Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, 2014 to all the contributors and readers of the Mixed Race Family Blog

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Mixed Race In London

Norradean Amorro is a freelance writer, blogger, journalist, copywriter, and writing mentor from London. This short piece tells about his experience of being mixed race in London.

Picture me as the timid and friendly guy, it’s an image I adopted because I felt it was the safest way to deflect attention from my ever so prominent faults. Growing up in London you assume becoming what you’re not is the safest method to fitting in and most people have this profound need to just “fit in”, I was one of them.

Being mixed race in London usually leaves you with a real dilemma, however being mixed race and really fair and growing up in the black community left me trying to convince potential friends that we really had something in common and that accepting me was natural. “Which side are you more in touch with?” was always a generic question that popped up from time to time. It’s one I’ve now grown to dismiss. I guess it’s fair to say I was pretty much a lost puppy.

I grew up in a home with both parents, which immediately set me aside from most of my friends. Everyone would consider it an advantage to have both, but ignore what society dictates for a minute and answer this, if one person continually destroys everything their partner tries to build, whether it be a career or a loving home, does that relationship offer any kind of advantage to those involved? Make of that last line what you must, I’m just simply trying to suggest that in most scenarios in life, there’s always a bigger picture.

It’s challenging being a kid who simply just wants to fit in, in a place where being different is the key to living a life that’s worthwhile. I still try and fit in from time to time but then I realise that’s insanity, I want a lot from life and fitting in is something I’ve been doing for most it and I always got the same results, nothing new just a place on a shelf, insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.

So one day the structure to my life crumbled and it was all a result of me choosing to do things differently. I didn’t stand back and say nothing to avoid conflict; I stood and fought someone’s corner because it was a duty more so than anything. That brief moment, had a snowball effect, so from a very short spell of homelessness I then began a journey and discovered the real London and many of its secret lives. It’s in that time that I really saw it all and these are the pieces I wanted to share.

I started to write and developed a fascination with art, double entendres and a profound love for writing in general. The experiences and stories became a story, a book, with a chapter on different scenarios, characters, experiences (non-fiction), which all lead to one big Fictional twist.

So over the next 10 months I’m going to be working on around a dozen short films (hopefully each better than the last), which briefly explore each chapters subject matter but not the actual content, all through poetry and visuals. The subjects are pretty intense, and they include; drug use and supply, abortion, murder, domestic abuse and a fair few more really sensitive subjects.

To cap this off I’ll simply end with a quote from the man responsible for many of my favourite childhood films, Walt Disney-“The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.” I’m simply a Londoner who’s learnt to be happy being me and hence I’m happy being different.

Norradean Amorro

Monday, 16 December 2013

About Dr Zélie Asava - The Black Irish Onscreen

I asked Dr Zélie Asava about her experience of being mixed race and she kindly wrote this really interesting article which gives the background to how she came to write her book The Black Irish Onscreen which I posted about on Sunday 15th.

I was born in Dublin to Irish and Kenyan parents. Having lived in London previously, they decided to raise me there. Growing up in the 1980s, I was blissfully unaware of racism with the exception of what I saw on TV shows like Till Death Do Us Part and Rising Damp. Of course there were times when the ‘n’ word might be used against me, and I was well aware of who/where to avoid, but racial problems didn’t really affect me.

As a child I was most aware of being in-between, which I saw as positive but knew that others did not. Aged 6, I was asked by other children which side I would go to if I found upon death that heaven was racially segregated. I was conscious that many black people saw me as too white, both in terms of my appearance and how I spoke, dressed, what I ate, listened to, etc. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I always identified as Irish. Yet I had friends of all backgrounds and it was easy enough to forget the ignorant minority. As an adult I moved to Ireland, to go ‘home’ and develop my career in academia, but found the experience much more troubling than anticipated; I was constantly subject to acts of racism and became increasingly marginalized (see my piece for The Evening Herald newspaper: http://www.herald.ie/lifestyle/the-truth-about-dublin-an-unfair-city-27963389.html.).

