Monday, 1 December 2014

Mixed race males wanted to take part in a research project

Research Student,  Remi Joseph-Salisbury is looking for research participants to take part in his project entitled:-   'A consideration of the specific barriers facing mixed-race males in contemporary UK education'.  For more information look here .  Remi's contact details are on the flyer below.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Disney's Mixed Race Hero

Big Hero 6" is arguably the most ethnically diverse Disney animated movie in the history of animated movies.

It is set in a futuristic metropolis called San Fransokyo (a portmanteau of San Francisco and Tokyo), and where 14-year-old genius robotics expert Hiro Hamada forms a superhero team to combat a masked villain responsible for the death of his older brother.

Hiro and his brother Tadashi are of American and Japanese parentage and what is refreshing is that the characters are played by Ryan Potter (Hiro) who is father is Japanese and mother is White and Daniel Henney (Tadashi) who is of Korean and Irish American parentage. Nice to see mixed-race characters getting parts, especially when it comes to animation as so often characters are voiced by actors who bear no resemblance to the characters they're playing.

The movie has already been released in US, but here in the UK we have to waiting until 30th January 2014. Read more about the movie here

Friday, 21 November 2014

Not So Black and White

By Alexis Wilson

Mixed marriage, abandonment, a mother’s secret, same sex parents, Broadway, the Ballet, and AIDS all make up a multi-colored tapestry of this author’s valiant journey towards a strong and clear passage; leaving the reader uplifted and wanting more.

It is the early 60’s in Europe, when a breathtakingly beautiful interracial couple dance great ballets together and fall passionately in love. She is a Dutch ballerina and he is an African-American international ballet star. They come to America and create a family and a new life. While their daughter Alexis grows up dancing before she can walk, the marriage grows angrily apart. Her father soon becomes one of the few celebrated black choreographers on Broadway, while her mother turns toward a shockingly desperate existence of survival.

At age eleven, Alexis’s world comes crashing. Her mother abandons her and her brother and they are shuttled off to New York City to live with their adoring larger-than-life father, the footlights that beam on the likes of Sammy Davis Jr., Chita Rivera, and the other man in her father’s life.

Find out more about Alexis Wilson and Not So Black and White here 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Can you Foster a Child ?

Mixed Race children are significantly over represented in the care system and constitute the biggest minority.  You can see from the statistics produced by British Association for Adoption and Fostering that they form 9% of looked after children. See post
TACT (The Adolescent and Children’s Trust) have asked me to post the following advertisement for new foster carers and adoptive parents. Their core work involves providing high quality and well supported fostering or adoptive families for children and young people in the care of local authorities. They working in partnership with local authorities from offices across England, Wales and Scotland, they are dedicated to providing creative, effective and outcome-focused services. They also campaign on behalf of children and young people in care, carers and adoptive families

Across the UK, there is a shortage of fosters carers to look after children and young people who are in need of a loving home. At TACT, we're always looking for people to come forward and take the first step on the road to becoming a foster carer.

People often ask themselves ‘have I got what it takes to be a foster carer’ and ‘how do I become a foster carer‘. It’s true that being a foster carer can be challenging at times, but our carers tell us it’s the most rewarding thing they have ever done. And at TACT, we’re here every step of the way with support, training and a friendly ear whenever you need it.

So, what do you need to make a great foster carer? Let’s find out…
TACT fostering and adoption charity present this infographic on what makes a great foster carer

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

One Drop of Love

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanniAs an MFA candidate in the Television, Film and Theatre program at California State University, Los Angeles, Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni originally set out to make a documentary about identity and race, using her Jamaican and white ancestry as the core of the story, as her thesis project. But since her concentration was on performance, a professor advised her to do a theater piece to showcase her acting chops. So she took her footage and research and transformed the documentary into a multimedia one-woman show called One Drop of Love

The title derives from the U.S. Census “one drop rule,” which states that a person who has at least one parent of African descent is automatically considered black. The daughter of a Jamaican father (Winston Barrington Cox) and white mother (Trudy Cox), DiGiovanni spent her early years in Washington, D.C., until her parents divorced and she moved to Cambridge with her mom and brother Winston. She spent much of her life questioning and aligning herself with a strong black identity, but falling in love with a European man caused her to ponder that choice more intensely. 

