Kiae Marshall and Jada Edmonson, both junior middle childhood education majors, had never met before they had a class together last semester, but they soon discovered they had a lot in common. They bonded over their major, age, curly hair and identities.
Marshall and Edmonson are both Black and white biracial. As they got to know each other, they both felt a similar alienation at Miami University because of their racial identities.
Multiple organizations on campus promote diversity and inclusion, but Marshall and Edmonson didn’t identify with any of them.
“I struggled a lot my freshman and sophomore year with trying to fit in with Black students and also white students, and I felt like I still hadn’t found my people yet,” Edmonson said.
Marshall also found it hard to embrace both identities, especially because Miami’s student body is approximately 75.5% white.
“Sometimes you feel like you don’t fit into one category because on documents you check that ‘other’ box or ‘all that apply,'” Marshall said. “It’s hard to connect with people in other student orgs that are focused on only one part of your identity.”
Together they formed Biracial Leaders Embracing & Nurturing Diversity (BLEND) to amplify the voices and experiences of biracial and multiracial students at Miami through service, awareness and education.
Calista Flores, a junior math education major, is Puerto Rican and white and has been looking for an organization like BLEND since her freshman year. Flores noticed the lack of representation of biracial students at Miami and believes the attention is long overdue.
“Miami doesn’t really hold a lot of accountability for creating spaces for students,” Flores said. “They leave that to students, which is fine because then it’s student-based and student-centered, but when you consider the environment of Miami’s campus for people of color, you’d think they would put a little bit of effort into creating spaces for students to feel safe and comfortable in.”
Although she believes the organization is long-delayed, she’s excited to be a founding member and eager to see what BLEND does. Because it is small with only 10 members, she thinks the club will be able to branch out and differentiate itself from other multicultural organizations on campus.
“I think it’s different because it’s a very specific group of people, and whenever you specify one area, you can have a different level of comfortability for conversation and relationship building,” Flores said.
Karla Guinigundo is director of Global Partnerships at Miami and the advisor for BLEND.
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When Edmonson and Marshall approached Guinigundo with their proposal, she immediately wanted to help. She acknowledged the importance of diversity at Miami and the need to facilitate an environment that will help.
“We are working really hard at Miami to make sure this is a place where everyone feels like this is home,” Guinigundo said. “I’m really glad they created this organization, and I think if they are feeling that way, then there are others out there who feel this way as well.”
Edmonson and Marshall are already planning events and upcoming meetings where members can share their experiences as biracial students at Miami. They are also organizing service opportunities that will benefit the Oxford community.
“As the name says, we’re a blend of multiple different things,” Edmonson said. “And I think having space where you can talk about the connections between your different identities is really comforting.”