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Jen Chau Forms Swirl, Unites Communities

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Signs of a New Identity,  Jen Chau and Swirl

Image from the book Blended Nation by Mike Tauber.

The daughter of a white Jewish mother and a Chinese father, Jen Chau (right) felt like a misfit growing up. So in 2000, Chau started a meet-up group in New York City called Swirl, for multiracial people who wanted to escape isolation and form their own networks. Her first meeting, publicized only by word of mouth, drew 40 people.

The New York membership of Swirl has since grown to 500 people, Chau estimates. Eleven other chapters have opened across the country. The activities of each group depend on its membership, ranging from book clubs and discussion groups to happy hours and film screenings.

In Miami, for example, Jen Steven has built a Swirl community of mixed-race families who meet for play dates. “Traditionally kids have grown up in an environment where they’re pressured to pick one race or the other,” she said. “It was important to me to develop a community where individuals and families of mixed heritage could feel at home.”

Berit Anderson wrote this piece for America: The Remix, the Spring 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Berit is an editorial intern at YES!


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