South High School Writing Projects

Kate Sosa

This I believe essay

My name is Kate Adriana Sosa Chino. I was born in Saint Paul Minnesota in 2001. I grew up hearing a lot of spanglish from my mom and dad, I didn’t become fluent in spanish but I could somewhat understand it. I grew up with my brother Juan Jr we all lived in Saint Paul until I was the age of 4 I left for Mexico when I was 5 and went to preschool and  lived in an apartment with my brother and my mom, I don’t remember much about it besides that. From there we moved to Minneapolis, where my brother and I went to Marcy Open School. I went to kindergarten until fourth grade then I had to move to West Liberty Iowa where I went half a year of 4th grade. I was already a bit tired of moving so much but then my mom decided to move due to the fear she had with immigration because living here made her feel like she had to hide from every cop, as a family we felt like we had to protect my mom.

I never thought I would have the courage to move to a different country not knowing for how long and if my family would ever be united again. I was really scared and it was really hard seeing my brother and my dad on the last day before we left in my grandparents red truck. We started at West Liberty, then we drove for 3 days straight on 35 W, on the trip I was looking at the photos on my ipad thinking about all the things I had left behind and crying at times. When we made it to the border my grandparents and mom left the car while I stayed there. It was really late at night, I was laying in the backseat with my dolphin pillow and  my hello kitty blanket I then saw border patrol looking into the car with their flashlights so I hid under my blanket and I was afraid. They hopped in the back to check what we had in the trunk. The time in there felt endless because I was scared of being taken by the guards or that my family wouldn’t be allowed back in, that they would find out my mom was illegal this entire time. All this time we lived in fear, all my parents wanted was to enjoy their adulthood with opportunities which my dad had but unfortunately my mom didn’t. When we made it to Mexico we headed to Puebla, Puebla where we stopped at my grandmas since she lives in a town called Derramadero.I moved into my aunts house in Puebla City, the environment was so different ranging from the block cement housing, all the street dogs, the food ,corner stores and businesses. It was a feeling of worry but excitement. When I got there I didn’t know any spanish so I first enrolled in a school named Miguel Negrete, it was a public school. I wasn’t a fan of it so we decided to keep looking after I went to this school I forgot the name of but that’s where my classroom size was 5 people including my teacher. Our classroom looked like dungeon, I was really lucky that the teacher I was assigned had lived in the US so she made my stay there somewhat familiar. I also got this interest to start learning folk dance which is mexican tap, however, it was just through school that they offered it; I started to do it and we would have to practice daily so I got to be really good at it. I would perform with really colorful dresses that had big skirts that flowed everywhere and tap shoes with nails on the bottom, as well as colorful headpieces.

When that year ended I moved schools again. I moved to a school called Colegio Fromental De la Salle De Puebla. When I was there it was a hard adjustment, they were very strict and you needed to take a test to enter the school. My mother and I made a commitment that I would try my best in school since I didn’t even know spanish. I also learned a lot about catholic religion here, we would read the bible every morning and have mass 2 mondays every month including a religion course and retreats. I failed a lot for months in the beginning because I wouldn’t understand the subjects. My teacher Lupita was very patient with me and it was in 5th grade at this school where I met some of the most wonderful people that helped me pull through my difficulty in school. They would do their projects with me and go to my house to do homework, they were so friendly and hilarious they would always call me la gringa translated to “The American”.  I did a lot of performances at this school such as the 5 de Mayo, Day of the Dead christmas and so many more, we would do reenactments or sing christmas carols and folk dances.

I became one of the best students in the class that even my teacher congratulated me in front of the class. I was really happy for all I had accomplished not just school but moving somewhere where my life was unknown, and meeting so many people I can now call my true friends from across the world. When I lived there I got really into the sports track and field, boxing, swimming, etc. I had so many passions and so many new things to explore. Yet still, even with so many good things going on we had to fight my moms deportation case for 12 years. I had lost hope at one point because time wouldn’t give me any victories. I would only see my dad and brother during their vacations which wasn’t very long so having little time with them was always was really nice but the worst goodbyes. Being in a different country despite all the circumstances on the table made the trip unforgettable and something im very proud of myself. I never thought life would be so difficult at those ages yet very rewarding because you gain a whole new identity. And I learned a new language,  that I can now read and write fluently,  I made relationships so dear to me that no matter our distance they will always be there for me. I learned that everyone has a very different lifestyle and there are people in this world that have more than others.

At the end of the day we are all equal and should treat each other with lots of love and respect because in my time of darkness with so much change I had many angels come through my life to make me feel comfortable with everything that was happening in those times. So I always bring that into my life every day because I think everyone deserves someone who can be there for them, to be optimistic and to always be open to the endless opportunities that our world offers us.


