Independent Minds, Working Together

Speaker to Discuss Impact of Multi-Racial Identity on Oct. 9

Author damali ayo will share her story at The College of Wooster

October 4, 2013 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Author damali ayo will talk about how she discovered her true heritage as a multi-racial woman when she speaks at The College of Wooster on Wednesday, Oct. 9. Her presentation, titled “Becoming Multiracial” is a multi-media event featuring strong visuals and memorable stories in which she shares a vulnerable journey through the changes in her racial identity while offering fresh and generous insight into the concepts of understanding and acceptance. The event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7 p.m. in Gault Recital Hall of Scheide Music Center (525 E. University St.).

The author of two books and several essays for National Public Radio as well as a contributor to four anthologies, ayo has delivered keynote presentations across North America, and her work has appeared in more than 100 publications world-wide, including Harpers, The Village Voice, The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, The Chicago Tribune, and Redbook Magazine, as well as Salon.com and Book TV. She also appeared on Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor.”

ayo grew up believing that despite her light complexion, she was 100 percent black. This notion was reinforced by her mother, who prevented her from having white dolls or white heroes, and even eating white bread. The pressure to conform to this belief often led to physical confrontations with those who suggested that she might be partially white. Then one day her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, so she decided to disclose her full family history.

It turned out that her great grandparents were of Italian descent, and suddenly the face in her mirror began to change. “Accepting a multiracial identity is risky,” says ayo on her website. “I built a career on being black. Some fans of my work on racism have already accused me of abandoning blackness and taking the easy light skinned way out. But this is not easy. It affects my family, my work, and my self-image. It changed my reality.”

ayo adds that she is both black and multiracial. “I am all of my races,” she says. “I am African American, English, Italian, and Blackfoot, and not in small percentages (but) in big identity-rebooting chunks. These groups have a difficult history, and I have to reconcile and forgive that history in order to live as myself. This truth brought me peace. Now that I understood who I am, I wondered what damali 2.0 really wanted out of life. Identifying as multiracial is still controversial. It is time for us to recognize the elephant in the room that I have lived with all my life.”

Additional information about ayo’s presentation is available by phone (330-263-2009) or e-mail.