The blue-eyed, blonde-haired actor, writer and producer married her husband, Diego, in July 2006, and her father did not attend the wedding. His absence from her nuptials caused them not to speak for seven years. But One Drop of Love needed an ending, just as her relationship with her father needed reconciliation. Here DiGiovanni talks about her ethnic identity, the role race has played in her family and a chance encounter with one of the show’s producers, actor Ben Affleck.

ArtsATL: How do you ethnically identify?

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni: I am a culturally mixed woman searching for racial answers. That’s the best I can say, and I explore this in the show. I talk about how my ethnic identity has changed over the years, based on geography and relationships with my family. It is constantly changing. However, I got to the point politically where I had to educate myself about the way black people are treated in this country. As someone who may not look black or identify as black, I have a lot of privileges that people who don’t look like me — who aren’t light-skinned or have blue eyes — can’t take advantage of. Sometimes I think that calling myself black and aligning myself with that struggle does a disservice to people who are actively living that struggle, because they don’t have the same privileges. 

 That’s what the show is about. I spent a good bit of my life identifying as black and aligning myself with movements that are about justice for people who are oppressed. Then I fell in love with somebody who is not in that category, and it shocked me. In 2006, after [Diego] proposed and we prepared for our wedding, I had a lot of difficulty figuring out how I would present that to my father, who identifies very strongly as being black. I was afraid of what he would say and how it would make him feel, so it took me a long time to tell him about the wedding. And when I did he didn’t come; so that’s the opening of the show. ArtsATL: And we get to see you explore that in One Drop of Love?

ArtsATL: What was your relationship like with your father growing up?

DiGiovanni: We were pretty close for my first seven years, because we were all in D.C. When my parents divorced and my mom moved away for her job [as a nurse midwife], we would see him on school holidays and for a month in the summer. We certainly grew further apart during those years, but there was always a piece of me that missed him and felt that it was important to have a relationship with him. I admired him, because even though he is guarded, he is also a very loving man. We weren’t estranged during those years, but we weren’t very close. But when he didn’t come to my wedding, I basically cut him off and we didn’t speak for seven years. 

ArtsATL: So you all just started speaking last year?

DiGiovanni: Yes, we started speaking last year, and honestly it was because I needed an ending for my show. Originally the show was just about our family and the larger historical context about why race was playing this role in our family. I knew that the ending of the play would be that I would call my dad and have this conversation with him, but I had no idea what that conversation would be. I called him a week before I was doing a public reading, and we had the final conversation that you’ll see toward the end of the show. 

ArtsATL: In identifying as black, did that affect your relationship with your white mother?

DiGiovanni: Momma Trudy is a free spirit who loves everybody and cares deeply about justice and equality, and she was all for it. She encouraged my brother and me to attend historically black colleges. She encouraged us to identify as black. She was never hurt by my identity choices. She encouraged us to know her family, but she also shared stories about how her mother disinherited her after she married my father. She did us a great service, because she shared it all with us, including her understanding of justice and equality, especially knowing that my brother was going to move through life as an identifiable black man. 

ArtsATL: How did One Drop of Love go from a thesis project to now touring? 

DiGiovanni: I had the great fortune of having grown up in Cambridge . . . and having done theater with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, and we stayed in contact. I think Ben found out about my thesis performance through Facebook, and I got a message from him saying he was going to come see the show. He ended up coming with his wife, Jennifer Garner, then he emailed me a couple of days later and said that he wanted to help me get the show to more places. The first thing I asked him when he offered to help was for a quote for my web page. He wrote back and said he wanted to put me in touch with his agent at William Morris Endeavors, and they signed the show. This part is hard for me to talk about because it is still happening for me. 
ArtsATL: It seems serendipitous

DiGiovanni: This is the best part of the story for me. I’ve been in Hollywood for 13 years, and one of the hardest lessons I learned early on is that you have to make your own opportunities; no one gives them to you. Not to mention the way I look.
When I first moved out to LA, when my agent would send me out on auditions I had to ask whether or not they had submitted me as black or white, so I could decide how I was going to style my hair, how I was going to speak, how was I going to perform my race that day.

ArtsATL: I read on your website that you want to spark conversations about race through One Drop of Love. Right now it seems like we’re talking about race a lot in this country. Does that conversation need to change?

