Kia Yun Stevenson-Haynes

Name

Kia Yun Stevenson-Haynes

Age

36

Location

Arlington, VA

Occupation

By profession a preschool teacher, but currently a SAHM to my sons.

Own Words

Growing up on a military base, I assumed everyone was like me as most of my neighbors and friends were “hapas,” half-Korean/half American, so I never thought I was “special.” However, when my parents divorced and Mom went back to Korea, my younger brother and I were relocated to the Washington, DC area and my hapa world got so much smaller. I fast became a novelty. People, especially women, would love to play with my hair and marvel at the texture and I was constantly mislabeled as Polynesian. It didn’t make me feel special, it made me feel different. I was young and not really too into my heritage but for some reason, rather than try and meld in with those who singled me out and pretend to be an “all-American,” I was actually more driven to be diverse and embracing my Korean half became a big part of me. It was my way of not being made to feel weird about who I was, rather, to feel empowered. I made sure that my brother and I celebrated, to the best of our abilities, the traditional Korean holidays and for the ethnic festivals held at school I’d pull out my traditional green and red hanbok and wear it proudly. I would also attempt to prepare Korean dishes as best as I could from the memories of seeing my mom cook, trying hard to duplicate the taste as I remembered it. Some people got it, some people said I was trying to be something I wasn’t. (I never understood that.)

Fast forward to many years later and I am now grown with two young sons. The birth of my boys is the reason I’ve stepped up my efforts to learn more about Korean culture and expand my knowledge – even though they are only a quarter Korean, I want them to recognize how important their heritage is to me and should be to them. Both boys had Baek-il parties and big Tol celebrations, dressed in hanboks and gold rings, and I immerse them in the culture whenever I can, taking them to local celebrations/exhibitions and even encouraging them to listen to Korean pop — my sons are huge Super Junior fans! I’ve joined a few local Korean community groups and I’ve started taking a wonderful Korean language class which I adore. I used to be apprehensive about putting myself in a social setting with Koreans because I thought I was too different and too American to fit in, but I am so glad I did and wish I had done so sooner. I feel so blessed by the connections and friends I’ve made and I! have to say that I truly love my heritage and my culture and my people. I definitely have Korean pride.

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