Maya Stevenson

Maya Stevenson

Writing

What comes to mind when you hear the word identity?

I guess I think of being like, half black and half Japanese.

What values do you think you embrace most from those two cultures? How has your identity influenced your values?

I guess culturally, my mom always taught me about tradition and honor and that those are very important values for our family. Like, respecting your elders- I know those all sound very stereotypical, but those are definitely things that my mom really stressed growing up. And I think that gave me a really good sense of respect for authority and discipline. And then My dad is like, the complete opposite. I mean, he respects people but at the same time, he says, “You’ve gotta say what’s on your mind.” He’s very very vocal, and his whole thing was always just being true to yourself. Be who you are, be unapologetic, and embrace whatever that means to you. So those two, my Dad being very outspoken, and my mom being very reserved, I think I’m a little bit more like my mom. I’m a lot more reserved. But I’d like to think that I have both of those cultural influences and values at my core. I try to be who I am and bring that to everything that I do. But I’m also a little bit more soft-spoken about it, I guess.

Those two different backgrounds- how do you think they influence each other? Are there areas of overlap or conflict? They are pretty different.

What’s a good way to say it… I grew up with very a Japanese-heavy household, culturally. Then I grew up in a predominantly White community. At the same time, though, everybody perceives me as being black. So I feel like that influenced a lot of the ways that I acted. Value wise, though, I would say that whatever is at my core is at my core and I took that wherever I went.

How did your environment contribute to your identity? The way I think about it, in the home is where you learn values, and outside is where you kind of put them to the test. See whether or not you really abide by those values, agree with them or disagree with them. Did growing up in an environment that was different from your household influence that?

Well my dad very much stressed those values, and my mom was very supportive of them too, that you should love you who are- especially our diversity. I was very different. But I think I struggled with that a lot- going to school as someone that was different; if there was any question about Martin Luther King, everyone just wanted me to answer it. I think that also being a woman as well, it’s very difficult to be in an environment where you don’t look like anyone. Also, just not looking fully like my mom. Growing up I never really saw that. My dad was the one who did my hair. I think it was just a bit of…I think I’m in the midst of finding out who I am. Very much always trying to be something to fit in, wasn’t really focused on figuring out who I was… I guess in that sense, it was different at home versus at school because at home I was around people who I felt looked more like me or celebrated the cultures that I came from so I was able to be like, I had a voice, versus at school, I very much felt like if I said anything I was representing all black people. So in that sense, those values just kind of being myself. I felt like I couldn’t be.

How would you describe your connection to Georgetown’s AAPI community?

Well, I know people that are in it, but I don’t have too many Asian friends at Georgetown… and I’m just having this realization sitting here with you right now. Yeah, it’s really interesting. I think a lot of my friends are mixed or brown. I think it’s about making a conscious effort to meet different kinds of people, or get involved in certain things. When I got here I was lucky to meet my friends, but I didn’t involve myself in anything that was specifically cultural at all.

 

Interview by Michael Mullaney

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