Ryan Alexander Holmes Part 2

Ryan Alexander Holmes Part 2

Anika Chabra

"Grandmas are like Goddesses."


Aren't they? In Part Two of our interview we hear Ryan's softer side including the people, traditions, and rituals that make Ryan, Ryan. All through the lens of his mixed heritage, we hear Ryan's perspective on why being sad isn't so bad, how he's connected with his deceased family members through his dreams, and how love through unique cultural ways is still love. All heart, all love, all Ryan.


About our guest: Ryan Alexander Holmes is an actor, and content creator based out of Los Angeles. He is known for his strong presence on social media where he uses comedy and writing to explore and embrace his mixed Chinese/African American heritage. Follow Ryan on Instagram and Tik Tok @ryanalexh


Reminder to rate and review our podcast on Apple - it helps other like-minded people find our pod and grows this beautiful community! If you’d like to tell us your story or chat about your thoughts on culture, family, and heritage, we always love to chat. Find us on social @rootandseedco and subscribe to our newsletter to never miss a Root & Seed moment.


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Episode Transcript



If we're talking about grandmothers, it's just interesting to see the raw power that you have as a matriarch. Everyone looks up to you. You literally created all these lives, right? Including mine, and just the grace with which you carry yourself,


Having created all this life, you're like a goddess? And all the wealth of experience and knowledge that you have. Just to be in your presence and to receive any knowledge that you do have is a blessing.



Welcome back to Root and Seed, a podcast about tradition seekers who are sparked to explore, define and celebrate their family and cultural identity. I'm your host, Anika Chabra. Okay, so season five we're talking to some amazing people about identity and how their culture, heritage and family have shaped them.


Did you listen to episode one and did it blow your minds like it did ours? The elegance by which Ryan Alexander Holme explains ownership of his background is something that you simply don't want to miss.


Quick recap, Ryan is a content creator, an actor and an activist. Last episode, we dug into how the experiences of his Chinese and black parents influenced him as a person, but he also has this incredibly insightful first person lens on being mixed race.


We go deep and get him to reflect on his relationships with his siblings, his grandmas, both black and Chinese and his extended families, to see how things like representation of something as simple as love can be so culturally specific. He explains his observations on cultural traditions, rituals and personalities in a way that is playful, yet thought provoking allowing it to be relatable to people from all sorts of backgrounds.


We know Ryan is funny, but in this episode, we get to see a piece of his heart. So let's cut to the chase here's part two.


What do you love most about both sides of your culture individually?



Black people are very expressive about their love and I really love that. Like when I'm with my black family I feel that love and its jokes and we're laughing and we're cracking on each other and it's very physical and very outwardly emotional. On my Chinese not so much that, it's acts of service. We do things for each other and we're always there for each other. And that's not to say that one side doesn't do either of those things, it's just an emphasis and it's cultural. So like if I know some stuff is going down I know that both sides of my family will be there for sure. But I look at my Chinese side and I'm like, oh, okay. You may not be there to comfort me emotionally in the way that I feel necessarily would be most beneficial for me, but I know you're always gonna be there. And what's amazing is I can just go to my black side and get that, it's the best of both worlds.


And sometimes I get frustrated because I'll talk about the strengths of both and then people will comment and be like, well, you think black people don't have that? Or you think Chinese people aren't that? I'm like, no, you said that. I just talked about the strengths and I guess what's great about being mixed is that you get both of those things.

I get to experience them both fully. Something that helped me a lot was understanding, yes I'm a hundred percent black, a hundred percent Chinese, but just because these people don't think I look Chinese doesn't mean that I don't look Chinese. You've just never seen a Chinese person look like me before, and that's okay.


I'm not delusional too. I'm not going to die by that statement. Yes, I understand, to the person that's looking at me, I don't look Chinese, but to me, I do and there's a difference. And that is going to change the way that I think about myself and carry myself in the world. I'm not bending to other people's standards of who I am. I have Chinese blood in my veins, I am Chinese. Therefore I do look Chinese, just not to you and that's fine. I'm not going to try to force you to think that I look Chinese, but to me when I look in the mirror, I'm Chinese.



I'm really into mindset work and there's this really interesting concept of living your life from the inside out versus the outside in. And to me, as you were saying those words, I'm like, Ryan lives from the inside out, right? So you've claimed, you understand who you are, your identity's super strong. You've got convictions, opinions, but you're willing to listen. I could tell that from you, from even having this short conversation. You don't sound too preachy. There's just a tonality and a vibe to you and the way that you're bringing stuff out into the world that I appreciate that I don't think that we could actually get from anybody but Ryan and I think that's super cool



And that's not even like an ego thing because it's just, what I realize is like, there's no one that could do the things that I do the way that I do them if I'm doing them completely, authentically and real. It's really not narcissism. It's just like no one can do the things that I do if I'm doing them from my core center, my authentic, sincere center.