DiGiovanni: I hope that a great deal of what people get out of the show is that we need to focus less on race and more on racism. On the DNA level we are not all that different. There are cultural and traditional differences, but I’m hoping that we can all get behind the fact that this race thing was imposed on us. Perhaps we can examine it and unify to focus on ending racism. 

Find out more about One Drop of Love    

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Marvellous Adventures of Mary Seacole

Come and see amazing actress Cleo Sylvestre (one of our Ambassadors) as Mary Seacole - proceeds to the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal! Friday 10th October 2014 at Clapham Library 7pm. Tickets £12 and £8 for under 16s.
Embark on an enthralling journey with Mary Seacole, one of the unsung heroines of British History - voted one of our top ten Great Britons.

Cleo Sylvestre, acclaimed actor and official ambassador for the Mary Seacole Memorial Appeal, presents her inspirational one woman show illuminating the life of this remarkable woman, based on Seacole's own autobiography. "Be prepared, Cleo Sylvestre will transport you back to the Victorian age and leave you thinking that you had actually met Mary Seacole".
This event is being hosted with the support of Clapham Library.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Mixed Race Girls Project- Manchester


mixed race girls projectmixed race: girls project invites girls identifying as mixed race/multi heritage age 10-16 years to take part in a series of exciting interactive workshops exploring mixed race identity & experience.
The initial forum will be held on Saturday 1st November 2014 3pm -5pm in Manchester. Further details to be given to registered participants. To book your free place email by 20th October 2014. (Please note: parent/ guardian consent required when booking for under 16’s).

Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal

Help celebrate the work of Mary Seacole 

The Appeal's objective is to raise funds for a permanent memorial to Mary Seacole, the Jamaican/Scottish Crimean War nursing heroine. The 3 metre high bronze statue will be located in the grounds of St Thomas' hospital in London facing the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament.
Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal Registered charity number 1103862

'It takes 2' On Wednesday 22nd October 2014 please encourage as many people as possible to donate £2 to the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal via: Please share!!!  Thank you.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Tangled Roots Life-Writing Workshop and Performance

Saturday 18th October, 7:30pm
Strangers meet on an East London-bound train and find they have more in common than they thought in this true-life spoken word performance exploring the untold story of London's mixed-race population, based on funny and touching real-life stories from the Tangled Roots book.
Your story can become part of the action…
Join Dr Katy Massey & the Tangled Roots team in a life-writing workshop in the afternoon, and even hear your writing become part of the story that evening! A specially-commissioned series of photographs will be exhibited as part of the event.
There will be a post show Q+A of approx. 15mins
Life-Writing Workshop takes place 2.30pm-5.30pm
To book workshop please call box office on 020 8692 4446
Book for the performance using the link below
Free- Booking Essential
Box Office: 020 8692 4446      
Book Now

Friday, 26 September 2014

Mixed Race Parents

Mixed Race Parents' Identification of their Children

Mixed race parents’ identification of their children' is a two-and-a-half year research project exploring how mixed race people in the UK socialise their children. We are interested to know how people who are mixed race racially identify their children, and if ideas about race, heritage, culture and mixture are important to pass on to them, or not. We have gathered the views and experiences of sixty-two mixed race parents across the UK – by analysing, compiling and sharing their voices we hope to shed light on some of the family dynamics of the UK’s growing mixed race population. Read more about the project >

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Mixed Race and Education 2014

People in Harmony is a mixed race organisation which promotes the positive experience of interracial life in Britain today and challenges racism, prejudice and ignorance in society. For more details go to their website here.  They will be holding their 2014 AGM & Seminar on 27th September 2014.


'Mixed Race and Education 2014'

raising levels of educational achievement and inclusion

for mixed race pupils and students

Venue: The Hall, St Margaret's House, 21 Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green, London E2 9PL
Date: Saturday 27th September 2014
Annual General Meeting: 11.00 – 1.00pm
Seminar: 2.00pm – 5.00pm

This seminar will:

  • consider best practice in education to ensure mixed race students feel included in the classroom
  • highlight experiences and practice that are recognised as raising achievement.
  • give examples of teaching and learning resources which enrich the curriculum.
  • seek understanding of the pupil / student experience and how this impacts on their lives and education
  • promote better understanding of mixed race and diversity, enhance learning experiences and improve working relationships between all pupils
  • provide material for a report to be published and used as part of a targeted campaign 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Introducing Uneek Flair
Lisa, founder and owner of Uneek Flair is a wife and mum to three beautiful children. She has many interests and hobbies including socialising with family and friends. Despite being very busy she started Uneek Flair. This is what she said about the business:

Uneek Flair is a family run business, embracing diversity and positivity through our beautiful, inspiring, friendly characters the "Little Naturals"and Uneek range of gifts and merchandise
Our story

Despite many years of personal experience searching for gifts and merchandise with multicultural characters on, I always found it difficult to find any product of the sort. Inspired by my children and the lack of multicultural products, I decided that if I can’t find what I am looking for, then I needed to be the one to design the gifts for my children which reflect their identity.

