This week we are heading to New Rochelle, NY to meet The Ketterhagen family! Kourtney Ketterhagen is one of our Swirl Nation Blog founders so we thought it was only appropriate to start with our own families!
The Ketterhagens are a unique family of 6 who recently moved from Venice Beach to their new home in New Rochelle. Their home includes mom Kourtney, dad Luke, kids Prakash and Mangala, Kourtney's uncle Maurice (aka Skip), and family friend John. Enjoy getting to know one of the most special families I have ever met!
MEET THE KETTERHAGEN FAMILY:
Luke Ketterhagen, age 40
White from Wisconsin / German and Scottish
Kourtney Ketterhagen, age 48
Black from Michigan / African, Native American, Spanish, French, Scottish and a couple others I would have to ask my mother about!
Prakash Ketterhagen, age 14
Biracial born in Pennsylvania
Mangala Ketterhagen, age 12
Biracial born in Texas
John Lloyd, age 75
White from Beverly Hills, CA
Maurice Mitchell, age 60
Black from Michigan
HOW DID THE TWO OF YOU MEET?
We met at an ashram in the Poconos and were married on the banks of the Ganges in Allahabad, India.
WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
I’m 8.5 years older than my husband and world traveled. He’s a good Catholic boy from rural Wisconsin turned yoga teacher trainer. Let’s just say it’s taken some adjustments but we’re celebrating our 15 year anniversary in January 2016 so I think we’re over the rough years.
WHAT TRADITIONS DO YOU CELEBRATE IN YOUR HOME? ARE THEY CONNECTED TO YOUR INDIVIDUAL CULTURES? WHAT HAVE YOU PASSED DOWN FROM YOUR FAMILIES?
We study yoga philosophy but embrace all traditions. Halloween is our favorite holiday. Both of the kids attend Catholic single-gender schools. We’re a mixed bag!
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR PARTNER'S CULTURE?
As a black girl who attended high school in Texas in the 80’s I had my encounters with racism. It was always the Catholic kids who stood up for me. Both of us come from families who take in people who are struggling. We believe in actively helping those less fortunate.
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN DIVERSE?
YES! We just relocated to New Rochelle, New York from Venice Beach. Finding a city with diversity was a top priority. We’re in Westchester County which is the 7th wealthiest county in the US (you know what I’m sayin’!) but New Rochelle is unique--20% black, 30% Latino and 50% white. We love it!
DO YOU OR YOUR PARTNER SPEAK IN MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE IN YOUR HOME?
My husband speaks Spanish, our 8th grader speaks French and is learning Spanish and our 6th grader is studying Greek and has aspirations to speak seven languages--she wants to be an ambassador.
ARE YOUR EXTENDED FAMILIES SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
Yes, we are very much supported on both sides of our family and the kids spend summers with both families.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR PARTNER'S ETHNIC/CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
My husband’s father is a professor of religion and theology at a Catholic university and my mother-in-law was a hospice nurse for over 15 years until becoming a chaplain at a hospital. They instilled in their children a great sense of appreciation for this gift called life. My husband is a health guru and he cooks recipes he learned from his mom. His gluten-free pancakes are legendary. The Ketterhagen’s are terrible dancers but my side of the family has that covered.
WHAT ACTIONS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT EACH OF YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
They know their history--more on my side because our family has done years of research and has annual family reunions. We have slaves and slave owners in our DNA and know our ancestry from the Native Americans to Scotland to the Ivory Coast. My husband family doesn’t know much beyond the great-grandparents, but what we know, the kids know.
DO YOUR CHILDREN IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
They identify as mixed. Our son actually identifies as himself. He couldn’t care less about race. I recently asked them about joining an all-black social club. Son wasn’t interested, daughter was open. Not sure if we’ll do it but I was curious about how they felt about it. We don’t place a big deal on the race differences so it’s been a non-issue for them. Our son was studying genetics in 7th grade and finally asked why he was so light when I am so brown. He thinks it’s cool when his friends see me for the first time and say later “Your mom is black?” It cracks him up!
HOW DO YOU RAISE YOUR CHILDREN TO HONOR DIVERSITY IN OTHERS?
Considering their elementary principal (who they loved!) was a gay white man with a black husband and a dog named Oreo, they’ve only known diversity. These are Obama-era kids!!! One of my best friends is a blonde haired blue-eyed lesbian that they’ve always known. One year she sent a Christmas card. The kids had been around her wife and their kids but it didn’t all click until the card came. Our daughter was seven at the time and said “She’s a lesbian?” I looked at her with surprise and she said deadpan “What Mom? Of course I know that word.”
WHAT UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS DO YOUR CHILDREN HAVE FROM YOU AND YOUR PARTNER?
Our son is a pure athlete which he got from both sides. He can play piano with ease and has the kindest heart imaginable. He’s 14 but still very much a kid (like his Dad--in a good way!) Our daughter is a mini-me. She talks incessantly and is detail oriented. She has a ferocious sense of style and takes good care of her things.
WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOUR CHILDREN?
They feel they have the best of both worlds and are comfortable everywhere they go. We took them to India two years ago and are taking them to Cameroon in 2017. When we hang out with our Latino friends with large families, people who don’t know them assume they are cousins. They are racially ambiguous--can’t tell what they are!
If you are interested in being one of our featured Swirl Nation families or individuals please email Jen at firstname.lastname@example.org!