said my scalp was dry. I bet this will do the trick.
I get stuck in my ways, and stuck in routines. But with the booming industry of natural hair care, it’s nice to be able to adjust that perfect fit.
I’ve been part of the Mixed Remixed Festival since I was a featured writer in 2014. I was also a chair at the 2012 Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference (CMRS). I’ve participated in three events for the Multiracial Americans of Southern California (MASC) and have promoted them through blogs. Suffice it to say, I have my hands in three of the biggest mixed race / multiracial organizations. And you know what? I love them all.
Each of these organizations brings something unique, valuable, and necessary for the mixed race community. I can’t speak as someone in a multiracial relationship, or as one who has mixed race kids, because neither is true for me. However, even when there’s an event that I don’t think fits my personal experience, I recognize its importance for others.
This year at the Mixed Remixed Festival, I saw parents and children of all different ages and hues, which has been true for all of its past four years. While the festival is for everyone, I think there is no denying that it plays a special role for those of us who are mixed race ourselves. Each year, people break down crying, including the founder, Heidi Durrow, who works tirelessly year round to see this event come to fruition.
We cry because we finally have a space where our very existence is the norm. Instead of being a zebra in an otherwise black or white space, we’re in a room filled with zebras, and with those who brought us into this world. In fact, for the past two years, the recipient of the Storyteller’s Prize has been a black male in an interracial relationship who works to bridge the color divide. The festival also makes us feel validated as artists, chosen to share our personal experiences through film, music, and the written word. In this space, our voices matter, and everyone in the audience nods their head in understanding — something we don’t get on the mean streets.
In order for the festival to run, it needs sponsors. This year, no one was allowed to film, and no one did. Sure, people took little videos on their phones and were encouraged to do so, but anything else would violate the contract between the board and the sponsors. And the festival needs those sponsors in order to exist. Does this take the limelight away from others? Maybe. But it doesn’t take away one’s ability to be present at the festival itself.
I would hate to see those who attend Mixed Remixed, CMRS, and MASC to do anything other than support each other fully and without reservation. Mixed Remixed supports the arts, CMRS supports scholarship, and MASC supports families. Within these foci, there are of course necessary and important overlaps. And we’re strong because we’ve become strong together.
The Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference valued my scholarship on the “tragic mulatta genre” by accepting my master’s thesis about this topic for a panel. I felt recognized, understood, and in a community of peers. The same has been true for the MASC events I’ve attended, and the same is true when I walk through the doors for Mixed Remixed. I don’t know what the future holds for any of these organizations, but they each hold a special place in my heart, and I wouldn’t be who I am professionally or personally if it weren’t for the tireless efforts of those involved.
I stand by Heidi Durrow 1,000%, just as I stand by Laura Kina, et al. of CMRS and Delia Douglas and Sonia Smith-Kang of MASC. It’s because of these organizations that I’ve moved to Los Angeles, made amazing friendships, written a book and countless articles, and have been steadily working on a memoir to discuss my life with my black father. Parents: we see you. We know you’re there. And we’re grateful for these communities that have popped up over the past few years that see us, too.
For those who remember my blog post about my friend Brandy, we’ve met now! I wrote about it for Ravishly:
In sixth grade, my best friend Brandy had the haphazard look of someone whose parents paid as little attention to their children as possible. I, in a similar fashion, had a bushy afro that didn’t know where it belonged.
Our school, which had just begun bussing, reflected the tense racial reality that would soon infiltrate our friendship. Lockers were removed after a series of bomb threats. Eighth-grade boys harassed me daily for being “white.” But inside our bubble, Brandy and I felt safe.
I can’t watch TV without noticing race. I know when the first black extra gets a speaking role on a certain show. I’m aware of whether a white character is dating an Asian, an Asian character is dating a black person, an Indian is dating a Russian… well, you get the picture. So when I checked out some of the new shows in this season’s lineup, I definitely had my subconscious antennae up and wondered if they would satisfy my mixed race reality. I was pleasantly surprised, for the most part.
I’ve never been that interested in time travel shows, or at least those that go back in time instead of forward. Let’s be honest, if you’re a person of color in the United States, it’s best to stay in the present. Even if I get into a classic movie like Mansfield Park, I’m suddenly separated from the protagonist at the first mention of slaves.
The creators of Timeless either naturally wanted to appeal to my demographic, or they did so in order to boost ratings. Whatever their motives, it seems to have worked. Rufus Carlin, played by Malcolm Barrett, is a genius coder who flies the time machine, as he and his companions try to thwart a possible villain at crucial moments in history. Carlin gets to tell off racists of past centuries while, of course, hoping not to get shot dead in the process. Since he’s a central character and not another Rue, I’m guessing he gets to live.
There’s nothing extra special about Notorious race wise, but it does co-star one of my celebrity crushes, mixed race actor Daniel Sunjata. He plays opposite Piper Perabo’s Julia George, and the two have a professional yet flirty relationship as a news producer and a criminal defense attorney, respectively. While the race representation in this show is fairly standard, I’m enjoying seeing a mixed race lead.
