Writing the Mixed Experience Professionally
Erika Hayasaki is an assistant professor in the Literary Journalism Program at the University of California, Irvine, an undergraduate degree program dedicated to studying and practicing narrative journalism, where she teaches workshops in narrative nonfiction writing, as well as classes in digital storytelling. She is the author of The Death Class: A True Story About Life (published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster), and is a contributing health and science writer for The Atlantic and Newsweek. Erika spent nearly a decade as a reporter covering breaking news and writing feature stories for the Los Angeles Times.
Jia-Rui Chong-Cook is national and science editor for Zocalo Public Square, a nonprofit ideas exchange that blends humanities journalism and live events. Zocalo publishes personal essays and news analyses that end up on the websites and op-ed pages of over 100 syndicate partners (including TIME, The Washington Post and USA Today). Prior to Zocalo Public Square, Jia-Rui was a reporter in the science and local news sections of the Los Angeles Times and a science writer and media relations specialist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She is Chinese-American, and the mother of a mixed-race child. She most recently spearheaded the "What It Means to Be American Project," a national, multiplatform, multimedia conversation hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and Zócalo Public Square that brings together leading thinkers, public figures, and Americans from all walks of life to explore big, visceral questions about how our nation’s past can help us understand its present and imagine its future.
Rebekah Sager is an accomplished writer and online media producer --adept at creating relevant and clever content for websites and publications. Focused primarily on fashion and lifestyle, Sager has been published in Cosmo for Latinas, Hemispheres Magazine, WordsEtc, Girls Guide to Paris, FOX News Latino, and the Los Angeles Times. Sager has worked for Google Maps and the Google owned, Zagat Guide. Sager currently works as a Digital and Social Media Producer on the Dr. Phil Show.
David Horace Greer is an actor, playwright, and Tony-nominated producer. His new play Hour Farther, the “cosmic story of a mixed adopted son, searching for his ‘real father,’ who discovers how dangerously beautiful truth can be,” was selected as a Semi-Finalist for the 38th Annual Bay Area Playwrights Festival in San Francisco next month. The first of a 3-play cycle (Hour Farther, Who Art, And Heaven), the play has been presented in staged readings and full-productions across the country (more dates TBA). In addition to writing, David was on the Broadway producer teams for Mountaintop (starring Angela Bassett and Samuel L. Jackson), Gershwin's Porgy & Bess (starring Audra McDonald and David Alan Grier), the historic Black Stars of Great White Way (appearances by Cecily Tyson, Robert Guillaume, Ben Vereen, and Phylicia Rashād) at Carnegie Hall, and The Scottsboro Boys, which earned he and his team Tony-nominations for “Best New Musical.” He also produced and acted in his play Peculiar People at Hartford Stage, consulted and appeared in the James Brown film Get On Up, and will appear in Don Cheadles’ film about Miles Davis, Miles Ahead. A native of Oakland/ Three Forks in Kentucky, David was adopted but specifics of his ethnic background are unknown as he has, thus far, chosen not to find/ meet his birth parents. Greer is a University of Chicago Graduate School of Business graduate, was a Rotary International Scholar at the American University in Cairo (Egypt), and currently serves as Chief Budget Officer at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Stephanie Abraham is an essayist, media critic, blogger and business writer who has worked in media, academia and private industry. Her writings have appeared in numerous publications, such as Bitch, Role Reboot and Mizna, as well as the anthologies Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity and We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists. She is currently working on her first memoir.
Sound Off!: Parents of Multiracial Kids Talk about Books, the Media & the Race Talk
Leonard Roberts hails from St. Louis, Missouri and began his acting career in the rich environment of Chicago's theater scene. A graduate of the famed Goodman School of Drama, he honed his craft on some of the city's most respected stages, including Steppenwolf, The Goodman, and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. It was also in Chicago where he made his feature film debut, as “Eddie” in the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner Love Jones. Since then Leonard has worked with many directors, including cinematic icons Spike Lee (He Got Game) Oliver Stone (Savages) and most recently Clint Eastwood (American Sniper.) His career has been rich with highs, like portraying legendary boxing great “Joe Louis” in the critically acclaimed cable feature Joe & Max and memorable roles in such fan favorites as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Heroes. Theater remains a first love of Leonard's and he made his West End debut in the UK premiere of The Viewing Room. Leonard is also known to a generation of fans from his role in the motion picture Drumline and recently reprised his role in Drumline 2: A New Beat.
