“I think like a lot of Biracial people I’m defined by droughts and mirrors.”
We are extremely pleased to have poet Julian Randall as part of our Featured Writers Reading. You can hear him read on June 10, 2017 at 1:00pm at the Mixed Remixed Festival. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged.
What are you?
I am a Biracial Black Queer man
I am half Afro-Dominican and half of what you could call Afro-American Black, though America has rarely if ever wanted anything to do with me and I allow it proximity to my name only for the sake of clarity.
What is your mixed experience?
I think like a lot of Biracial people I’m defined by droughts and mirrors. In essence I am what it is to come from two impossible bloodlines and still find your face nowhere. As such I had to piece together my identity in bits and pieces, different hour blocks on the tv, different books, eternally just in heated pursuit of some proof I was possible beyond my own body. I’m a writer because of the skills that I learned in my hunger, I’m in many ways in the business of mosaics (of building a face from the shrapnel of other times) I come from so much that American culture throws away off screen, but I’m here, I’m back, and in so many ways, I never left.
What is the most important thing you want people to know about the mixed experience?
I want folks to know I do not exist by accident. When I say, “I come from the impossible” I mean that one half of my family was chained and placed on a boat, then eventually landed in Mississippi, then eventually I had a great grandfather who was born light skinned and with no record of his real birthday. He owned part of a hardware store and sold insurance. One day the white folk of Greenville, MS came to his business after discovering that he was not white; they gave him 24 hours or he would be tarred and feathered to death. He carried my grandmother and fled to East St. Louis. She grew up to meet my grandfather, they had my father. This was not an accident, it was violence.
Similarly my abuelo, my mother’s father, was a loudmouth opponent of the US supported Trujillo Regime. Trujillo’s thugs started asking around about my Abuelo. And so one half of my blood mounted a plane and landed in New York to save the women who would become my Tias, become my mother. This was not an accident, it was violence.
Make no mistake, without violence I do not exist. My parents could not have existed anywhere but at the edge of a blade and so I am from “the impossible” a descendant of what Ariana Brown so aptly calls “The Unsurvivable”
Do you remember when you first started thinking about the mixed experience? Was it because of a certain moment or event? Please tell us about that.
Well, I guess I want to say here that in my memory it is twofold, there’s the moment where you see what you are and the moment that other people confirm they see it too. So it’s about gaze in that respect. Mine actually centers around the year 2001 when both Taina and That’s So Raven were on TV around the same time. It might seem silly to some but at age 7 I was so grateful to know I wasn’t alone, they may have been on separate channels but here was the time I most easily was able to see families that looked like mine though they could never touch. It was really nice, and they were images I had found on my own.
It was strange though too. I went to a predominantly white school where I was not reflected in a lot of ways. People didn’t really know often, what to do with me, what to call me and it led to a lot of microaggressive events from the jaws of the well-intentioned. A lot of folks would substitute/code the “Which side do you feel closer to?” question as “Well which show do you like more; Raven or Taina?” and so I knew that they saw this supposed line down the middle of me too. This line that none of them had to bear, this other way that it was a burden to remember me, to hold me all in one place.
When Taina got cancelled I was devastated, at the surface level because it was a great show but really I think I knew then what I would be told again and again, there could only be one. I was already two, so it seemed there could be no me.
Is this your first time attending the Mixed Remixed Festival?
Why did you want to be a part of the Mixed Remixed Festival? What do you hope to gain?
I’m not sure how many more times I can say mirrors before it seems like I only know 6 words. But it is important, to know oneself within the company of people who bear some version of our own particular histories, the spaces that can feel barren for want of a friend, a contact, somebody who is built of similar improbabilities
What are you looking forward to most at the Festival this year?
I couldn’t have imagined I would ever get a chance to do a reading with Tara Betts who was one of my teachers at The Watering Hole and a hero, friend and advocate I hold in highest esteem and love. So I am excited to be in LA for the first time to do such holy work as reading with my fellow featured writers!