During my MA and PhD I studied the representations of mixed-race characters in French and American cinema, while pursuing work as an actress and journalist. This personal and academic experience prompted me to explore what it meant to be black and Irish from a theoretical perspective. I studied the history of black and mixed-race people in Ireland and their representation onscreen, and began to develop research papers on the subject which finally became the book, The Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed-Race Identities on Irish Film and Television (Peter Lang, 2013). I hope that by uncovering, deconstructing and critiquing these representations this study will open up a space for new filmmakers, new screen visualizations of raced characters and new understandings of race and racism in Ireland and beyond.

Dr Zélie Asava lectures in film and media studies at Dundalk Institute of Technology.
Contact: zelie.asava@dkit.ie

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The Black Irish Onscreen

This book examines the position of black and mixed-race characters in Irish film culture. By exploring key film and television productions from the 1990s to the present day, the author, Zelie Asava,  uncovers and interrogates concepts of Irish identity, history and nation.

In 2009, Ireland had the highest birth rate in Europe, with almost 24 per cent of births attributed to the ‘new Irish’. By 2013, 17 per cent of the nation was foreign-born. Ireland has always been a culturally diverse space and has produced a series of high-profile mixed-race stars, including Phil Lynott, Ruth Negga and Simon Zebo, among others. Through an analysis of screen visualizations of the black Irish, this study uncovers forgotten histories, challenges the perceived homogeneity of the nation, evaluates integration, and considers the future of the new Ireland. It makes a creative and significant theoretical contribution to scholarly work on the relationship between representation and identity in Irish cinema.
This book was the winner of the 2011 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in Irish S

Sarah Griffin's review  welcomes Zélie Asava‘s book that applies divergent theoretical concepts of Irishness, whiteness, gender and the particular place of the ‘other’ to the ‘conceptual whiteness of Irishness itself’.
While the intricacies of white and non-white filmic representation has been a subject of much study, most particularly in relation to Hollywood’s output, there has been less focused investigation into the particular relationship Ireland has to its own ‘whiteness’ and how that translates on our big and little screens.  Zélie Asava does so here, bringing together theorists and researchers from disparate decades and tying their ideas to a particularly Irish situation – a country that has only begun to integrate the multicultural nature of a relatively recently expanded populace.  From Sigmund Freud’s ‘return of the repressed’, Julie Kristeva’s abjection, Richard Dyer’s seminal contributions to the study of whiteness, and Judith Butler’s performativity, to the more recent work of Diane Negra on ‘off-white Hollywood’ and a compendium of Irish contributors, Asava blends theorists and personal experience (as an Irish/Kenyan actor) to position herself at the front line.  This book provides a welcome opportunity to apply divergent theoretical concepts of Irishness, whiteness, gender and the particular place of the ‘other’ to, as she calls it, “the conceptual whiteness of Irishness itself”.
Zelie comes not only from a firm footing of understanding non-white actors’ situation in Irish film and television, but from a gender specific approach that applies feminist performance analysis to the similarly structured area of studies in whiteness and ethnicity.  Beginning with an introduction that lays bare all of Asava’s foundations – rightly giving no apologies for making the ‘personal political’ – we are given a map of how the book will approach each case study as it applies to the chapters’ goals.  Asava also broaches a broad historical framework of a nation still denying its multiculturalism, shown in her observations of the refusal of hyphenated identities, like Italian-Irish or Chinese-Irish.  Ireland is therefore in the strange position – particularly in this ‘year of The Gathering’ – of accepting somebody who’s grandmother went over to America in a famine ship as being more Irish than a second-generation Nigerian-Irish child born here.  “[L]egitimate Irish identity” is no longer (if it ever was) a solid thing, something that can be defined in a simple way – as Asava goes on to show again and again through our media output. To read Sarah's full report  click here 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Free Mixed Race Dolls

Dolls are a great resource which can help to support children's self esteem and development. I wrote about the benefits of dolls and action figures in my post dated 23rd June.