The gifts planned for the range so far include bags, coasters, mugs, keyrings and clothing, but I am always working on ways of extending the range of products further.
I carefully sourced products that fit the brief and worked with my 15  old son Logan on the character illustrations, and hand drawn artwork. 
I’m really excited about the potential of the products and hope it will help children to learn about each other, and the social importance that every child is beautiful, as well as show children that there are many types of people that make up our communities.
Our first character was based on our daughter and when we gave her one of our bags her exact words were “look mummy, she looks like me, she has hair like me”. She was so excited; she now takes her new bag everywhere. At that moment we heard and witnessed the exact reaction we were hoping for, and our reason for launching Uneek Flair It was such a beautiful moment for us. We would love all children to have that same excitement and sense of pride when they see an image that reflects their identity, and for parents to have that warm feeling it gave us.

The immediate future for Uneek Flair.

We are working on extended the range further, and are looking at stocking some of our products in and around the Bristol area. Then later on further afield, where we feel the Little Naturals brand will compliment a shop's existing merchandise. And who knows one day a Little Naturals Boutique on the high street.

We hope you and your "Little Naturals" enjoy our range of gifts, and stay to watch us grow.

❤️ Uneek Flair Team. Lisa Andrew Lewis Logan Sheneya.
                                        Check out the website     Follow Uneek Flair on twitter

Friday, 12 September 2014

My Mixed Race Baby's Identity

by Jody-Lan Castle

As the world becomes increasingly more heterogeneous, having a mixed identity is increasingly common.

It’s really important to make children aware of their family background.

The memories of my own parents’ family histories had already begun to become diluted as they were passed down to me.

Jody with her parents
My Mother had voyaged to the shores of England by boat from the far lands of Malaysia. And my Father, born just round the corner in Essex, was the son of descendants of Irish and Roma travellers.

But specific details were never handed down to me, as they had started fading even from my Mother and Father’s recollections before I was born.

This is partially why I was never able to identify much with their cultures growing up, sorting after a feeling of belonging. And I finally found solace when I stopped trying to fit in.

My husband is quite different though, upholding a strong sense of Punjabiness. But even he, having been born and bred among the soaring skyscrapers of Hong Kong, doesn’t have a solidly homogeneous identity.

His fluency in Cantonese would fool anyone into thinking he was Chinese over the phone, and his love of Shumai (a Chinese street food) trumps his love of samosas any given day.

Nonetheless, it’s likely that my baby will be more influenced by my husband’s Indian heritage. Not because of my husband’s insistence, but in fact my own.

I’ve always admired Sikhism and those who follow it. And as for my husband, there was a time when he would do his daily prayers without fail, turban tied gracefully around head like a crown.

Though his devout practice is no more, he still reveres Sikhism as a good and noble Faith.

Luckily, we’re agreed at least that we will incorporate Sikh teachings into our child’s upbringing, even if we can’t agree on the child’s name yet.

Those of you who are on a similar journey will often come across cultural differences, especially when it comes to having a baby.

But the secret, is compromise.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Jamran Family

Introducing the Jamran Family!!!

Soheila wrote: 'We are a Jamaican and Iranian (Persian) Mixed Raced Family. When I asked each member why they are proud to be in a mixed raced family';

My husband replied: 'For me it has nothing to do with pride, I just love what we have created'.

My 14 year old son replied: 'I am proud to be mixed race because I get to have strengths from both races'.

My 8 year old daughter replied: 'I love my family, they take good care of me, I love my family'.

And I also asked my 2 year old son as we like to be fair in this family and he replied: 'far', so I asked again and he replied  'far'  again so I accepted that as his't ask what it means because I have no idea!

I am proud to be part of a mixed raced family because I love both Persian and Jamaican cultures and love seeing both races in my children, we are unique and stand out when together as a family unit.

