"Let's see if people are looking at us": Donna & Craig in The Loving Project

Logo of The Loving Project

 

How can you tell if a neighborhood is diverse? Realtors skirt questions and residents get uncomfortable, so there aren’t really easy solutions.

But if you’re an interracial couple at a time when your marriage was just barely legal, you investigate this question by putting your own relationship on the line and watching how many people in the local grocery store stare at you. Talk about hard and uncomfortable truths.

That’s what I heard--and was startled by--when I listened to Craig and Donna’s podcast in the More Perfect Union gallery. They moved to Teaneck, New Jersey as an interracial couple in the 1980s, right after the Loving v. Virginia decision that gave them rights to marry around the country.

It’s minute but richly complicated stories like that that I saw captured by Farrah Parkes and Brad Linder in their yearlong podcast series, The Loving Project. One of their episodes is featured in A More Perfect Union, and you can listen to the rest on the project website. Be sure to go to their own multimedia exhibit on June 24, too--all our Philly-based efforts to talk about interracial relationships are awesome to see.

As an interracial couple living in Philadelphia, Parkes and Linder talk about own experiences, and I got to listen when I met them at the First Friday opening gallery. For one, Parkes acknowledged that “people don’t necessarily look at us and think, oh, they’re a couple.” And assumptions like that do affect the dynamics of mixed-race families, whether it’s family members who don’t approve or the quest to “instill a healthy sense of identity” among multiracial children.

I love that the project celebrates Loving v. Virginia in a way that continues and adds to the conversation on interracial marriage--its quirks, challenges, and also considerable social progress made throughout the decades. For a medium with no visual cues, podcasts add the personal and intimate tone that’s needed to tell those stories. Linder also pointed out that not being able to see the faces of interviewees adds an extra layer to the assumptions we make when we’re listening.

Parkes and Linder have spent a lot of time (“all our free time”) on this work, and they’ve brought out messages that I want to always remind myself of. One of them, in Parkes’ words, is “remembering that you have to fight for equality, and it comes in lots of different factors [whether interracial marriage in 1967 or marriage equality in 2015].” That’s hard work, and we investigate and celebrate it when participating in The Loving Project and A More Perfect Union.

“Things have changed in a lot of ways,” Linder wisely told me, “and it’s easy to take for granted that it wasn’t always like this.”


Asian Arts Initiative is lucky to have Communications intern, Amy Xu, as a blogger this summer season. She will be covering our current gallery exhibit, A More Perfect Union: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Loving v. Virginia and the 2017 Pearl Street SeasonCheck out more blog posts HERE!

The views and opinions expressed in the blog posts are the author's own and does not necessarily reflect that of the organization and its employees.