I love that. Wow, I feel like single culture people can learn so much from that because I think actually sometimes we get pigeonholed so strongly into one narrative. To my point earlier about my family moving from India to England to Canada and I thought had the same old story. But unless I started to unpack it and really embrace it and understand it and dive deeper into it, I understand the gifts that were there, the nuances, the uniqueness. I painted myself with the brush of everybody else in the world and I didn't understand what my gifts are and until I then launched this platform with Jen, the stuff that she's learned is crazy.


I gotta tell you this. What she learned and I'm not all about the past either because that's why we're Root & Seed. We're all about root, the past and then the seed, which is the future. She learned that she comes from four generations of women who have married outside of their culture. Mixed religion, mixed ethnicity, mixed citizenship. She used to think that she was the black sheep and now she's like, I'm the mold. There's something comforting in that. I'm doing what my ancestors did.



And finding community too, because once you start to realize who you are you can find the people who are just like you actually.



So you talked a little bit about what your life was like growing up in your household and I love that. You transported me back into your household, which I thought was really cool. Talk to me a little bit about the traditions and rituals that you practiced that you hold dear to your heart and potentially want to have exist for generations to come.



Yeah, I'm just so glad that it's just become such a commonplace in my family. I think what's funny is that when I do share these things like Lunar New Year and Mid Autumn Festival where we're giving out moon cakes. It's so funny to see people's reactions because they're like, what, you celebrate that? Huh? It's like, yeah, I've celebrated since I was a year old. I think what they're responding to is just the way that I look. The person that's doing it, they see a black or light-skinned Brazilian-looking person celebrating the innermost gems of Chinese culture and it astounds them.


The thing that I really love about Chinese culture is the respect to the ancestors. We burn paper money at the grave of our ancestors and at the dinner table we will have our own dinner and then we'll have a separate dinner table for our ancestors and burn incense on that table. We have a picture of our grandpa, it's what we do every year and we burn incense and basically prepare a whole meal for him. And no one eats that meal and I want to keep that going too for every generation or our family that passes. And I hope to instill in my kids and my brothers are doing it with their kids as well.


This tradition that lives on and it almost transcends culture. It's a part of culture, but we're all mixed up. My oldest brother's married to a Filipino and they have a kid and my middle brother's married, she's half black, half Austrian, and Portuguese. So they're bringing in their cultural traditions too mixed with ours and I don't see any reason why we can't all mix all the things together and create our own sort of culture that's just a mixture of everything. But there are certain things that I'd love to keep going because when I say it transcends culture it's just a respect for your ancestors and you do it in a certain way.


The tradition keeps those people's grasp on us, their love for us still alive and very visceral as opposed to just being like, oh, yeah, we'll visit Grandma's grave every couple years. No, we'll do a tradition where we put her picture and we create a meal for her. This is more like you said, a tradition, but, what's the word?



A ritual?



A ritual yes! A ceremony that sort of ingrains in yourself and also in the family that you're doing it with that this person was very important to me and by proxy is very important to you. And that creates also a place for the sharing of stories about this person that the younger person may not even have met or known about.


So those are things that I'm gonna continue to do on my Chinese side. On my black side, my dad is a basically a grio, a griot. However, you pronounce it, it's a storyteller in African culture. A Grio who tells stories about the whole lineage of a village. My dad sort of serves as that to our family because he was always talking about great grandmama Bueller, the things that she taught him and a lot of stories of him growing up with his cousins and going to his aunt's house and stories about my grandma who's still alive and remembering his father and then his father's father, his father telling him about his father's father and so I'm going to keep that alive to.


And the ceremony and the ritual helps me do that. Imagine, not just Chinese faces in front of the incense, but also black family members' faces in front of the incense. And that's like a perfect mixture of these stories and that's the beauty of it being both. Everything can be a part of everything. I'm a hundred percent black, a hundred percent Chinese and those traditions for me, as I continue down, my lineage can go together. And it's beautiful and it's fine and no one can tell me not to do it. No one can say, you can't do this. It's like, yes, I can! Who are you?



Oh, I love that. Oh my God, I love that so much. I can actually imagine you doing that. I really can. Right? Like why not? I also, having gone through grief very intimately love the idea that that creates a relationship with the deceased because their physical body is gone, doesn't mean your relationship with them has ended. Which is very different than the western world way of dealing with loss. My relationship with her is continuing, she's just not physically here.



