Winter 2020

Hi everyone!

I hope your fall semesters were filled with love, laughter, and peace. Most of this semester's submissions confront heritage and familial dynamics. Please take the time to look through these wonderful submissions to this edition of SHC's Peace and Justice Magazine! Thank you to everyone who contributed; I couldn't do it without you all. Happy Holidays!

Your Editor, 

Hana Blalack

Most of my life I didn’t really have that much interest in learning about my past or my heritage. I always lived in the present, thinking about the family that was currently around me. Then my mother started having medical problems when I was in the fourth grade, I realized that I had to stop living in such a black and white world. In her appointments I realized that a lot of our medical history stems the family members of the past. Aside from the medical aspect, I started to get curious about my family’s history in general. I knew that I as an African American female, and I didn’t think more past that. However, after I did some asking around my family, I realized that my great-grandfather on my mother’s side was Caucasian, and on both my dad and mother’s side they had Native American heritage as well. My world that was once black and white, suddenly began to have color. 

The “Land of the Free, by the Carib Sea” is the country I call home. Belize, situated on the mainland of Central America and still considered Caribbean, is where I was born and raised. It is often referred to as ‘a melting pot’ of rich cultures. We are one people, with diverse backgrounds which makes it a challenge to keep track of one’s lineage. Why? Because we are a nation with 8 ethnic groups and 6 languages. The ethnic groups are Creole, Garifuna, Maya, Mestizo, East Indian, Chinese, Mennonite, and Lebanese. The official Language is English but everyone has to know Creole (English based). At the same time each ethnic group speaks its own language. Over the years Belize has become a haven for many different groups trying to escape Colonial slavery and recently modern-day slavery, civil war and political persecution. Most countries in this hemisphere became independent almost 200 years ago but Belize only became independent on September 21, 1981.

After reflecting on Kayla DeVault’s essay, “Native and European – How Do I Honor All Parts of Myself?”, I would consider my ethnic identity to be even more complex than hers.  My mom is Chinese (from the Canton Province of China), and my father is European, mixed with English, Scottish, and Mestizo (Spanish and Maya) cultures. Therefore, I am, technically, also a multiracial person.  Reading the introduction to DeVault’s essay, however, made me feel somewhat sad. She describes many of her relatives on her mom’s side cooking together based on a recipe from her grandma on her dad’s side. Although I am also mixed, engaging in various family traditions is not something I have done often.  My father is not the type of person who finds joy in keeping up with traditions/celebrations, and the only one I can remember is my paternal grandfather hosting Christmas lunch at his home. Therefore, I am very grateful for the few, yet meaningful, traditions I have experienced with my mom’s side of the family.

When asked what my heritage is I simply respond, “Venezuelan.” When how I identify, I often have trouble answering. I identify as Venezuelan, but when you look at my job permit and any sort of legal United States document, I am identified as Alien. Ever since I moved to the United States, I was labeled with an Alien Number-- but why should they have a say as to how I identify? I moved to the United States when I was eight years-old because my father knew Venezuela was becoming more corrupt and wanted to give his family a better life. This melting pot of immigrants created my identity for me, Alien. However, I will not let that alien number define who I am, a proud Venezuelan and American woman. 

The best memories from my childhood often include the warm summer afternoons that I spent baking with my grandmother. All the way from Ukraine, she brought recipes passed down to her from her grandmother. I’ve never been to the city where she and my mom grew up, but being able to assemble creations that are native to her memories of Donetsk brings me closer to my culture.

The aroma that fills the air while baking a simple coffee cake allows me to imagine what it might have been like for my mother growing up when my grandma used to concoct the same cake in their quaint apartment on the fourth floor of an old red brick building, two blocks away from the school that my mother attended. The whiskey, chocolate and walnut cake that my Grandma Baba bakes for my mother’s birthday is a tradition in my family; a tradition I have happily taken over in recent years. The combination of chewy and creamy nutty textures melting on the surface of my tongue is the nearest connection that I have to the memories kept by my mom of celebrating in the vegetable garden that blossomed behind the aged apartment building, a building which she and my grandparents used to call home.  

I am a young black woman who has always identified as an African American and nothing else since the day I was born. Society has made my ancestors out to be powerless slaves but in actuality they were in fact kings and queens. They were rulers of lands and communities. I belong to The Rock Church and every Wednesday night we discuss heritage and history and where we came from. I learned that I am Gentile. My ancestor were not all slaves, my ancestors were astonishing men and women who aren’t even mentioned in the history books; they were overlook and ridiculed because of the color of their skin. My ancestors were intelligent leaders who had beautiful spirits.  I identify myself as all the above yes some of my ancestors were slaves but that is not my identity; I am a Gentile , I am African American , I am a Christian , I am an Indian and I am a young black women who is still learning every day about herself.

My mom never lived in Cuba, but when she tells you the story of her family fleeing from Castro it’s like she was there. “Your Abuela grabbed all her jewelry pieces and stuffed it into her coat. She left behind her yacht, her maids, her sisters, and her rich life. She never thought she would be poor, but she came here with nothing. Your Abuelo, who was a top architect in Havana, would come here and sell Christmas trees. They would eat black beans and tuna out of a can,” she would say as my brother and I would eat dinner. 

The pitter-patter of children’s feet against the cold hardwood floors. The smell of soft-boiled eggs swirling around in the pot, steam collecting all around the brim. The voices of adults melting together as I played aimlessly with my cousins. The feeling of warmth and security filled the house.

Prior to 2008, my family entertained a more than comfortable life. Every summer my family would congregate in the vacation home we owned. It was massive, and was able to house my diverse European family. My Irish grandfather was burly and strong, the type of man who could walk into the room and instantly be intimidating. Most of all, he was smart. He would walk around the house singing old Irish songs and fables. He would sit with me, asking me mathematical riddles and quizzing me about British loyalty. His father was prideful and slightly egotistical. His mother was stubborn and kind. My grandfather adopted the traits of his father, which is likely what caused the eventual downfall for my family. My grandfather overinvested, using his properties and businesses as collateral. He lost millions when the economy changed, and this changed our whole lifestyle.

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