Growing up without a Black community, Mia Nevarez didn’t always feel confident in her identity as a Black woman. However, after what Navarez describes as an “explosive” time in her life over the past year, she says she’s feeling more comfortable in her Blackness for the first time. (KCAW/Tash Kimmell)

Throughout February, in honor of Black History Month, KCAW’s Tash Kimmell spoke with Black Sitkans to better under stand what the Black experience looks like in a small Alaska Town. For the fourth installment of Black in Sitka, she met with city maintenance worker, Mia Nevarez. Listen Below:

My name is Mia Nevarez. I’m 22 years old. And I’ve lived in Sitka for like 14 [or] 15 years. I moved from Los Angeles when I was seven. Living there, being there until seven impacted me, but definitely Sitka has been, like, my home.

My mom is Black and white, and my dad is Mexican American. It’s been interesting, because like, my mom’s the only biracial person in her family growing up, so she doesn’t quite see herself as Black. And especially growing up here, like, LA is definitely much more diverse. And then coming here, I had a bit of a weird kind of a separation of like, how I saw myself. Like, I didn’t see myself as Black for a really long time. And especially growing up and doing activities, looking around and being like, I’m surrounded by a majority of like, white people. Only recently have I been able to be confidently like, I am a Black woman.

Talk to me more about growing up in an all white community and then that shift into then being like ‘I am, I see myself as a Black woman, and I’m comfortable in that.

I think a lot of it had to do with like, especially in conversations, feeling like I had the right to say things. Especially like, leading up to certain community events that took place, and especially with like, the BLM stuff, was a bit explosive time for me.

Growing up here you, like hear a lot of things being said, some pretty racist stuff, and finally being like, I think I’m allowed to kind of be like, ‘that’s like not okay.’ Having those conversations is really interesting and hard. I think there’s a lot of shame that comes with it from people that I discuss it with that are white. It’s painful for both sides, I think. I’m glad that people do have those conversations with me, but the combination of being Black and supporting BLM, and like, the interactions I have that are negative, I’m like ‘Ooh, this is very blatantly not okay.’ So I have aggression sometimes that’s passive, sometimes not so passive. And it’s kind of an interesting trying to manage my own feelings with it. 

 Was it hard to not have a Black community kind of around you at that, like, explosive time in your life?

Thankfully, I have a lot of really strong Tlingit women definitely supporting me and like, being able to have these discussions with me. So it’s really cool having that support, like, because they’re incredibly strong, especially dealing with racism to the Native community in this town. So, having that definitely got me through a lot.

 I grew up with in a predominantly white community as well. And so it always felt like I had to kind of like define Blackness for myself, because I never had like many Black role models in my life. Was that a process you went through?

It’s hard. Because a lot of Black culture has become so mainstream, like, how much of it impacting me, especially living in this town. That’s, like, my only kind of input from the community, like, the Black community, is from media, and what I see online, unfortunately.  

Is there anything else you want to add? I don’t know. For people to know about approaching a person of color or just like anything at all?

Don’t touch people’s hair. That’s such a big one. And like comparing how someone’s like, affects or personality is white. It can be super damaging to someone young.

Do you think you’ll stay in Alaska?

 Alaska is a cool place to be. But especially the last couple years, it’s a little bit of a hard decision to make. Because of the lack of like, progressive thinking, which is kind of interesting, like pros and cons to make.