One thing that does leave me wanting, though, is the portrayal of Sunjata’s brother Bradley Gregorian, played by J. August Richards. It’s not apparent what Richard’s role is yet, given he only gets about five lines an episode, if that, and mostly to give Sunjata’s character Jake Gregorian an emotional compass. It’s also slightly annoying that Richards and Sunjata look nothing alike, and not just color wise. It’s as if the casting director thought, “Here’s another black actor. He’ll do for the brother,” without considering that not all black people look alike.
I couldn’t get past the first episode of The Good Place, and even that was a bit excruciating. It’s not so much the race representation in this show that leaves me wanting; rather, the storyline just seems a bit (very) bland. However, it does irk me that the central conflict seems a cheap knockoff of Selfie, which was tragically cut short after one season. Both shows center around a white female protagonist who tries to be good through the influence of a male protagonist of color.
In Selfie, Karen Gillan and John Cho’s characters had sexual tension that put the storyline into the well-known “will they or won’t they” category, which worked for this couple. However, in The Good Place (at least through the first episode), Kristen Bell’s Eleanor Shellstrop has no redeeming qualities and no interest in her “assigned soulmate” Chidi Anagonye, played by William Jackson Harper. Instead his whole purpose is to teach Eleanor how to be good in the afterlife. Jackson, from Texas, also loses his “Nigerian/Senagalese accent” before the first episode is over, and no one seems to mind.
By far my favorite new show of the season, This Is Us is a sentimental drama about a nontraditional family. The narrative takes place in two different timelines–the present day and the 1970s, and it centers around two white twins and an adopted black baby who was born on the same day and raised with them. The narrative doesn’t gloss over the racial implications of an ethnically blended family, which includes K. Sterling Brown as the adopted son. Nor does it shy away from displaying race-based tension within the family structure itself.
Brown’s character Randall was raised lovingly by his white family, but still desperately seeks to know his troubled black father who’s dying of cancer. It’s a storyline all to familiar to me: it’s one I’ve lived. This Is Us‘s blending of Shonda Rhimes-like racial exploration with Parenthood-like sentimentality makes for the perfect fall favorite.
I look forward to the next episodes of each of these shows (well, except The Good Place), and I’m enjoying seeing plotlines that include relatable roles.
Ten years ago, I was suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea, and I “slept” about 16 hours a day in my aunt and uncle’s basement in Carnation, Washington–a little town just outside of Seattle. Each night before bed, I’d watch a bit of Grey’s Anatomy, which, while filmed in California, is set in a fictional Seattle hospital.
Fast forward a decade, and I just spent an evening with Jason George, aka Dr. Ben Warren, at a private event put on by Multiracial Americans of Southern California. Jason approached MASC about raising money for the organization by hosting a fundraiser with himself as the prize.
Jason is married to Indian poet Vandana Khanna, and together they have three children. His family represents the growing multiracial demographic of the United States, which is accurately reflected in the makeup of Southern California. Jason’s mission is to embrace and celebrate this cultural shift and views it as a way to bring people together. He certainly did that tonight, by checking any “celebrity-ness” at the door and mingling warmly with us everyday folk.
Caitlin S. of Tennessee was the lucky winner of the fundraiser, though she says it took her a while to believe it wasn’t a scam. She hesitantly called to confirm her prize, and then sat speechless at work. She brought along her good friend Elessia whom she’s known since college at Southern Adventist University. Caitlin and Elessia say their friendship was almost instantaneous, and they text each other multiple times a day.
Even on the plane ride over, Caitlin and Elessia weren’t sure they hadn’t fallen prey to some elaborate scheme, but their luck wasn’t too good to be true. MASC put them up in a hotel for an extended weekend, and they spent a busy day chatting up Grey’s Anatomy cast members on set, sitting in on ON with Mario Lopez, and then chilling at a private screening of the Grey’s season premiere with Jason and some of the MASC crew.
As we watched the episode, Jason treated us to tidbits of behind-the-scenes information. Having stopped watching Grey’s at the end of season five when it seemed like one catastrophe too many, I was pretty out of the loop; though now that I’ve met a cast member, I may find myself picking up where I left off. Regardless, it was a quintessential Hollywood experience to watch an intimate taping, and I felt like my life had come full circle from those dire, sleep deprived days.
Conversation was lively and continued even after the scheduled event. Jason, Caitlin, Elessia and many MASC members reconvened in the main part of the cafe, and I and two friends of mine, one Colombian and Indian and the other Black and White, stood talking in the warm Santa Ana winds about our experiences with race, the current political system, and our beliefs about how to improve the world we live in. Tonight we got a taste of what that world could look like, as races came together in unity and understanding.
What happens when a young, mixed race boy asks his mother what ethnic day is meant for him? The Los Angeles Dodgers have special days for certain ethnicities, but none celebrating mixed race heritage… until now.