Donn T (sister of Questlove), is an eclectic singer-songwriter, producer and the owner of the indie label D-tone Victorious. As highlighted on TLC's Say Yes To The Dress, she is newly wed to guitarist/producer Jake Morelli. Donn T will humorously and informatively discuss the adventures of her blended musical rockstar family and the unique dynamic and special love relationship she has with her tween bonus daughter Soren Echo.
Amy S. Choi is the co-founder and editorial director of The Mash-Up Americans, a media and consulting company that aims to change how the world understands mixed-race, mixed-identity, mixed-faith, mixed-everything modern America. Amy is a first-generation Korean-American married to a first-generation Colombian-Mexican-American, and mom to a feisty Korombexican-American: in other words, The Future of America. She has worked for more than a decade as a journalist and editor in New York. Her work has appeared in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Women’s Wear Daily, Inc., TED and Salon, among other publications. She specializes in getting people to tell stories they never expected to share. Amy sits on the board of Ugly Duckling Presse, an independent publisher in Brooklyn that specializes in poetry. She earned degrees in journalism and poetry writing at Northwestern University. You can follow her @awesomechoi and find her in Brooklyn.
Anoosh Jorjorian writes on the politics of parenting. Her work has been published at Salon,Time.com,the Huffington Post, and Black Girl Dangerous, and she blogs atwww.aranamama.com. Follow her on Twitter @aranamama.
Liz Dwyer is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor and mom. She has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national websites and print publications and on her own blog, Los Angelista. Dwyer is also a breast cancer survivor and believes in fangirling about Depeche Mode.
Jason Sperber, Moderator
Jason Sperber is a writer, educator, and at-home parent. He lives in Central California with his physician wife and their two multiethnic Asian American daughters, ages 10 and 6. He blogs at the intersection of race, culture, and parenting, and is proud to have been a panelist at this festival's earlier incarnation twice.
Cracking Open the Dialogue of Our Families: Racial Micro aggressions & Whiteness
Lisa Marie Rollins is a Black/Filipina writer, playwright, performer. She has been a commentator on CNN, HuffPostLive, NPR, KPFA, KPFK and is one of Colorlines magazine’s “Innovators to Watch” for her work in reproductive justice / global transracial adoption. As Founder of AFAAD, Adopted and Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora, Lisa Marie helped build one of the first international organizations to focuses on the needs of adoptees and foster care alumni of African descent. Lisa Marie holds an M.A. in Cultural Studies focusing in African Diasporic Women’s Literature, an M.A. in African Diaspora Studies from University of California Berkeley. Her future dissertation work will take a cultural studies approach to focus on the (de)construction of black women’s bodies in the discourse of domestic and international adoption. She is a VONA poetry alumni and a Callaloo Literary Journal London Fellow. She was awarded a James Irvine and Zellerbach Foundations Artist grant for her acclaimed solo play, “Ungrateful Daughter: One Black Girls Story of being Adopted into a White family… that aren’t Celebrities”. Ungrateful Daughter has been performed in the New York International Fringe Theater Festival, Atlanta Black Theater Festival, San Francisco Theater Festival, Marsh Theater in SF & more. Lisa Marie is the original co-producer of the highly praised “W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour”, the basis for FX television series, “Totally Biased w W. Kamau Bell”. She Directed “All Atheists are Muslim” by Zahra Noorbakhsh and most recently co-produced “A History of the Body”, a new play by Aimee Suzara. She is published in the Pacific Review, Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out , As/Us Literary Journal and Line/Break Special Issue on Asian American Adoptee poetry and more. She regularly blogs for Land of Gazillion Adoptees Magazine and for Lost Daughters. She is currently finishing her poetry chapbook, “Anchoring the Compass” and writing on her new play, “TOKEN”. email@example.com
Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut
Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut is a poet who teaches literature and creative writing in Los Angeles. She holds an M.F.A. degree in poetry (2002) from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. degree in Literature & Creative Writing from the University of Southern California (2012). Her first book of poetry, Magnetic Refrain, was published in February 2013 by Kaya Press and she is currently working on a second book of autobiographical, critical essays entitled Vaguely Asian: Being In-Between As A Korean Adoptee, and a literary novel, Missing Persons. Recently, Nicky was interviewed on NPR’s local Take Two program this past January “When Korean Adoptees return, a complex relationship follows” . Her non-fiction essay about micro aggressions and transracial adoptive families was published in Hyphen magazine this past January, “Adopting the ‘Asian’ in Caucasian: Korean Adoptees and White Privilege”.