Yeah, and I love that because I have dreams about my grandpa and I'll be speaking fluent Chinese with him. He'll me life lessons and stuff and then you know when you wake up from a dream that felt really real. Like I wake up from that dream and be like, oh yeah I'll just go to grandpa's house and continue this conversation. Oh wait, oh wait, he's been dead for 10 years. That's crazy. That is really understanding how much of an impact that person had in your life and then those moments, when I suddenly realize, oh, damn, he has been dead for 10 years. Well, at least I got to experience what it felt like for him to be alive again in those few little waking moments after that dream that felt good. It's a net gain you know what I mean? It's not a negative. It's not like, oh damn, now I'm sad. It's like, no, I got to experience 10 seconds of my grandpa feeling alive on this earth.



Totally! Oh yeah, people think if they bring up my mother's name somehow I'm gonna get sad. I'm freaking sad all the time.



What’s wrong with being sad?



What is wrong with being sad?



Especially if it’s a quality sadness.



Talk about your grandmothers. You've talked about your black grandmother today, but I've seen a lot of content with your Asian grandmother and I want to hear what is it about those women that makes you who you are, but also just makes you light up when you talk about.



I grew up with my Chinese grandma. She raised me, she was always there. She's a part of who I am because she was always there. She was there throughout all my formative years. I had the blessing of having her geographically close to me. My black grandma is in Jacksonville, Florida. She's very far away, but even then she's also still had a huge impact on me. We go there every year and it's such a family affair when I'm there because grandmas are the glue. She's the glue on that side of the family and so her house is sort of like a meeting grounds for everybody.


My dad had nine brothers and sisters and my dad just became a grandpa through my brothers. But his brothers and sisters are like great, great grandparents, you know? So they have all these cousins that I'm in contact with too and I think, if we're talking about grandmothers, it's just interesting to see the raw power that you have as a matriarch. Everyone looks up to you. You literally created all these lives, including mine and just the grace with which you carry yourself having created all this life, you're like a goddess. And all the wealth of experience and knowledge that you have. Just to be in your presence and to receive any knowledge that you do have is a blessing and to receive the love because there's so much love.


Granted, my grandma on my dad's side on the black side is going to express her love differently than my grandma on my mom's side, on the Chinese side. But it's love, I don't judge how it's coming out. I also am very understanding of the cultural lens through which it's coming out of and so I view it differently and there is no need to compare, it's just love. I hope that answers the question.



You know what? It really does and it points to another thing that we've kind of discovered is the ability of understanding someone else's story and the power of understanding someone else's story in building empathy. So you don't judge when your Asian grandma doesn't hug you. I can't tell you how many times my dad took me to the airport this holiday season. That was his act of love. How many times did he tell me he loved me...this many times.



I will say, which is a beautiful thing is that my Chinese side has sort of changed and sort of like met, I guess me in the middle because I'm both and same as the black side with the Asian side. My grandma didn't really say I love you a lot, but now every time I say it and I say it in Chinese, she'll say it back. And even if she doesn't, I'm not like, my grandma doesn't love me because she didn't say it. I think what I've learned too is like what you said, there are ways that different people express love.


Who the hell am I to tell someone else that they need to love me in the way that I want them to love me? That's so selfish. I'm so glad that I realize that because it's made me see and appreciate the love that I've received my whole life from people that really do love me. It's a very egotistical thing to want the love in the way that you want it when they're giving it to you all the time in different ways.



It's selfish and if you don't have the self-awareness that you have and the ability to receive because you have the blockers down, you have society telling you the right way. You have film and movie advertising, I used to be in the industry for two decades. Like all those things are telling you the right and the wrong way. You have broken down those things and then you've also built up this ability to receive which I think is so beautiful.


How one shows love and affection is just one of the ways that we're living in a world that is no longer binary and Ryan is right to call it.


After this episode, it truly feels that we know Ryan and his story feels complete. There are elements in culture and heritage that we take for granted because we live it. In some ways, it just feels normal, but for Ryan because he sees and lives two cultures, he can distinctly appreciate the differences.

It's such a special perspective to come from a mixed family.


We're only two episodes in for season five, and we can't wait to share more around identity, culture and heritage. Next episode, we travel from LA back to Toronto to interview notable photographer George Pimentel, a second generation Portuguese Canadian whose admiration for his culture is simply contagious.


Root & Seed is hosted by me, Anika Chabra, executive produced by Jenn Siripong Mandel, and edited by Emily Groleau and Camille Blais. Bye for now.


Episode Credits

Hosted by: Anika Chabra

Brought to you by: Root & Seed

Executive Producer: Jennifer Siripong Mandel

Edited by: Camille Blais

Music credit: Something 'bout July (Instrumental) by RYYZN


Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0

Free Download / Stream: http://bit.ly/-_something-bout-july

Music promoted by Audio Library https://youtu.be/OFga9pkl6RU

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