April 10, 2016

MiXed at Cornell Illustrates Diversity of ‘Multiracial Experience’ at Cornell

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MiXed at Cornell — a student organization dedicated to creating community among mixed race individuals — will host its first ever Blend Conference in Klarman Hall this weekend.

The two-day conference will focus on the “awareness of the multiracial experience and the community’s marginalization of identity,” and its main themes are engagement and inclusion, according to the organization’s website.

“We wanted to bring together a conference that … brings to light different issues and unique experiences that mixed people have,” said Erika Axe ’18, incoming co-president of MiXed.

Axe said the Blend Conference was established to celebrate every mixed person’s individual identity.

“As an organization we’ve found that we can’t put one definition on what is mixed race because it’s so unique to every person,” she said.

The conference will feature keynote speeches by professionals, personalities and students, as well as interactive group activities, panels and discussions, according to the website.

Treasurer Olivia Lee ’18 and Axe said they were both eager to hear Athena Asklipiadis speak about the difficulties of receiving a bone marrow transplant as a mixed race person.

“She’s coming to talk about why it’s really important to set yourself up as a registered donor, because for some [mixed race] person you might be the only option,” Axe sad.

Axe said the creation of the conference was inspired by a similar event run by a mixed race group at Harvard University.

Axe explained the Harvard conference “generated a lot of support from the mixed community, from all the different mixed clubs at other schools” and seemed like a project that could encourage a great discussion of mixed race issues on the Cornell campus.

MiXed has already coordinated with mixed race groups at other schools, like Northwestern, Swarthmore and Tufts. Although not all three schools are sending students to the conference, Axe discussed the great strides that they have already made in forming bonds between colleges, and said she hopes other schools will run their own conferences soon.

“The fact that we’ve been able to talk with multiple different mixed organizations … helps what we do and it helps them get an idea of the different troubles we’ve found along the way to make it an easier process,” Axe said.

Ultimately, the Blend Conference is designed to foster a sense of comfort and community for mixed race people, she added.

“I think we want people to come out of this conference being a lot more secure in defining who they are for themselves and understanding that they’re not alone,” Axe said.

The conference is free and open to anyone who hopes to learn more about mixed race issues, according to Lee.

“You can get something from the conference even if you aren’t a mixed race person,” Lee said. “We want everyone to get a chance to hear the panelists and discuss mixed race issues.”

MiXed was also recently recognized for its work on campus. On March 16, MiXed was awarded the James A. Perkins Prize for Interracial and Intercultural Peace and Harmony. The prize came with a $5,000 reward, which Axe said was used support the Blend Conference and other MiXed programs.

After the Blend Conference, MiXed hopes to continue to support mixed race people at Cornell and encourage more discussions about race, according to Axe.

“We’ve tried to make the goal of this year to be more well known and extending ourselves as a known community on campus,” she said.

Lee and Axe said they were happy with the policies in place at Cornell that affected them as mixed race students.

“I think we’re doing the best we can to foster awareness and inclusion to get the conversation going because that’s how you ultimately change people’s views and norms,” Lee said.

Axe pointed to undergraduate applications as a way that Cornell was superior to many other schools in accommodating mixed race individuals.

“It was one of the few universities that I applied to that gave you the option of checking off more than one race, which is a big issue in the mixed race community,” she said.

MiXed at Cornell is in its third year of existence on campus. Its mission is “fostering a safe space for students who identify as mixed to share their experiences and create a community,” according to the group’s website.

“Something that is nice about MiXed is that people are so different and have such unique stories,” Lee said. “Most people categorize themselves as one race, so it was cool to find an environment where people understood the same issues as me.”