Mixed Race Family have a quantity of dolls which are being offered free of charge to charitable organisations working with children in London over the Xmas period. (you must be able to collect from SE London). The dolls are brand new and are a stock lot from a range which is no longer in production. The dolls are 38cms tall, have a flexible body and a plush skin.

Suitable for ages 3 plus, they have different skin tones and the hair is a wig which is interchangeable with the other dolls in the range. Some of the clothes and shoes have been hand made

So far 30 have been donated to the Lewisham Hospital toy appeal. If you work for an organisation such as a women's refuge which helps and supports children and families over the Xmas period, please contact me with details of your organisation and how many you will need.



Wednesday, 4 December 2013

John Archer — Britain's First Black Mayor was Mixed Race

This article is by Culture 24 and highlights the achievements of John Archer who was elected as Mayor in radical Battersea in 1913 - he is renowned for being the first black man to become a Mayor in Britain and was in fact mixed race . Wandsworth Museum opened a small exhibition in October 2005 looking at his life, politics and circle.

John Richard Archer was born in Liverpool in 1863. His father was from Barbados and worked as a ship’s steward. His mother was Irish. Nothing is known about Archer’s education but as a young man he travelled the world probably spending some time in the West Indies and North America. During this time he met and married Bertha, a black Canadian.

Archer and his wife settled in Battersea in the 1890s and in 1898 were living at 55 Brynmaer Road, near Battersea Park. By 1908 he had set up a photographic business at 208 Battersea Park Road.

At this time Battersea was a poor, overcrowded district with severe social problems and had become a magnet for left-wing political activity. Initially Archer became known for his fiery public speeches against spiritualism. He also took an active interest in local politics and was elected as a Progressive (Liberal) Councillor for the Latchmere ward in 1906. He was particularly interested in health and welfare issues and served on many of the Council’s committees as well as the Wandsworth Board of Guardians. In 1913 he became Mayor of Battersea, Britain’s first Black Mayor.

Acher was also interested in fighting racial prejudice in the wider world and became a member of the Pan-African Association in 1900. His interest in politics moved to the national scene when he supported Sharpurji Saklatvala, the Indian Communist, in his fight to become MP for Battersea North in 1922. Archer was involved in the formation of the new Battersea Labour Party in 1926 and was elected Deputy Leader of Labour Group in 1931. But the years of intensely busy public life took their toll and Archer’s health deteriorated swiftly during 1931 and he died the following year.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Trevor Noah - The Racist

Trevor Noah, the comedian is back in the UK by popular demand!
Growing up in the township of Soweto during the period of apartheid, Noah found he struggled with discrimination because of his mixed race heritage. However, he credits his turbulent upbringing for teaching him the importance of laughter, something that helped him secure a role on the popular South African soap opera Isidingo in 2002.

Trevor has been performing for a little over five years but his explosion onto the South African entertainment scene has been nothing short of meteoric, taking on TV, radio and his first love, standup comedy, which he has performed on both local and international stages including the UK and US. His sharp wit, intelligent commentary, unmistakable charm and clinical delivery have established him as an extremely popular performer with undoubted world-class potential.

Now based in Los Angeles, this controversial joker has spent recent years building a reputation as one of the hottest upcoming comedians, touring top comedy clubs in both the US and UK. His test shows at London's Soho Theatre in early 2013 were an instant sell-out garnering significant column inches in the press and a colossal and devoted fan base. The prolific Twitter user pokes fun at social stigmas in a gentle manner and his tour has helped bring to light issues that are too often swept under the carpet. Trevor Noah tickets are selling like hotcakes so you need to act fast if you want to see this top class comedian live on stage at a town near you.

Find out more about Trevor and his available UK Tour dates here here