Sonia Smith-Kang and her business partner Delia Douglas approached the Dodgers about creating a Mixed Heritage Day. The Dodgers obliged, and yesterday about 200 people came to celebrate at a game against the Chicago Cubs. I arrived with my friend Jennifer, and at first I had trouble trying to find Delia and Sonia in the bleachers. I scanned the faces of the children and adults, trying to spot a large grouping of people set apart by varying skin tone and racial admixture. Funnily enough, I had difficulty finding them in the crowd, because the bleachers were filled with fans of all different hues. There wasn’t much that set this group apart, and that was the point. Los Angeles is becoming increasingly diverse and increasingly mixed, and having a day to celebrate a mixed race heritage is thus tremendously important for children who grow up in interracial families.
The Dodgers displayed “Mixed Heritage Day” on the jumbotron in between innings, just as they do for other cultural days at the stadium. This day was a bit different from most, however, because Sonia and Delia were presented a certificate by the Los Angeles mayor, who himself identifies as mixed race. Adults, children and families gathered together in celebration and community as they cheered their team to victory. It was a victory not just for the players, but also for the families who saw their love recognized and validated just like any other.
Sonia and Delia plan to make Mixed Heritage Day a yearly tradition. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to see what went down in 2016!
I often write about growing up folk dancing with my family in the Santa Cruz mountains. We mostly participate in Israeli and Balkan folk dancing, even though no one in my family is Israeli or of Balkan ancestry. Regardless of race, I’ve been doing this type of dancing since I was in the womb.
Just before I was born, my aunt (white) and my uncle (white and Japanese) met at folk dancing classes at UCSC. Another class member owned land in the Santa Cruz mountains, and he invited my aunt and uncle, as well as a few other people, I believe, down to his property to practice. This was about 40 years ago. It quickly grew into a biannual event, with weekend-long dances over the Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends. This type of music is not in my blood, and I didn’t even grow up in this culture. However, I spent countless long weekends dancing with people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, including those who have immigrated from the Balkan region.
About 15 years ago, I surprised a Macedonian coworker by jumping right into a folk-dancing event at the nearby Seattle Center. She never saw it coming but was pleasantly surprised. Amazed that her black friend knew this aspect of her culture so intimately.
Whenever I dance in a circle with my left hand attached to one person and my right hand attached to another, I feel a sense of connection that I’ve never feel anywhere else. It’s not just the hand holding, and it’s not just the movement in and of itself. It’s this particular tradition that I’ve grown up with since birth. Whenever I attend weekends at what we refer to as “The Land,” I feel like I’m reconnecting with my roots.
I’m black on my dad’s side, and German, English, Irish and Scottish on my mothers. If anything, ancestry says I should love African dancing. I should love square dancing or English country dancing. But I don’t. For me, it’s Balkan and Israeli all the way.
This connection brings up many questions regarding ethnic identity. For example, if a black child is raised by white parents, is he culturally–in his bones–white? Can Rachel Dolezal claim blackness? Perhaps the simple difference is that I don’t see myself as Israeli or of Balkan origin. I don’t pretend to know much about the cultures or even the histories, besides what I’ve learned in school and picked up orally.
But when the music plays, whether it’s in the car or at The Land, my very bones feel that connection. My feet move as if they’ve always been meant to folk dance. I grab the belts of those next to me as if I were meant to perform this very act. Even when years go by between my visits –even when the landscape of who is attending is almost completely foreign to me–once I get on the dance floor, I’m connected to the wood, to the earth beneath, and to the rhythm that pervades my very core. I am a black folk dancer.
LA Times writer Michelle Maltais has created a public celebration of Loving Day stories on the LA Times Medium page. Several of the stories may be chosen for publication in the paper or on LATimes.com. Click below for mine, and contribute your own! If you do, let me know and I’ll be sure to check it out!
When I was a little girl, I looked up to my dad the way most little girls look up to their fathers. I liked watching the way he’d cross his legs while he smoked his pipe in contemplation. I liked lifting my dumbbell while he lifted his barbell. I liked telling people that my ex-prison father could beat them up at a moment’s notice.
My parents split up when I was three, but I still saw my dad fairly regularly—until he moved three hours away when I was seven. It was when my dad moved back to our area at the start of middle school that he started to fall from his pedestal.
Last Friday I did a reading for Camp Real Pants at Astroetic Studios in Downtown L.A. The event was an offshoot of the AWP (Association for Writers & Writing Programs), and as I could afford to attend the conference itself, it was nice to be somewhat near the action, and right in the thick of a related event.
In honor of the reading, my friend Mike put together lovely chapbooks, which are currently for sale. “(not) Mixed (up) Messages: On Dads, Death and Mixed Race Daughterhood” is a combination of excerpts from my memoir and a couple of my published articles. All blend together to poignantly wrestle with the three Ds mentioned above. I’m still at work on the memoir but am excited to share some of the finished pages with anyone who’s been following my journey, and with those who haven’t!
“Shannon is a fearlessly vulnerable, beautiful, and brave voice. Her stories and experiences inspire me to accept myself for who I am—to be myself and not who others tell me to be.”