"As transracial adoptees, cultural workers and authors, we—Lisa Marie Rollins and Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut—have both written extensively about negotiating racism and white privilege in adoptive families. These difficult aspects also commonly play out among interracial and multiracial family members and relatives. It is a challenge to delve deeply into these painful moments, especially when they occur with family members and community we are close with, or with whom we spent our childhood years. This panel will be structured in two parts. First, a panel where we plan to each read a short personal essay based on our experiences about micro aggressions in our families. Next an interactive workshop, where we would lead participants in short, guided writing exercises around exploring their own experiences and providing space for sharing stories. Finally we will work as a group to develop collaborative strategies that will support ourselves and push our families to have more open dialogues around racial difference, hybridity, and privilege."
This workshop is targeted to adult adoptees and adult multiracial sons/ daughters with secondary attention focused on those considering parenting or those parenting. All are welcome.
Mix Mesh Blend: How Diversity, Tech, & Creative Storytelling Are Changing Everything
Marcia Alesan Dawkins, Ph.D. is a tech-loving, diversity-oriented intellectual entrepreneur from New York City and communication professor at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles. An award-winning author, speaker, and educator, Dawkins understands how diversity, technology and creative storytelling are changing who we are and how we communicate.
Marcus C. Shepard is a doctoral candidate at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. His work explores Black musical performance and its intersections and transformative capabilities of race, class, gender and sexuality. Specifically, he focuses on the musical genre neo-soul and its sonic, visual and political implications in the United States within communities of color. Shepard has also worked at the world famous Apollo Theater in Harlem as an archivist and maintains his ties to this artistic community.
Ulli K. Ryder, Ph.D. is an award-winning educator, consultant, writer, editor and thinker. She facilitates discussions of race, ethnicity, identity formation and media to foster diversity and create open dialogue.
Dr. Syb is a Vanderbilt educated, Harvard trained, two-time Emmy-award winning journalist. She is currently an Associate Professor of Journalism at Belmont University in Nashville.
Transracial Adoption: Parents and Adoptees in Conversation
Jillian is the author of the memoir, EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED the New York Times bestselling memoir,SOME GIRLS: My Life in a Harem, and the novel PRETTY, all from Plume/Penguin. Jillian has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Magazine, Elle and Salon, among others. She is a regular storyteller on The Moth. Jillian blogs about motherhood and writing at the award-winning www.jillianlauren.com. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.
Siana-Lea Valencia Gildard
Siana is a writer, fundraiser and mixed up Californian. Born and raised in Southern California with a Mexican-American Mom and Anglo East Coast Dad, Siana knows the difference between Menudo and New England Clam Chowder, and likes them both. After writing the bilingual children’s musical The Adventures of Mr. Coconut / Las Aventuras de Senor Coco (performed at the Ford Amphitheatre and VVC Performing Arts Center) Siana and her husband Edgar figured it was time to have kids. Thus began the Lord of the Rings adventure of adopting two children from Mexico, who they brought home in October of 2014. If Siana thought she was confused being a “White Mexican”, being the mother of two “Real Mexicans” only adds to it all. Hilarity ensues…
Jared Van Lehn
Jared Van Lehn is currently the Director of Marketing at ESSIO, a Santa Monica startup. Jared moved to LA from Northern California, to pursue his MBA and to continue to develop his entertainment career. Jared has been featured on MTV and ABC, and worked with major sporting brands. Stand-up comedy is a favorite as well. He has a large following on Youtube but just took down his channel to rebrand it in a new direction. He hopes to combine his entertainment, business and collegiate athlete background to take the entrepreneurial route to open an economically accessible athletic training facility. Jared was adopted at the age of 2, and had a humble upbringing that instilled life-long lessons in him. His adoption beginning was rough and he now speaks sharing his journey and the obstacles faced, but most importantly the steps taken to overcome them.