                                                                      Mixed Identity
By  Rayna Acha  


 “Mixed people aren’t black. Black and white people shouldn’t have kids together. If they do their babies come out r*tarded!” My heart began to race, my body froze, my eyes fought back tears. All my freshman self could do was sit still. A senior had just ended her tirade about interracial relationships and white women “stealing” black men with an attack that slapped me, a mixed girl, in the face. It was Racial Justice Day, my school’s attempt to recognize the experiences of the black and brown majority that composed most of the school. Yet, the day was not empowering for me. The morning of, I was in a play which resulted in me getting to school a third of the way through the day. I spent it as a lone wolf, going to classes by myself since my friends were placed in other groups. Just before the last block of the day, I rushed through the halls by myself trying to find a class that interested me. Instead of choosing one of the options that the “Blue Group” was given for the end of the day, I picked my own path. I decided on Black Girl Magic. My blackness was something I was still trying to understand and I was ready to embrace my magic. But to my shock, I wasn’t really black while I was in that room.

I entered room 327, the late spring sun beamed into the room creating a facade of comfort. It was occupied by a few chattering black girls, mostly upperclassmen and now me. Each class was supposed to have a teacher supervising but the German teacher decided that it would be more comfortable if he, a white man, was gone. The presenter was a senior, and she began a slideshow that I have no memory of. I waited expectantly to learn about “my magic” but within a few minutes, the girl sitting across the room from me became a witch.

“Mixed people aren’t black.” The girl cackled wickedly. The air suffocated me and no one was there to help. I looked through my foggy vision for support from the other mixed girl, a senior who stopped my older brother’s bullies in kindergarten, but we were both stunned. The discomfort in the room was palpable. Freeze: my chosen reaction was the opposite of fight which I would’ve expected. I opened my mouth to speak like I normally would but the words were caught in my throat.

Since middle school, I have considered myself an activist. I was never afraid to speak up for myself or others. I started clubs, went to protests, and have spoken in front of groups on issues relating to feminism and race. The absence of my voice at that moment still haunts me. Her words were a flashback to my insecure and confusing childhood.

My race was never clear to me. I was the little girl who asked “if I would be segregated” in my first-grade music class and who sat in the backseat of her friend’s mom’s car wishing that she could just be white because it would be “easier”. The fogginess around my race stemmed from my dad, an African man, who was barely in the picture, let alone in the state. I didn’t grow up having someone to teach me what it meant to be black in America. However, I did grow up knowing that I was black. Strangers questioning my mom about if I was biologically hers exposed me to an understanding that I couldn’t ever be white. I’m perceived as a light-skinned black woman. Black woman. My skin tone gives me privilege but it doesn’t change my race. I’m both black and white. Trying to understand who I am in this world lead me to activism.

On my own, I had to find an understanding of my race. I learned that blackness isn’t homogenous. I wasn’t turned off from exploring my racial identity that day. In fact, it has created more assurance of who I am. Racial Justice Day, in a backhanded way, has made me more interested in understanding my race. In the spaces I occupy, I use a diverse lense to understand people and our relationships with the places we inhabit. I value others’ opinions, even ones that hurt me. In college, I want to join a Black Student Union and racial equity groups because there is so much more to understand about race. Just because someone attacks your identity doesn’t mean you have to question who you are. That dreadful day in May forced me to turn my experience into an understanding of myself. I proudly identify as both black and mixed-race. I wish I could see that girl again and tell her that I am black and there is nothing she can do about it.


Rayna Acha

I spent hours between my mom’s legs as she delicately combed through my thick curly hair. Leave-in conditioners and fruity detanglers assisted in our journey. Sometimes I would cry, the tiniest pull upset my tender head. My mother felt frustrated each time we prepared to comb the beast whose kingdom was my head. Her thin straight hair was nothing like mine so she took her time trying to tame my hair with braids and barrettes. By fourth grade, we both wanted an easier solution. My mom wanted my hair to be cut short but I wasn’t comfortable with the thought. Chemicals were the option given in the media for hair like mine and both of us didn’t know any better. A “relaxer” was the solution but it only added to the underlying problem.

When I was young, my perception of myself was a direct reflection of western standards of beauty. Throughout the first fourteen years of my life, I looked down on myself for my African features and kinky hair. Since I was ashamed of my curly locks, I wore my hair in a bun for what felt like a lifetime. But in the summer before high school, my hair had a knot that I couldn’t comb out no matter how hard I tried. Trust me I tried. That resulted in me cutting most of my hair off. The cut was so short that I was then forced to wear it natural. When I first cut it I was worried that it would make me look less feminine, a fear that I had since childhood about short hair. Even though I understood that hair length has no correlation with femininity and masculinity I was nervous about how people would perceive me.

The “big chop”, what black women call cutting off their damaged hair in order to go natural, led me to process my relationship with my hair, and I broke down the mental barriers I had about beauty standards and femininity. I learned that natural black hair is beautiful and I started to take care of myself more. The beast I once tried to tame is now a way I express myself. Now I take pride in my hair. My hair has grown much longer, has been braided and pampered by me. It is my crown, a symbol of self-growth and a change in my opinion. Not only is my hair healthier but so is my idea of myself. I still have a long way to go in my journey towards self-love, but now I can navigate through magazines, social media, etc. and understand that what I see isn’t the only definition of beauty, it is just what our society has deemed as beautiful.


