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Mixing It Up in Miami PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jenni Person   
October 2009

In a town this diverse, interracial couples are no big deal

For families of mixed-heritage, culture, and faith, a certain consciousness help to fuse and balance cultural and spiritual identity. One such family with whom we’ve sorted organics and taken swimming lessons at Morningside Park is Edwidge “Judy” DeJean-Subirats and Fernando Subirats and their kids Amelie, who is in first grade, and newborn Kian.

While Judy’s roots are Haitian, Fernando is Cuban. Early in their relationship, while living in New York City, they thought nothing of the fact that they were an interracial couple. As in Miami, it was not uncommon there. Now as parents in their hometown of Miami, surrounded by a small progressive community, they are just another mixed-race family. Says Judy: “Most of my friends are mixed heritage. There are so many families like us down here.”

Judy, like many of us, believes it’s important her kids are understand that all people are different, that even with same skin color, we’re not all the same. Families come in all different shapes and colors and configurations.

Both cultures are preserved in the Subirats household, as Amelie is learning Spanish at school and Haitian Kreyol and French at home. They eat lots of different ethnic foods and foster a real connection to the larger world, often referencing a globe in their discussions at home. A strong commonality in heritage shared by Judy and Fernando and their extended families is their Roman Catholic faith.

Enter Swirl, a nonprofit group that describes itself as “a national multi-ethnic organization that challenges society’s notions of race through community building, education, and action.” Jen Steven, founder of the Miami chapter, got involved in order to create a sense of community for her son, Nico, who is of mixed-heritage, thanks to his mom, who is white, and his dad Von, who is black -- and Jewish thanks to both of them.

Because of Swirl, Jen says, Nico now responds with confidence to other kids who may question his mixed heritage. “My son,” she notes, “has about 50 other kids to point to and say, ‘What are you talking about?’”

The organization’s activities really center around the children. Together Swirl families hit the beach, have barbecues, make field trips to the zoo. Jen says when she founded the local chapter, she didn’t have any preconceived notions of what people might want it to be. As it turns out, the families are not so much interested in politics as simply meeting and getting together with other families. This is probably a result of the fact that, in Miami, these families are, as Jen puts it: “Totally normal. We’re very much a shade of brown in Miami.”

While there is not much stigma attached to mixed families here, and therefore perhaps less a need for advocacy, Swirl members do celebrate Loving Day, which marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1967 ruling that state laws prohibiting interracial marriage were unconstitutional. (The case is known as the Loving decision, for the Virginia couple -- Mildred and Richard Perry Loving -- who were the plaintiffs. Swirl uses it to educate children about the history of interracial families.)

As for what impact having an interracial president has on our country and the families involved in Swirl, Jen says, “We welcome people who self-identify however they want, so it’s interesting that our country has labeled our president black when he’s interracial. Having a president who is mixed heritage -- and especially black -- is bringing out an overtone of racism. But having Barack Obama as president is a positive role model for mixed children who can say, ‘I can be anything. I don’t need to be limited by race.’”

Like the Subirats, the Steven family shares a common background through their spiritual heritage, and Jen tells me they meet many mixed-heritage and interfaith families at their synagogue.

But for Jim Wilets and Luis Font, dads of one-year-old Daniel, culture, heritage, and spirituality are a big mixed bag. Jim, who is Anglo, feels very strongly that being Jewish has been a big factor in his life. Luis, who is Puerto Rican, was raised Catholic. “When we got married,” Jim says, “it was a Jewish ceremony, not a horrible clash of cultures. Catholic-Jewish tends to work well because both are kind of neurotic and not about white bread and American cheese.” Bring on the brisket and black beans!

Daniel is both black and white, and is being raised amid the cultural traditions of both his dads. To amplify and connect to his own biological African roots, Daniel has been given the name Mandela as one of his middle names. Daniel is learning to speak English and Spanish, and Jim also plans for him to learn Hebrew.

While Swirl is a great resource for mixed-heritage families, Interfaithfamily.com is a great resource for interfaith families. The site features essays on and resources for living as an interfaith family through life cycles, relationships, and making choices. For more information about Swirl, check out their Website (www.swirlinc.org) or contact Jen Steven at HYPERLINK "mailto: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it " This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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