Enjoy getting to know Khelsey! We're super excited that she is not only featured, but is also our newest contributing blogger! Welcome to the Swirl Nation Blog Khelsey!
Khelsey Juhrae PENA, age 23
WHAT MIX ARE YOU?
Italian, Dominican & African American
WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?
New York City
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I am originally from NYC and I am still currently here. I grew up in the South Bronx, a very diverse community. Full of Latinos, African Americans, Europeans & Asians. I was also raised down in Atlanta & Richmond during my summers growing up. So I’ve been around a bunch of diversity since I was a child.
HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?
My parent’s met through another relative of mine. They were all high school friends and they just pursued their marriage after 6 years of dating.
WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
Not really. My biological father was incarcerated a few months after I was born, so that put a major hold on their marriage. My mom later divorced him. She then met my sister’s father, who is Cuban.
HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL?
I never really knew my extended family. I was only raised with the Italian side of my family. I was around my stepfather’s side growing up, so a bunch of Latino’s.
DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?
I did not have certain traditions with my Italian side of the family. We were a normal catholic family who celebrated holidays like normal people did.
WERE THERE MULTIPLE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?
English, Italian and Spanish
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
I love food in general, but I did love baked ziti a lot growing up! Haha. Though jazz and soul come from the African American side of my family, I grew up enjoying it. I was big on blues!
WHAT ACTIONS DID YOUR PARENTS TAKE TO TEACH YOU ABOUT YOUR DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS?
My grandmother raised me. She made it clear to me to understand about different ethnicities and the different cultures in our blood.
DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
I didn’t honestly.
DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
I get identified as mixed most of the time or people will just assume I am Latina.
DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE? OR IF YOU HAVE A PARTNER WHAT RACE ARE THEY?
I am open to different races when it comes to dating. I’ve never been biased or judgmental based on anyone's background. My partner is Puerto Rican and Black.
WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?
I think being mixed has its own way of expressing itself. I think to me, it’s a beautiful thing. So many cultures & blood lines running through my little body.
DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED? IF SO WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THEM?
I have a ton of friends who are from different countries actually. I love to get into their beliefs and thoughts towards racism. One of my best friends growing up was actually Cambodian. So growing up with her, I was aware of the standards, beliefs, culture & religion they had set for their children. I’m into learning more about a person and how they grew up living. I think you learn more about yourself, when you learn more about others.
ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?
I really get bugged when someone makes a statement about my hair texture being “less” nappier or if it’s actually my hair. Not everyone has a coarse texture to their hair, which totally annoys me. Not every mixed woman wears a weave, which is totally rude and obnoxious.
Also, I’ll have people ask me “what’s my ethnicity”, and I’ll get into detail… They are totally like at lost for words. “You don’t even look Italian. Your complexion yes, but maybe if you had a slimmer nose or colored eyes..” Just total NONSENSE!
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?
I honestly just hope that Americans can learn to accept one another, not for their skin color or assets. That’s our biggest default in this country. So much hatred is being shown. Gentrification is a big part of racism as well. People can look at my father, who owns a house upstate, and automatically assume “he’s no good for this town.” I just wish people learned to stop casting judgments on those who don’t always deserve it. Get to know others before you belittle them. “Love one another, as I have loved you”.