Based on a play by Julia Mann & Laura Mann Hill

with Veronica Quillien


Snow White

Summer 1988, I’m playing at my grandma’s house which was a tradition every Friday night. I was playing princess and making up a story and I said to my grandma, “I’m like Snow White.” Then, I paused looked at my skin and responded. “No – I’m more like the sidewalk.” Growing up I always thought about race, every day, as far back as I can remember. The ways I fit and didn’t fit into different spaces and places. My family and my grandparents on both sides, both black and white, have always been a big part of my story and finding my way in the world.



Family Roots

You have to understand your past to live in the present and move toward the future. Let’s start with my grandparents.


My mother’s side: My grandma Kitty Anderson is a white woman born in South Dakota, her Dutch and German ancestors came to America from Europe in the 1800s. In February, 2018, she passed on and joined the ancestors at 91 years old. In her last few years if you’d ask her how she was doing she would always reply with a touch of sarcasm, “Well, I can walk, talk and see.”


My Grandma was a hug influence on my life as I discovered who I was from childhood to adulthood. The stories she told us from our youth still echo in my head. She was say, there is something special about telling a story instead of reading it from a book, the way it brings people together. She loved anything that brought people together and I think she’s the reason I am a storyteller.


My father’s side: My grandpa, Richard Morris “Dick” Mann is a black man born in Minnesota who can trace his origins six generations to Starksville, Mississippi. Some of his ancestors were enslaved and transported to America from Africa and some of his ancestors were indigenous Americans. At 105 years old, he has seen the world change many times. My grandfather helped me understand what it means to be part of a community on a deeper level and I carry his many stories with me. I couldn’t begin to capture everything I wanted to say about him, but one story that shows a glimpse of who he is and how he shaped my identity is the You Tube story.


My grandpa is a You Tube Star. At 101, a neighbor captured him shoveling the neighbors walkways and posted the video on You Tube. The “101 Year Old Shoveler” video went viral! Over million views later, he had been featured and interviewed by local news stations. It has become a huge part of our family folklore and we still giggle when we share the stories with others.



What are you?

So, what are you? My answer to that question depends on the day and my mood. Usually, I just say – my dad is black and my mom is white.


September 1983, my parents Richard Mann and Peggy Anderson were legally married in the state of Minnesota. I was born in 1984 and my sister Julia was born 3 years later. My parents raised us with lots of love. My mom told us that when we were babies, my mom said people would look at her puzzled and ask where’d you get her? And my mom would say,  while she sat their breastfeeding, “She’s mine.”


In the book, Of Many Colors, they ask, “ What is it about the mixing of the races that bothers people so? It seems like the most divisive issue is not that two adults join in matrimony, but that the adults will produce children. Children who are born into the great chasm of America’s racial divide. Children who defy traditional racial categorization and in doing so become threats to-and victims of America’s entry concept of race and the social order that has been built upon in.”


So where does that leave us?


Before 1983 The One Drop rule remained as law in many states. The one-drop rule, you ask? The percentage of black blood making up a person’s biological profile was another tool to categorize, label, and restrict a persons rights and freedom. The categories were…


0% black blood = white

⅛ = octoroon

¼ = quadroon

½ = mulatto

¾ = Griffe

⅞ = sacatra

1 = negro

Hey, how about measuring white blood percentage

0% white blood = black

⅛ = octocasian

¼ = quadqasian

½ = salt and pepper

¾ = melinated

⅞ = oatmeal with a touch of raisin

1= white



In college, my roommate asked me, “If you are half black and half white. Why do you identify as a black woman, but not a white woman?”


Black or white or what? (Repeated)


Are you Puerto Rican? Dominican? You must be Mexican? Are you sure you’re not Puerto Rican?


We’ve been called…

Mixed, mulatto, biracial, interracial, exotic, twisted, ½ and ½, Blended,milk chocolate, multiple identities, high yellow, oreo, mocha, all mixed up, and our favorite – ethnically ambiguous….


My parents always got us lots of culturally affirming books. This is one of my favorites and it came with a tape, my mom would put it on and my sister and I would dance around the living room singing…Brown Girl in the Ring.


In 2002 I began my freshman year at Hamline University. Let’s just say my college years at a predominately white institution were my Dear White People years….


June 2006 I graduated from college and moved out of Minnesota to Brooklyn, NY to teach middle school and I finally found room to breathe. (BREATHE IN. BREATHE OUT)


Audre Lorde writes, “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”

In Brooklyn, I was just another brown face in a beautiful sea of black and brown and tan. And I rarely was singled out to define my culture or heritage. Walking around Bed-Stuy I never felt out of place and nobody ever questioned how American I was or wasn’t, so mostly I could just be.


I realized I am not just here to solve race problem or try to capture everyone’s experience as a person with a multicultural or multiracial background. There are many layers to my identity and culture. I hold my familys’ love and stories and the knowledge of my ancestors to reclaim my story and my truth, For me it’s a personal journey of healing that continues as I speak these words and remind myself of my power. My black is beautiful.


Getting married and becoming a parent were transformational, evolving experiences, that allows me to reflect back at my past and have clarity about the future. Our oldest daughter, Amira Hill was born in January 2010 in BROOKLYN, NY and she has her own ideas about race and identity


Ask Amira about her ancestry and she’ll tell you, “We are all from Africa!”