One day as we were walking home after grocery shopping  we were stopped by a man on the street to be told that we look like a rockstar family which made us laugh and also gave us a big

Both my husband and I were born and raised in the UK, just across a park from each other by the way. We went to the same primary school - he was in my younger sisters class, yes he is two years younger than me.  After leaving primary school we didn't come across one another again until we met in college.  At this point,  I had no idea who he was until one day I introduced him to my sister and they recognised each other.  That's when I realised he was that boy I saw in the playground when we were small!

I asked my children, what we have done as parents to help embrace their mixedness. 

My 14 year old son said: ' My parents have helped me embrace being mixed by letting us know about our past and increasing our morals towards it'.

My 8 year old daughter said: 'I love both race's because both races have strong genes'.

And once again I asked my 2 year old son the same question and he replied: 'Juice'! 

I would like to note that my husband created the word JAMRAN, he put together JAM from Jamaica and RAN from Iran to create JAMRAN and our children call themselves JAMRAN KIDS and we believe this helps them have a word that describes both sides of their heritage so we became the JAMRAN FAM.

My husband and I have come across many challenges since the beginning of our relationship.  As a Persian girl dating was forbidden, let alone dating a person from a different race. But my husband and I had a connection that I had never felt before and nobody could keep us apart, so we did what we had to do to stay together. For the past 15 years we have done our best to turn the other cheek to people's narrow minded views of love and marriage and are teaching our children the same; that neither colour or culture matters as long as you love somebody and they love you the same that's all you need to have a lasting relationship.

We as a mixed family, celebrate both cultures, Christmas for the Jamaican side and the Persian New Year ( Noorooz ) which is in March for a few weeks of celebrations. My husband has taught me how to cook Jamaican food and introduced me to many new flavours and I have done the same for him and so our children have been exposed to both cultures.  I also try to speak my mother tongue to them so they can at the least understand the Farsi language.

We have a youtube channel that I have created recently so people can see a mixed Jamaican and Iranian family together. We all love each other very much and believe in working through any problems that come across our path together.  We don't believe in giving up!


If you would like to tell how your family has embraced your mixedness and you would like to share your experiences with others, please contact me 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Mixed Race Hair: Everything You Need And Want To Know

I found this article by Black Ballard to be very informative.

Errol Douglas hairstylist Jasmin Allen tells us everything you need to know about caring for mixed race hair…

While the beauty pages of magazines have long been dominated by hair tips and tricks for caucasian women, it has left women from different racial backgrounds out in the cold. Granted, black women have found solace with the rise of natural hair blogs and YouTube tutorials, yet there is still a gaping hole in terms of haircare information for women of mixed heritage. So living up to our mantra of being a ‘glossy lifestyle website that puts the mixed-race and black British woman of excellence at the forefront,’ we decided to speak to to Errol Douglas‘ senior colour master Jasmin Allen.
With 10 years experience and of mixed race heritage herself, Jasmin told us everything you need to know about mixed race hair from her dos and dont’s, colouring advice and her tips and tricks for mixed race girls with both natural and relaxed hair…  for the rest of the article click here
For more information on mixed race hair on the Mixed Race Family blog  click here

Friday, 22 August 2014

Bird a Review

A children's book written by author  Crystal Chan

I really enjoyed this book and so did my 11 year old niece.  Bird is a children's book which tells the story about Jewel who was born on the same day her brother, Bird, died. On that day her Grandpa stopped talking and the house became one of silence and sadness. Then, exactly 12 years later, Jewel meets John and slowly her life begins to change...

A powerful story of family, heartache and friendship with a spooky twist. It handles the theme of bereavement with real warmth and sensitivity, and also explores different cultures and traditions.

This is what children had to say about the book Guardian Book Review May 14th 2014 'The main character in the book Jewel is half Jamaican, a quarter Mexican and a quarter white. We also found awesome, we related to the characters especially because we are a very multicultural group and our world in London is very multicultural. We like to read books with characters in them that look like us, not always white'.

Find out more about the book here

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Mentoring service for mixed race young people needs more volunteers

Mixed Foundation is a support group for mixed race people in Nottingham.  

Mixed Foundations is a new service offering counselling and mentoring to mixed race people in the city. They match older mentors with young people to help them realise their ambitions and goals.  They currently need volunteers to train to become mentors.

