New initiative creates space for the mixed race community to connect and share their stories

There is something incredibly valuable about being seen. More than just being in someone’s field of view, being seen involves a recognition of all facets of your identity as well as the acknowledgment that you are not alone. Being seen is something that most people struggle with at some point, but for many individuals of mixed race, this experience of being unseen is due in part to the lack of spaces where they feel they belong.  

This lack of space is something that Sarah Barnhart — a mindful movement teacher at Hamilton’s Goodbodyfeel studio — has been increasingly aware of. As a white-presenting, biracial woman, Barnhart often struggled to feel that she belonged. Growing up in Burlington, she faced many questions about her identity, making her feel like she had to constantly explain herself to others. 

Prior to the pandemic, Goodbodyfeel organized a workshop for the BIPOC community. It was here that Barnhart connected with other mixed folks and began to seriously consider that a local space for the mixed community might be of interest to others. Around this time, she also discovered other mixed community pages on Instagram, which she found to be very supportive. Encouraged by close friends, she created a space for Hamilton’s mixed community to come together and share their stories. The initiative was launched as an Instagram page this past July.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time . . . I thought ‘what is actually stopping me from creating this?’ and the answer was my own fear. And then I just had to step past it,” Barnhart said, smiling warmly as she recalled the moment when she committed to creating her initiative.

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MIXED STORIES • Matthew Barnhart {he/him} @barney_barber I’ve always said I see the world with a unique prospective. But that’s my way of saying that people can be just awful when they feel they are safe. My name is Matthew. I’m a white presenting Jamaican mix. Growing up in a mostly white community was definitely challenging at times. I think the first time I was called half breed or mutt I was about ten or eleven. It hurt and like a true male of my generation I said nothing. But a few years later when I was called n***** lover and this group of children laughed at me and said things like “I can’t believe you let your dirty mother touch you” that’s when everything changed. I became very angry all the time. Never explaining why. I’m sure my parents blamed the music I was into or something. My friends growing up were mostly all white and they were good people. Some have become not so good and some have been allies since day one. As I got older I became very uncomfortable in rooms full of white men. To me it wasn’t a matter of if they were going to start talking racist shit it was when. And if the night went on without an issue then I was always surprised. But mostly I kept my mouth shut. I was alone. Who had my back? It wasn’t until the last few years where my sister (yes I have a sister that was going through the same shit and we never spoke about it) showed me a few articles and pages that were written by other mixed kids from around the world and it was like I had written them. All of a sudden I wasn’t alone. There’s a world of people just like me. It was a weight off that i didn’t realize I had been so heavy. That’s when I came to the conclusion that we have/are a community. A beautiful diverse community that spans the globe and is all the shades of humanity. We are the future. We will make the world what it should be. We are the product of interracial love. We are the change that needs to be. {We are honoured to share the stories of mixed folx. Please DM to share yours.} . . . . . #mixedinhamilton #hamont #biracialfamily #biracial #mixedrace #multiracial #tellyourstory #shareyourstory #ourstoriesmatter #representationmatters

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While Mixed in Hamilton features beautiful artwork and encouraging words, its main focus is to share the stories and experiences of mixed communities. These stories are presented through a series of posts entitled “Mixed Stories.” For Barnhart, sharing these stories is incredibly important and was something she had hoped from the beginning that Mixed in Hamilton could facilitate so that people could feel seen and have their experiences heard.

“It is incredibly honouring to have people trust [me] and the space enough to send their stories and have them featured so that they have a space for their voice to be heard and for them to be seen as all of who they are in their mixedness, not all of who they are in their separate part . . . or for me, not being seen at all as anything,” Barnhart said.

It’s clear from the comments on her Instagram page that Barnhart wasn’t the only one who noticed the need for a space like this in Hamilton. The comments are overwhelmingly positive, filled with words of support and gratitude. Her followers seem happy to have a place where they can see themselves.

“[I want people to come away] knowing that the middle is enough. Knowing that you’re enough, that you’re not alone, that you have community and that you are welcome. And yes, just a space for people to be and to just feel held,” explained Barnhart.

“[I want people to come away] knowing that the middle is enough. Knowing that you’re enough, that you’re not alone, that you have community and that you are welcome. And yes, just a space for people to be and to just feel held,” explained Barnhart.

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MIXED STORIES • Sabrina {she/her} @moonsproutdoula my whole life people have always asked me “where are you from”, sometimes even “what are you” they were either fascinated by (and I heard this word often) my “exotic-ness”, or didn’t like that they couldn’t pin point my race, it was unsettling to them my mother has told me stories of people in the street not believing I was her daughter as a teenager, when I got the “where are you from” questions, I would get annoyed and just say “Canada” to brush it off I didn’t have the language to express what I was feeling inside when I got those questions I felt othered, I felt seperate and I felt like I didn’t know how to properly communicate my roots, I didn’t feel connected to my roots being mixed race can be confusing for a child, never feeling like you quite fit with either side of your family, not being able to relate to them and feeling like an outsider wherever you go, even in your own home that confusion seeps into adulthood as well for a long time I rejected my blackness, white supremacy has a way of getting under your skin and into your whole self, and naming your blackness as what’s at fault for othering you my adult years have been a reckoning with this, an unravelling and an unlearning The Work isn’t done (& will never be done), but I can say with a lot of confidence that today I am proud of my blackness, and I am learning more and more about my roots I am creating space within myself to understand what it means to have ancestors that were colonizers and ancestors that were brought to this land enslaved that space is murky & confusing, but at the same time incredibly liberating & full of growth, and I am grateful for the moments when I am able to sit with it compassionately, hold it with tenderness, and be my whole self. {We are honoured to share the stories of mixed folx. Please DM to share yours.} . . . . . #mixedinhamilton #hamont #biracialfamily #biracial #mixedrace #multiracial #tellyourstory #shareyourstory #ourstoriesmatter #representationmatters

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Barnhart also had some kind words for mixed students, inviting them to come check out her page. She wants students to know that they are not alone. 

If you’ve been sort of floating through your life thinking you’re the only person having this experience of mixedness, of not fitting in, of being on the edge of a group, of bridging or floating in two different spaces . . . knowing that you’re not alone, that you do belong as you are, as who you are and that who you are as you are is enough — is perfect . . . the space is a reminder of that for folks who may be floating,” Barnhart added.

Taking inspiration from this idea of floating between two spaces, Barnhart is hosting a virtual workshop entitled “The Middle” on Sept. 15, 2020. The workshop is an opportunity for the mixed community to come together and share stories and experiences. The workshop will begin with some guided movement, similar to yoga, led by Barnhart, followed by the opportunity for participants to introduce themselves and share some of their story. The rest of the workshop will be guided by prompts to facilitate sharing.

This is only the beginning for Barnhart and Mixed in Hamilton. She has big plans for her initiative moving forward, including potentially expanding to other social media platforms and running more workshops, including some about parenting mixed children. No matter what direction her initiative takes in the future, Barnhart wants to ensure that the mixed community has the space they need to feel seen and supported.

Image courtesy of C/O @mixedinhamilton


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