Holly Choon Hyung
Holly Choon Hyang Bachman, Korean Adoptee / Founder and President
Mixed Roots Foundation
Holly Choon Hyang Bachman was adopted from South Korea when she was 3-1/2 years old and grew up in Minnesota…Since then she graduated from high school where she started a high school group called the Mixed Roots Cultural Diversity Group…Mixed Roots at that time was a high school student group that promoted diversity and multiculturalism in the schools. With her personal experience of being adopted into a White family (she has two older brothers whom are biological to her adoptive parents) as well as her desire to search for her birth family in South Korea – she realized that there was a real lack of post adoption resources. Holly had the opportunity to go back to Korea twice in her life, but she still felt that there could be more that could further support adoptees and their families of all backgrounds no matter what stage of life they were in.
In 2011, Holly went onto found the Mixed Roots Foundation in San Francisco, CA and currently serves as President of the organization. Mixed Roots Foundation’s fundamental values are based on identity, diversity and unity with the now overall vision to improve the lives of those who have been touched by adoption and foster care by leveraging philanthropy and grassroots fundraising to provide more post adoption resources by promoting and supporting organizations that serve as a resource to the diverse adoptee community, create more awareness of the adoption experience and inspire future generations of adoptees to achieve their dreams and goals through collaboration with likeminded individuals, businesses, and organizations in the greater community.
Since then, Holly has volunteered her time over the past 3 years to help establish and grow Mixed Roots Foundation and ultimately moved the global headquarters from San Francisco, CA to Los Angeles, CA. Through this transition, Holly took a brief break and served as a Membership Representative for the LA Area Chamber of Commerce where she was able to assist in growing membership amongst small, medium and large businesses and organizations in the community. She also served as a marketing/PR and business development consultant for small to medium size businesses with clients nationwide including Minneapolis, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Holly received her B.A. in Sociology/Social Psychology from the University of Minnesota and has been living in California for the past 9 years. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching movies and most importantly giving back to the community through mentoring and organizing various local and national events that promote identity, diversity and unity. Holly currently resides in the Pasadena area and recently got engaged to her boyfriend Glenn Bowie in which they plan to have a mixed roots family of their own soon in the future.
Carlos Collard is a former Los Angeles County foster youth who owes his life and perspective to the Collards, the foster parents who adopted him and served as his first and most enduring leadership model. The Collards grew up during the Great Depression in rural Michigan, married out of high school, and fostered over 200 children over 25 years. Some of these children became Carlos’ adopted brothers and sisters who gave him an occasional black eye from their wrestling matches that were far more real than the ones they watched on TV. His multicultural family eventually settled in California’s Mojave Desert.
Carlos is committed to providing leadership to the communities that have helped shape his life. UCLA was a pivotal point in his leadership development, as he was the first in his large family to attend college and helped lead the Peer Helpline, Bruin News 29 (UCLA’s first student-run live television news program) and guided many Bruins and high school students as a counselor and through programs he created. At UCLA, Carlos earned a dual bachelor’s degree in Communications and Political Science, the Chancellor’s Service Award and Distinguished Bruin Award. Today, Carlos continues to serve UCLA as a Chancellor’s Society Executive Committee member.
Due to his desire to impact local communities, Carlos has spent most of his professional life in public service and currently works for the City of Santa Monica. While pursuing this career path, he founded the City of Los Angeles’ South Robertson Neighborhoods Council (SORO NC) within his residential area and served as the City of Los Angeles’ youngest-ever neighborhood council president (a system of nearly 100 councils citywide). He has also been appointed to commissions by a former Los Angeles mayor and Los Angeles city councilmember. Carlos is currently the Young Professionals Chair of the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles (IVCLA), which provides Angelenos opportunities to meet emerging international leaders visiting Los Angeles through dinners, home hosting and volunteer activities.
To engage his foster youth community, Carlos currently supports UCLA’s Bruin Guardian Scholars and serves as Board President of California Youth Connection, a nonprofit that trains foster youth statewide to transform the foster care system through legislative and policy change.
