Michael Fosberg always thought he was white, but in his early 30s, he found out that his biological father was black.
Fosberg has been performing “Incognito,” his one-man play chronicling the discovery of his true heritage, for more than ten years.
“I’m just a guy who went out to search for my dad,” Fosberg said.
He put on an abridged version of his play in Tivoli Turnhalle for those attending the Higher Education Diversity Summit, a tri-institutional event April 11.
Looking like the average white guy in blue jeans and dark glasses, Fosberg fills his production with impersonations of friends and family. He goes from the high falsetto of his British girlfriend to the deep growl of his newfound grandfather with ease. Those who know his family say his impersonations are dead on.
Raised in a working-class family by his stepfather and Armenian mother, Fosberg always thought he was one of two white players on his high school basketball team.
“I always felt a deep connection to African-American culture,” Fosberg said.
He went looking for his biological father after his mom and stepfather divorced.
Fosberg’s black family embraced him without question, but his younger siblings, children of his mother and stepfather, were uneasy about the discovery. They wondered why he went looking for his father when he already had one, theirs.
His black grandmother’s soul food was a revelation for him, and he was astounded to find out how much he looked like his father.
When they met, his dad said, “Jesus Christ, you’re a good lookin’ kid,” according to Fosberg.
His maternal grandfather was a childhood hero to him and Fosberg had a tough time after learning his maternal grandparents were the reason that he never knew his biological father.
Like many new immigrants, they thought that everyone should marry within their own ethnic group. Fosberg’s mother admitted to him that if his skin had been darker, his life would’ve been much different. Fosberg was excited to get to know this new and welcoming branch of his family, but confused about where he now fit into the world.
“A box doesn’t tell you who I am,” Fosberg said. “I’m more than a label. I’m more than a race.”
Some audience members in Turnhalle found Fosberg’s story surprising.
“It was really interesting,” said Dr. Bill Carnes, a management professor at Metro. “I’d never heard of anyone who’d grown up one race and learned they were something different.”
A discussion followed the play, and Fosberg encouraged the audience to ask questions.
Fosberg thinks that just talking about race is a step in the right direction.
“There is very little dialogue about race in white families and with their children,” Fosberg said.
Sujie Kim, a higher education graduate student at UCD, wishes she could bring all her students to see “Incognito.”
“It brought up a lot of stuff I think needs to be talked about,” she said.
Fosberg’s siblings have come around to his new identity in the past few years, and his friends have always been accepting.
“My friends have always embraced this,” he said.
Fosberg now describes himself as Triple A: African, American, Armenian.
People: Michael Fosberg