Each year, Swirl partners with Loving Day to commemorate the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision legalizing inter-racial marriage in the United States. This year, SwirlPhilly, Swirl’s newest chapter brought the Loving Day celebration to the City of Brotherly Love by hosting a viewing of the Franklin Institute’s RACE: Are We So Different? More than 25 mixed race individuals, couples, and families attended the inaugural event.
RACE: Are We So Different? represents the work of scientists, artists, and researchers who have come together to explore a seemingly simple question—are we really so different? An immersive exhibit experience, RACE helps us understand the origins and manifestations of race and racism in everyday life through a variety of educational displays, interactive activities, and multimedia presentations.
We spent more than two hours taking in the exhibit. Although the exhibit area was relatively small, the content itself was quite exhaustive. Some of the highlights include:
- Student Video Series: they taped six high school students from diverse backgrounds discussing the difficulties of being a person of color in school.
- Mixed Folk Video Series: included a transnational adoptee, mixed couples and a parent of a mixed child.
- A chart outlining more than a hundred words for mixed in Brazilian culture.
The Franklin provided us with space in the exhibit hall to host a discussion. It gave us an opportunity to reflect on the exhibit and what Loving Day meant to us as individuals and as a group. It also served as a powerful outreach tool for our chapter. Several families viewing the exhibit also stopped by to listen to our conversation. The discussion was moderated by one of our members Carolyn Thompson and some of the topics discussed were:
- The exhibit was constructed with a great balance of written and interactive stations, therefore making it extremely family friendly.
- Loving v. Virginia hit close to home for several of our members in Philadelphia. The parents of one of our members were unable to marry until the passing of this legislation..
- This discussion allowed us to segway into a discussion about ways in which the ban of same-sex marriage is impacting families across the country. One of the questions posed to everyone related to how the current marriage debate impacted the legacy of the the Loving Day decision.
- We also discussed the the trans-national experience of some of our members who were raised abroad and came to the US later in life. Those of us who grew up in different countries have experienced racism in very unique ways, especially those of us who grew up in countries with strong national and ethnic identities such as Germany and France.
- Several of the videos underscored the impact of the ways parents discuss race with their children and how their children understand being mixed. Lori Tharp, local author and bloggess at My American Meltingpot and I went through much of the exhibit together. Her boys provided refreshing insight into how the notion of race is processed and understood.
While we had a sense that people would be very engaged in the discussion, it has been great to witness the longevity of the discussion. Chris Matthews, a graduate student from the University of Maryland, attended SwirlPhilly’s Loving Day events to capture our reactions and discussions for his News21 project. The focus of this project was to:
“take an in-depth look at how demographic trends are influencing American voting behavior and attitudes as part of News21, a national journalism program. In addition to reporting compelling stories, their goal was to experiment with innovative ways of presenting them. They were guided and edited by a team of experienced faculty and consultants.”
Several weeks later Chris and his partner returned to Philadelphia to interview several of SwirlPhilly’s members about their mixed experiences. The final product is quite impressive! You can see some of the interviews here.
I hope that this space will become a living breathing testament to the diverse racial, ethnic and cultural experiences throughout the U.S..
Kathrin P. Ivanovic is the founder and leader of our SwirlPhilly chapter. She is also founder and resident blogger at The Diversity Projekt, a forum focused on increasing awareness of and dialogue on race, racism, privilege, gender, sexism, homophobia, and other stereotypes. She currently serves as Director of Development at a non profit agency in Philadelphia, PA that provides hope, love and support to refugees and other immigrants striving to build new lives in America.
We want to hear from you – Let us know what Loving Day means to you! How do you see its relevance in our present political and cultural landscape? Does it matter? Is it still a big deal?