Welcome back to Watermelon Sushi World! This week, Your Hip Hapa profiles Arana, founder of The Topaz Club, along with member Deborah Braxton. That's Arana, below, seated at the center of the table surrounded by Chicago Branch members at the celebration of TTC's 6th year anniversary last January.
Q: Arana, what is The Topaz Club and what does its name mean?
A: The Topaz Club is an online-based sisterhood for biracial/multiracial women who are of partial African/African American descent and are mixed with other heritages. The name “Topaz” is taken from the yellow/golden topaz that has varying shades of yellow, orange and brown. These colors represent the beauty and range of our skin hues.
Q: What inspired you to start and lead this organization?
A: When I founded TTC in January 2004, at Yahoo! Groups, I wasn’t inspired at first to form the sisterhood that it has grown to become. However, in seeing the immediate and sudden growth of membership--and in seeing the need for the members to bond and connect to each other, it was at that point that I became deeply motivated to build a strong family and community of and for Afro-biracial/multiracial women.
Q: How did you grow up?
A: My mother is a multigenerationally-mixed woman of African American and English/Irish/German/Dutch descent. My father, who is also multigenerationally-mixed, is of African American and English/French/Italian/Creole/Choctaw and Comanche descent.
I grew up in a home where my family didn’t really care about [multi]racial or [multi]ethnic identifications. My family tended to go with the trend of identifying with how society viewed them to be as only African American. I believe that this had to do with the Jim Crow laws and One-Drop Rule of the day. They knew about our multiracial/multiethnic family backgrounds, but did not often speak about them. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I knew for myself that an African American racial/ethnic identification did not accurately describe who I am and what I racially/ethnically am. And it doesn’t. I’m proud to belong to all of my racial/ethnic groups.
Q: How does the new community at Ning differ from the original Yahoo! community where The Topaz Club was founded?
A: Our new online community at Ning is an entire cyber network where our former online community at Yahoo! operated as an email-based listserv. At Ning, the Topaz sisters are able to see each other through their profile pictures as they communicate with each other, participate in special-interest groups, share blogs and videos with the community, and connect to each other at our bi-weekly chats at the site.
Q: Aside from its online community presence, what other activities and events does The Topaz Club offer?
A: The Topaz Club is slowly growing and evolving beyond its cyber community. TTC has several branches that host occasional social gatherings and outings in Chicago, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay area. Right now, we’re working on establishing a foundation of TTC branches in Dallas, Houston, Washington D.C., and Minneapolis/St.Paul. We had our first National Get Together in Chicago in August 2006. We’ll have our second National Get Together on a cruise to the Bahamas in December 2011.
Q: What are some of The Topaz Club’s goals?
A: Right now, the three main goals that The Topaz Club seeks to accomplish are: to increase membership at our online community and in the branch cities mentioned above; to establish a stronger foundation of our already-existing branches; and, hopefully, to establish our national home base in one U.S. city with active chapters eventually in other U.S. cities.
Q: What will women joining The Topaz Club gain from becoming a part of this sisterhood?
A: Women who join The Topaz Club will become a part of a growing network of professional, educated, and sophisticated ladies who come from different walks of life and share the same bond of being biracial/multiracial and of African/African American descent. They will have the opportunity to connect with other members both online and in person, and to make a positive impact on the growth and success of the sisterhood through their involvement in various areas of leadership within it.
Q: How can women join The Topaz Club?
A: We are always looking for new women to become a part of the Topaz sisterhood. They can join us by signing up for membership at http://thetopazclub.ning.com or contacting us at email@example.com
TTC sisterhood member Deborah Braxton is the daughter of an English, Irish, Scottish, and German blended mother and an African American, English, Irish multigenerational father. That's her in the photo below as a child and beneath that, wearing a white shirt, at the San Francisco Bay Area TTC branch luncheon in 2007.
Q: How did you grow up, Deborah?
A: I grew up my first 10 years in a racially charged part of Philadelphia. I lived in a "black" housing development. Literally, right across the railroad tracks (which were approximately 50 feet from our front door) was a white neighborhood. There were often bottle fights between our neighborhoods. Commonly used words were "nigger, cracker and honkey". My mother even called us "Honkenigs".
Shortly after my father’s death, we moved to a more integrated housing development that seemed to be more racially balanced, but it wasn't.
I grew up with a very clear understanding of racism. I am a very light-skinned woman and often "pass" for white or Latina. This has made me privy to "insider information" within the white world. Sadly, I often heard (and occasionally still hear) prejudicial statements, opinions and the like that were (are) not meant to be said around a person of color.
Q: What’s your involvement in The Topaz Club?
A: I am the Chair Representative for the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter.
Q: What are some activities that you’ve participated in through your involvement with the Topaz sisterhood?
A: I have organized and attended a few dinners here in the Bay Area, and attended the Founders Celebration in Chicago in 2007.
Q: How has The Topaz Club supported you as a multiethnic woman?
A: I am blessed to have found a group of women that truly understands my life experiences as a mixed woman of African American descent. I find that if needed, The Topaz Club can be an excellent site for venting, and education.
Thanks, Deborah and ladies of the TTC sisterhood!
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'til we meet again, I shall remain..
Your Hip Hapa,