Christina Jones, age 26
WHAT MIX ARE YOU?
Black and Native American.
My black side is from my biological father’s side. I don’t know anything about him, but I know his family resides in the south. And my Native American side comes from my mother’s side. She is full blooded Navajo Indian and our tribe is one of the largest living Native American tribes in North America. She’s from Shiprock, N.M., which is where I grew up on the Navajo reservation as a small child.
WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?
Colorado Springs, CO
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?
Yes, there are a lot of military bases here so it’s pretty diverse.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I’m from Texas, but I grew up on the Navajo Reservation until I was about 8 years old. I was pretty much the “black sheep” in a community full of Native Americans. There were no other mixed kids I could identify with, but when I moved to Killeen, TX with my mom it was a different story. I had a major culture shock and I had a really hard time adjusting to the “city life”.
HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?
They met when my mom was in the Army I guess, she never told me about my biological father and I never dared to ask.
WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
I don’t know.
HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING BIRACIAL?
I was told that when I was a baby my great grandmother on my mother’s side didn’t approve of me, because I wasn’t full blooded Native American, but as soon as I was placed in her arms she started crying and smiling. My extended family since then has always supported me in every way possible.
DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?
As a small child on the reservation I celebrated everything that was to be celebrated traditionally. My grandfather was a medicine man so he was always hosting peyote meetings, and I had the pleasure of helping my grandparents prepare for it. Even though I probably got in the way most of the time, I still enjoyed every minute of it. I didn’t know much about my black side until I moved to Texas, but even then my step-father never really taught me anything about black culture. The only thing I knew about was the food he would cook, and the rest of my black culture I learned from my black friends at school.
WERE THERE MULTIPLE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?
Yes, my grandparents and other elders in my family on my mother’s side spoke Navajo. I remember my great grandmother trying to teach me Navajo, because she didn’t speak or understand English at all, but I was too shy to repeat anything. (I wish I wouldn’t have been too shy to learn from her.) I picked up a few words and phrases as a young child, but my mom doesn’t speak Navajo so I lost the few words and phrases I knew once I spent a few years in Texas.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
What I enjoy most about my cultural background is that I get to celebrate two cultures that have similar struggles and backgrounds as far as American history goes. I love and I’m proud that I’m made up of two beautiful ethnicities that survived against all odds. On my black side, I love the food!! Soul food is everything and more! It’s comfort food, and the feeling of togetherness all wrapped in one. I also love how black culture influences people all over the world from our music, to our fashion, and the way we talk. It’s mind-blowing to see how black culture influences everyone and everything and plays a major role in today's society.
On my native side, I can’t tell you how in love I am with my culture. It was my first identity, kind of like your first love but in a different way. My grandparents and aunts and uncles taught me so much about my culture while I was growing up on the reservation. Even though I can’t speak or understand Navajo, I always feel a sense of pride and love when I hear my grandfather speaking Navajo. His voice is the most beautiful and soothing thing on earth when you sit and listen to the words he speaks. I also love our native regalia, our jewelry, and the beautiful artwork that Navajo artists create in order to keep our culture alive. I love our strength has a Nation, and our sense of pride for our ancestors who have passed on. I love that we have a strong connection with Mother Earth and a profound spiritual connection to life and all living things. Most of all, I love that I come from a background full of warriors. My great grandfather was a Navajo Code Talker during WWII, my grandfather was a soldier who fought in the Vietnam War, my mom was in the Army, and my uncle was in the Marine Corps following in their footsteps I decided to join the Marine Corps right after high school. The Navajo Nation is a nation full of military heroes, you just won’t hear about us, because we’re not your typical “American heroes”.
WHAT ACTIONS DID YOUR PARENTS TAKE TO TEACH YOU ABOUT YOUR DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS?
My mom would tell stories every now and then about her childhood and what it was like growing up on the reservation and going to boarding school.
DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
Not really, I had a very different childhood than most normal children growing up. There was never really a conversation about race or anything like that.
DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
I identify with being black and Native American, I think when you just say you’re mixed it takes away from who you really are as an individual. It gives people a chance to assume things about you, or what you’re mixed with when I can just tell you and we can get over the awkward guessing game.
DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?
Not really, but I’ve always dated black men or black men who were mixed with something else. I’m dating a black and Native American man right now, and we’ve been together for 4 years.
WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?
Being mixed to me means that I have the privilege of celebrating different two cultures and bringing them together.
DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?
I have friends that come from many different backgrounds, I've learned that people who grow up in different environments have their own outlook on certain races, but when you educate them and show them that whatever stereotype they know isn’t true they tend to change their outlook. I’ve also learned to respect many different cultures and what they believe in, even though it seems like we’re all different we’re really all the same in so many ways.
ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?
Some of my biggest pet peeves are people who tell you that “you talk too proper/white”, “you’re not like other black people”, the most annoying question used to be “are you the Indian with the dot on your forehead or the one that dances around the fire?” after I got tired of this question I stopped using the word “Indian” and started using the term Native American.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?
I wish that everyone would realize that we are all one, we all breath the same air, and we all want the same things out of life; to be successful, and have a happy and fulfilling life.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE?
I am a Marine Corps veteran who’s currently in school getting a bachelor’s degree in small business and entrepreneurship, I have 2 more classes left until I graduate! I also have a small candle business called Chicks Love Candles, I make candles at home and sell them online or at craft shows. I hope to have a candle shop within the next 2 years!