In this  clip the group's co-founder, Simon Morley, speaks to BBC's Reya El-Salahi...

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Northern Ireland's most (un)wanted

by Jayne Olorunda

Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast has had many songs written about it. The lyrics of one Belfast song resonates in my ear as I think of the reputation the city now has. The lyrics of the song always stood out to me, but now they are more ironic than ever. The song goes, ‘Belfast, Belfast a wonderful town it doesn’t matter if your skin is brown’ I wonder if this was ever true? It certainly wasn’t in my time or even in my parent’s time. The outside world knows Northern Ireland as a country dominated by sectarian strife where Catholic and Protestant people have for decades been at war. This is of course true, but within Northern Ireland other hate based dynamics exist, recently they have come to the fore. Today’s Northern Ireland has a serious problem with racism and it is fast becoming a problem that can no longer be brushed aside.

In 2014 the intolerant and bigoted elements in this little country are gaining global attention. Where once Belfast was known as a sectarian hotbed it is now becoming known throughout Europe as a racist hub, attracting far right elements who influence our youth and perpetuate hatred. Northern Ireland invested a lot of time and energy over the years to create and sustain our fragile peace. Yet the welcome reprieve from the bombings and shootings of our past has come at a cost. In directing all our resources into peace building between Catholics and Protestants, other issues (and there are many of them) have been overlooked. We have gone from being infamous for one type of trouble to being famous for another. This trade should never have existed, it should never have been allowed but for one reason or another it has happened.
Northern Ireland brokered a deal, a deal that allowed the transfer of hate.

I am Northern Irish, but I am also black and this is not a comfortable position to be in, at times it has felt like a disastrous combination. My story came to public attention when I wrote ‘Legacy’ a book about my families experiences in Northern Ireland. It documents the difficulties we faced with identity and of course the sometimes impossible realities of assimilation. I was born and bred in Northern Ireland and I imagine that I am among a small handful of people of colour who can say that. It is sad that even now in my thirties black faces in Northern Ireland still stand out in the crowd. As such we have become targets to those elements in our society determined to keep their society white, those intent on living in bitterness.

Growing Up
Growing up my sisters and I have became used to being the only blacks and being identified not on our merits but as ‘the black girls’. Northern Irish racism for us began in the womb, with comments such as ‘how dare you bring another black bastard into the world’ being levelled at our mother. Our story began when my father, originally from Nigeria, was offered a job in Belfast on his graduation. Like any student fresh from university he was delighted at the opportunity in his chosen field and seized it. Whilst here he met my Mum who is from Northern Ireland. As all romances go the pair fell in love and got married, they had a family consisting of three children, I was the youngest. Not everything was perfection and it goes without saying that my parents encountered racism, they met in the 1970’s after all. Yet they were a strong couple and as long as they were together they coped
Jayne's parents
 Jayne’s parents                                                               

Everything changed for my family in 1980. On his way home from work Dad stepped on a train that he would never step off. His fellow passengers included two IRA men who carried a bomb. The bomb exploded obliterating my Dad and two others on the carriage. That bomb changed the face and experiences of my family forever. Gone was financial stability, gone was our home and worst of all gone was our Dad. The blast took him away along with any link we had to our Nigerian culture. From that day on my sisters and I became confused black girls in an all-white world. My parents had relied on each other to impart their respective cultures on us. Dad’s death and the events that came after made my Mum ill. She never recovered. We never learned anything about Dad’s culture, Mum simply wasn’t capable of teaching us. Instead she became bitter and obsessed with the troubles and her hatred of terrorists. She immersed us into the bleak reality that was war torn Northern Ireland, this wasn’t difficult given that we were constantly surrounded by it. Shootings, bombings and armed soldiers patrolling the streets were common place back then. The manner of Dad’s death had implications for us in that we not only grew up different because of our colour but also because we were innocent Catholic victims of the IRA. This made our fitting in even more difficult, Dad’s death alienated us from Catholic communities and our religion alienated us from Protestant communities. We lacked identity at every level. As such growing up was hard.

