Shore to Shore: Exploring our Personal Black History


The textbook definition of “Blackness” is a reference to a racial identity that is primarily associated with people of African descent.  

My father is from Barbados, a Caribbean island where virtually everyone is of African descent. He once told me that you’re not Black if everyone around you is also Black. As an American, it didn’t take me very long to understand what he meant, because history as taught to me in U.S. textbooks has referred to people who share my descent as Black. My father didn’t grow up with the same textbooks, so he defined what that meant in orientation to who surrounded him and who he decided to become. And for anyone who is defined in America as Black, may we have the same agency to define who we are. In reflecting on Black History Month, we remember and celebrate the shared cultures, experiences, and perspectives of what it means to be Black. But at the same time, there is a lot of personal culture that often goes undefined to revel in.   

In public, I am often asked by complete strangers, “What are you?” I am always annoyed and I never have an answer that satisfies. I am half Black and half Asian. I was raised in a Latino neighborhood and attended internationally diverse schools. I would say that my personal culture is multi-dimensional, multicultural, multi-badass, and it can’t be found in any textbook definition.  

How do you define yourself when there is no one definition of who you are?


Mary Anne Bishop

Associate Director, Strategy


How do you define yourself when there is no one definition for who you are?

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