For Loving Day we're looking at when skin color does and doesn't matter.
Being Raised in a Mixed Family
By Jenna Hughes
I never really put that much thought into being mixed and marrying a white man. Early on in our relationship, I remember taking photos that were supposed to be published in a local magazine. The lady in charge of the magazine made a comment to a client of mine that she didn’t know if the Eastern Shore was ready to have a biracial female and a white man featured on the cover. That was the first encounter we had with someone making comments like that. It hurt me pretty bad as I’ve never dealt with something like that. And how could someone not see how much love we have for each other and simply judge because others might not “be ready”… So, when faced with a comment like that despite my feeling beings hurt, I called the woman and let her know that we knew about the comment she made and that she was never allowed to use any of our photos on her behalf.
Growing up mixed, I’m sure my parents and their families had comments made towards them, but as their child I never really heard or dealt with those things.
I don’t know if that’s from my parents keeping it to themselves for protection or if they just never let it bother them. My mother is the strongest woman I know and always taught me you can’t change others and how they think - you can only show them who you are. My Dad (also being very well known locally) is the nicest person on the planet; he knows everyone and treats them all as family. I was born into so much kindness and love and understanding that it’s all I knew.
Being a local hairstylist and having a large clientele who love and adore our family, I’ve always been treated with so much gratitude. I think that goes back to the early lesson my mom taught of just showing who you really are and letting people make their own judgement.
My husband has traveled a lot lived in big cities and experienced a lot of life, multiple races and cultures. I don’t think he saw marrying mixed girl to be a big deal. He loved me for me. Fast forward 10 years and we now have two beautiful mixed children. It’s crazy because we have one of each: my daughter who is my exact replica, and my son who looks exactly like his dad! With that being said, you don’t really know what someones background is and shouldn’t think you know by someone’s skin color.
My daughter is now 7 years old and she has seen and heard the problems still happening today. For her, that comes with so much confusion as she sees her grandparents - one brown and one white - and it’s hard for her to comprehend how people might not agree with it. All she sees is love. All we do is try to help her understand that some people aren’t nice and sometimes aren’t fair, and all she can do is be herself. My hope for her is the world is changing, racial injustice is being addressed and being mixed is not somethings that’s new! It’s the present and it’s the future.
Being mixed for me was never a huge challenge…. yes, people have made comments about my hair or skin color, and not in a negative way but in the sense of beauty. I’ve heard some say they never really knew where they fit in. I can’t say I felt that way. With confidence in your self and strong bones, you fit it wherever you want! It’s like being born with so many advantages that others might find disadvantages.
The truth is no matter what color you are, where you are from, what you look like, people will always find some thing about you they don’t like, or make you feel like you’re not good enough. My goal as a mixed parent to mixed children is to always remind them of their uniqueness and to find ways for them to build on their beautiful qualities and to help others understand that we are all mixed somehow.
That’s the problem with those who are close-minded. They aren’t educated enough to understand we all have different backgrounds and are mixed with multiple nationalities and it’s beautiful. Let’s keep it coming!
To anyone struggling or dealing with hate, remind yourself that no one is you. Don’t give anyone the power to make you feel less than. Be a good human. Stand up for what it right and let your light shine.
Starting a Mixed Family
by Hudson & Amy Berry
My name is Hudson and I work at Pursoma. My mother, Amy, is a beautiful white woman who married a beautiful black man. To celebrate Loving Day 2021, I interviewed her about her experience as a mother in a mixed family that was established in 1987.
If there’s one sentiment I’m left with after speaking with my mom about her experience of how my brothers and I arrived earthside, it’s the quote by Maya Angelou: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
H: When you were growing up in rural Maryland, how much exposure did you have to other races?
A: I grew up in a very segregated community here, but my maternal grandparents had a black woman named Maggie in the house when I was little. She was the cook and housekeeper and she was more loving and more of a grandmother to me than my own grandmother. There was also a short black man named Skeeter who did the gardening and he kept the most beautiful rosebushes. That’s why I keep my rosebushes so well.
H: How did you feel about the people of color in your life growing up?
A: It felt normal. We were always around each other even though they didn’t live in the neighborhood. My experience was that there was a lot of love and a lot of support and a lot of sweet caring. My parents also had a woman named Maddie around who gave me a lot of love and support and cooked sometimes. She was so sweet to me. Even though our neighborhood was segregated, there were always people of color around who seemed like family. The black people in my life always just treated me like family and my mother did the same to them.
