In January 1992, my family moved to a little Colorado Springs suburb. I just finished spending six years in a foreign country, immersed in another culture. Everything about me was kind of non-American. Yes, I spoke English, but my clothes were weird, I listened to Take That, Massive Attack, and Nenah Cherry, I was a serious close-talker, and I pronounced things oddly.
When I arrived for my first day at Rudy Elementary, I was awkward with a bad semi-afro. I was a weirdo. Unbeknownst to me, there were two cliques at my school that eye-balled me as I walked in. They negotiated who “got me”, and Sabrina’s group won. This is how I met Sabrina Cohen.
The next few years were filled with group school projects and gossiping. I remember listening to the Digital Underground “Sex Packets” CD at her house when I was way too young to be listening to it. Sabrina moved to Boulder in High School and I moved to a town that shall not be named; however, we kept in touch. When I transferred to University of Colorado at Boulder, it was like we didn’t skip a beat and our friendship picked up where we left it.
After graduating with honors from CU, Sabrina went to Law School out East. She graduated and practiced for a short time in Boston, then became a clerk of courts in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We still kept in touch. Although we’ve never made special trips to see each other, we always seem to connect at the most random times --from Boca with Rhoda (her grandmother), to Boston while shooting a commercial for feminine products—we get to connect when it is most important.
Sabrina is just beginning a beautiful family of her own and I am so pleased to introduce her, her lovely husband Creing, and baby Aria to our readers.
MEET THE COHEN-WITTINGHAM FAMILY
Sabrina Cohen, age 35
Jewish, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, Greek and Mongolian descent
Creing Wittingham, age 27
Jamaican, Japanese, English, African, and Filipino
Aria Wittingham, age 20 weeks
A mix of us
WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
HOW DID THE TWO OF YOU MEET?
We swiped right on Tinder, and he actually seemed normal and on the site to meet someone instead of looking for a one-night stand.
WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
There were sometimes communication issues because Creing is from Jamaica and I am from Colorado. So we got frustrated with each other due to our different ways of communicating. I also hate when he sucks his teeth. Lol.
WHAT TRADITIONS DO YOU CELEBRATE IN YOUR HOME?
Creing cooks healthy, organic meals that he grew up with in Jamaica. He also watches futbol, and Aria already has taken an interest in watching it as well. Also, on weekends, I make us french toast using the recipe that I learned from my mother.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CULTURAL FEATURE/TRADITION OF YOUR SPOUSE'S RACE?
I enjoy the reggae music. He has introduced me to the sounds of many new reggae artists. Also, I enjoy his food dishes. For example, Jerk Chicken, Ackee and Saltfish, Fried Plantains, Blue Mountain Coffee, rice and peas, Callaloo and Gizzadas. We have adopted all of these traditions into our family.
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN DIVERSE?
No, we live in a small town in Massachusetts where the majority of the residents are older and white.
DO YOU OR YOUR PARTNER SPEAK IN MORE THAN ONE LANGUAGE IN YOUR HOME?
My partner speaks Patois. He will teach it to Aria. I say some words in Yiddish (mostly bad words), but I am not fluent. I will teach the words that I do know to Aria.
ARE YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY SUPPORTIVE OF YOUR MULTIETHNIC RELATIONSHIP?
Yes, my parents love Creing as their own son. I have not met Creing's parents because they live in Jamaica. However, I have spoken to his mom on the phone and she is very friendly and happy with our marriage.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR PARTNER'S ETHNIC/CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
I enjoy the food and music the most. I do not know how to cook. My husband prepares delicious, healthy meals that I love. It is wonderful to eat tasty food that is both organic and healthy. I have always loved Reggae music, and it is nice to share that love with someone. In addition, my husband as showed me new artists and taught me things about the music. I love learning, and I learn from him everyday.
DID YOU FIND BIG DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY YOU GREW UP VS. YOUR SPOUSE DUE TO DIFFERENCES IN RACE?
We have major differences in how we grew up, but I think the differences are more due to me being from Colorado and him being from Jamaica. I guess it could be considered race related because the majority of the population in Jamaica is Black, but many of my black friends that grew up in Colorado also grew up differently from my husband. My husband grew up in a small town in Jamaica. For the first eleven years of my husband’s life he did not have running water. He used to walk miles to go to school. He also spent a part of his childhood living with his grandparents. On the other hand, I grew up in a house with my parents. My walk to school was short. He was forced to grow up quicker than me.
WHAT IS THE MOST SURPRISING/UNEXPECTED THING YOU'VE LEARNED ABOUT EACH OTHER'S CULTURE?
It was unexpected that my husband grew up with no running water and used to carry gallons of water on a bicycle. He was surprised to learn that there are hierarchies in the Jewish religion and other Jews look down upon ones who are not like them. I am at the bottom because I do not practice.
ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?
I know we did experience blatant racism in NYC. People often would stare at us on the bus and subway and whisper. Aria is so young now, that no one has made any ridiculous comments regarding her. My husband commented the other day that people may wonder if he is the help or Aria’s father because she is not very dark and has my hair. However, we have been lucky so far.
WHAT ACTIONS HAVE YOU TAKEN TO TEACH YOUR CHILD ABOUT EACH OF YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
Aria is so young now that only now we play different music for her. When she is older, my husband will teach her about the Rastafarian religion, and we will introduce the cultural aspects of the Jewish religion.
DO YOUR CHILDREN IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
We identify Aria as mixed. Although my husband jokingly calls her the “Black girl.”
HOW DO YOU RAISE YOUR CHILD TO HONOR DIVERSITY IN OTHERS?
We plan to teach her about different cultures and express that she should judge a person by how they treat you and others, not on how they look. We also will choose books honoring many different cultures.
WHAT UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS DOES YOUR CHILD HAVE FROM YOU AND YOUR PARTNER?
In appearance, my daughter is a definite mix between myself and my husband. Her personality is similar to me in the sense that she is feisty and bossy. She is stubborn like my husband.
HOW DO YOU PLAN ON TEACHING YOUR DAUGHTER TO BE PROUD OF BEING MIXED?
We plan on telling Aria that she is mixed with our love for one another. We also want her to embrace that she is unique and does not have to look like everyone else.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR YOUR CHILD'S FUTURE AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?
My dream is for Aria to not experience racism and to always look at people the way she does at this moment. She just sees someone to cuddle with and hold her, and has no knowledge of race, beauty, etc. However, this is an unrealistic expectation. So I hope that Aria is comfortable in her own skin and embraces that she is a mixed child. I hope that children are taught to focus on similarities rather than differences here in America.