Carlos’ values of connecting with communities, listening to and learning from different perspectives, and initiating adventure are incorporated within his leadership style and have steered him to try likely over 100 ethnic cuisines in Southern California alone and taken him to many countries including Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Brunei, Cyprus, and Zimbabwe. If there is a food to try, he will always take the lead, even if it involves silkworm pupa, rotten shark, and cobra’s blood!
Santana Dempsey, Moderator
Adoption and Mixed Race Advocate SANTANA DEMPSEY has been a rocket in her short time in L.A. Last year, she was part of the prestigious ABC Talent Showcase and performed alongside Wade Allain-Marcus in “One Night Stand” at El Portal Theatre in NoHo. Recently, Santana played Harlow Gillman in the Lifetime Movie "MegaChurch Murder". She was fortunate enough to work alongside talented actors such as: Mike Beach, Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Lil Romeo, Tamala Jones, and Corbin Bleu.
Currently, Santana is shooting an episode of FX’s hit comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ . This spring she will be starring opposite Ian Verdun in a new web pilot “Life’s A Drag”. Santana is thrilled to announce the indie film French Dirty where she has a supporting role has been accepted into the LA Film Festival where it will have its world premiere in June. She also wrapped filming a supporting role in Crave:The Fast Life. Santana has Costarring roles on HBO's The Newsroom and DirecT.V's new drama Kingdom.
A University of Missouri alumnus, Santana is a veteran of New York City's Primary Stages, INTAR, Soho Rep, Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre and Carnegie Hall. She also wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed one woman show, “The Other Box” which she workshopped this past November at the Actors Comedy Studio in Los Angeles.
Santana is an ambassador for the non profit Mixed Roots Foundation which helps to bring awareness to anyone touched by adoption. On March 14th, Santana teamed up with LupusLA by running in the Asics Big 5k to raise money for a cure. She is working on an interdisciplinary art project called Somewhere In Between (working title) that celebrates identity and diversity.
What's So Funny About Being Mixed?
One of the hottest entertainers in Hollywood, Tehran Von Ghasri, better known as simply Tehran is an international comedian, host, TV and radio personality. Born to an Iranian father and African-American mother, Tehran is rare in every sense of the word. With undergrad degrees in International Politics and Communications, a Masters in Economics, and a Law Degree his humor is made up of unique life experience, intriguing cultural perspective, academic intelligence, and pure charm. As seen on Shahs of Sunset, Summer Break, hosting Take Part Live you can see Tehran live Mondays and Thursdays 10PM at The World Famous Laugh Factory on Sunset or hear him weekly on Imperfect Gentlemen.
Alex Barnett’s comedy is about family, specifically his family. As the White, Jewish husband of a Black woman (who converted to Judaism) and the father of a 3 year-old, Biracial son, he focuses his attention on the challenges of being a parent in a bad economy and the issues that confront interracial families (including the dynamics between members of the same family who are of different races). Alex has been seen on the Katie Couric Show and the PIX 11 Morning Show, been featured on Sirius/XM Radio’s “Raw Dog Comedy,” NBC’s EVB Live, RT TV America and NYC-TV and in The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and CNN.com.
Mat Johnson is the author of the novels Loving Day, Pym, Drop, and Hunting in Harlem, the nonfiction novella The Great Negro Plot, and the comic books Incognegro and Dark Rain. He is a recipient of the United States Artist James Baldwin Fellowship, The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature. Mat Johnson is a faculty member at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program.
Comedian, talk show host, wife and mother of two Sunda Croonquist is the host of JLTV's "James and Sunda" show and is the author of the Kosher Soul cookbook hitting shelves April 2015. Sunda can be seen every Saturday night at the world famous Laugh Factory in Hollywood hosting "All Star Comedy." Credits include The View, Comedy Central, E! and many others. Sunda is also the chair person of Gilda's Clubs annual event the "Laugh-Off," that is a event to bring awareness to Gilda's Club of Northern New Jersey which is a cancer support group for men, women and children who are living with cancer that was created by the late Gilda Radner of SNL fame. She is also the owner and director of the LA School of Comedy in Westwood.