Maggie, Maddie and Skeeter probably helped raise me to be more accepting because of their treatment of me. They were so loving. I didn’t feel any different than how they treated their children or grandchildren. I was equal. Maggie would take me to her home on Fremont Street and I would play with her grandchildren. She used to get a big terrapin and they would boil it and she would make this delicious pastry crust. It was like a chicken pot pie but with turtle/terrapin. Terrapin pie. I feel so bad to even say that now because I love turtles.
Maggie was always so loving. She always made me feel so special. That was the most important thing about her - she made me feel like I was one of hers. My own white grandmother made me feel like the black sheep.
H: How do you remember your parents growing up?
A: My dad (your “Pop Pop”) was a racist. He just was. Sadly, I think it’s just what he learned. It’s just what was here in the area. He just followed the locals. My mom was much more accepting.
H: How did it go when you met my dad?
A: We originally met in August of 1980 and he was one of my first clients. I was working at Neiman Marcus in the men’s department. He would come in with sometimes two women on his arm - one on each arm. I found out later that they were just his producers from the news station. But, he was always very outgoing and gregarious and such a presence - he was bigger than life even though he was 5’6” and I was 5’9”.
He was always happy. He was always dressed to the nines. He was reliable in that he would come in every Friday night and buy something fun like Ferragamo loafers. He would hang around until I was free to help him.
We had our first date on your eventual birthday - August 18th. That first date was in August 1983. I went to watch him tape a promo at the news station, and afterwards he asked me to dinner and took me to F Scott’s in Georgetown., DC. We stayed until 3am talking and eating. The conversation was so much fun.
H: So you clearly liked each other - how did it go with the introduction to your family?
A: I always drove to see my parents (1.5 hour drive) on Saturday night and stayed until Monday night because I had off those days. After the date with your dad, that next Monday I turned on the news to your dad and I told my father “Dad…I had dinner with this guy, he was so smart and charming and fascinating”. My dad said “I don’t ever want you to mention that n****r’s name in my house ever again” and that was it. I didn’t mention it afterwards.
That conversation happened in August 1983.
For the first time ever, I had decided that I was going to not go home for Christmas and I was going to spend Christmas with your dad. I told my parents. It was the first time I’d ever put my foot down.
Then, my dad died on Christmas Eve. Your dad drove down to help figure out his cremation and funeral during the holidays.
H: What happened next?
My mom and I grieved together. When I asked her about your dad, she told me: “even if I’ve grown up in a very segregated world, I already lost my husband - I don’t want to lose my daughter too.”
And of course your dad won her over.
A: Helping us grieve. And also a really happy memory in 1984. I was at Lake Barcroft with your dad and he told me he was going out to get breakfast for my birthday. He got back and I heard the bedroom door open - and it was my mom. He had driven 2 hours and picked her up and driven her back for my birthday. That was how he won her over.
H: OK so then it was happily ever after?
A: Not quite. We broke up. Then I found out I was pregnant, and it was a tremendous surprise. I ended up taking three pregnancy tests with my best friend (your Auntie Katie) and they were all positive. My best friend was my support system and she said “Hey - my mom can look after the baby. No big deal. We’ve got it covered.” She was this very staid Catholic woman who has always had my back. It was scary, but now here you are with your two brothers. And your dad and I have been married almost 34 years now. And Auntie Katie is still my best friend.
H: What do you make of all this mixed race family chaos?
The nuttiest thing about it all is that I never thought about my husband being a different color than me. He was a man and I was a woman. Our skin color wasn’t important and I never thought about it. I’m so weird…but I just didn’t think about us being different.
People would look at us and stare at us and he would point it out. I just thought it was because he was 3 inches shorter than me.
H: What is one thought that sits on your heart about raising a mixed family?
Do you remember the man named Bobby Walker from your high school? Once he got to know you and your brothers, he told me “I want you to know how important something you told your children was. You called them golden. That was such a crucial thing because you told them they were precious and they were chosen. That made them feel accepted instead of icky or different.”
I remember that. But I always thought you all were special. I find you guys so beautiful and so special and I’m so proud of you all. You are beautiful, charitable, intelligent, well-read, fun-to-be-with humans. I think my life would be very boring if I didn’t have you guys. I’m very lucky.