I often try to explain to people that you don’t walk around a colour, you walk around and live your life as you, as yourself. Unfortunately for us it was hard to be ourselves when we stood out so much. Someone always reminded us that we were different. As children it was assumed we could sing, we would be athletic, that we would happily play certain roles in school plays or worse that we were adopted. We grew used to stereotypes very quickly. We also grew used to racial taunts and slurs. Unfortunately for my sister she could run, in her teens it seemed she had a promising career ahead. Yet she grew tired of her talent being attributed to her colour and gave it up, no one ever thought of asking which parent this athletic gene came from it was always assumed which one. We heard the ‘N’ word so much as children that whilst it still hurts now part of me is used to it. In certain areas here and at certain times of the year it is almost expected.

When I reached my twenties more people of colour began to live here. They came gradually but one day there was suddenly an ‘ethnic minority’ population here numbering more than the usual under 1%. I remember seeing them out and about and being so grateful, my thoughts consumed with the one fact, my sister and I aren’t the only ones anymore. I felt more comfortable and less of an oddity, if I didn’t quite fit in in my home country at that point in time, it was a very real possibility that one day I would. I cannot describe the feeling of being one of a small minority rather than as it often was being the minority. I was naive, I never stopped to consider the fact that if I noticed then others did too. Not everyone felt my joy. That was in the early 2000s and it was around then when Northern Ireland’s racism changed. It moved away from just insults and remarks and manifested itself in physical attacks on people and their property. By 2004 Northern Ireland became the European capital of race hate.

Belfast Now
It is now ten years since Northern Ireland was bestowed with its title and for me these were ten wasted years. The country failed to utilise the intervening period and to do something to address the then already severe problem. Instead racism was left to fester. The attacks kept occurring and our government turned its back until one day the country was forced into submission, it was forced into publishing a racial equality strategy, something that had been pushed aside for seven years. The government’s hands became well and truly tied when on the 29th May 2014 Northern Ireland’s First Minister articulated to the world his less than flattering opinion on another minority group in Northern Ireland, the Muslim people. He has since apologised for his comments but it was too late. Northern Ireland had already been exposed in the global media for its first minister’s opinions of minorities. This tiny country became known as the place where two race hate crimes are reported every day. I was ashamed of our first minister’s words and I was ashamed that I was still here. Yet on top of that I was hurt, it was as if any feelings I harboured of being unwelcome had just been confirmed. The storm and furore caused has since quieted down but these days the next incident is never far away. Stand out incidents of race hate are easy to find, last month a Nigerian man arriving at a house he was due to move into was greeted by a ‘locals only’ protest at his door and in a separate incident a KKK flag was seen fluttering on the streets of East Belfast. Only last week ‘Ulster’ our international rugby team ‘blacked up’ and wore shackles as a hilarious fancy dress costume.
Belfast rally against racism
Belfast rally against racism

Is there room for optimism? Despite the increase in race hate incidents I believe that there is. On the 30th of May this year, thousands of people converged in Belfast city centre in an anti-racism rally. This was replicated the following week with eight thousand people from all walks of life taking to the city centres streets. The decent people here are mobilising, they are condemning these incidents and asking that the people responsible are held to account. For the first time ever Northern Ireland’s racism is out in the open and people are coming out in their droves against it. Displays such as the rally mean that I no longer feel alone or unwelcome. They prove that there is hope for Northern Ireland. There is hope that we can live in a conflict free society but also that at last there is hope for a future for all. That future includes people of colour like me. I may be ashamed of the negative headlines Northern Ireland has received but I am also proud of the people’s reaction to them.
Northern Ireland, like most countries will always have a small, extremist minority but they are just that, a minority. They are heard not because they speak sense or the truth but because they shout the loudest. I firmly believe that for every bigot here there are countless non prejudiced people, people who are prepared to take to the streets and condemn hatred, it is these people that make me stay. They fill me with hope. It has always been my dream that someday those without prejudice shout the loudest and drown out the minority. I think that slowly but surely this is happening. Where I once felt like an unwanted guest in the only home I knew, right now I feel confident that the tables are turning. The people of Northern Ireland are beginning to perceive the racists as the unwanted guests. Northern Ireland needs to change in so many respects, this won’t happen overnight. Yet change for the good is a real possibility in today’s Northern Ireland. The future is all to play for and at the moment I embrace the future with a cautious optimism.

Jayne Olorunda is from Belfast. She works in the cross community sector and is passionate about creating a peaceful Belfast. She is outspoken on racism and recently became Northern Ireland’s first electoral candidate of African descent. She has worked in the voluntary sector for over five years and is a well known advocate of equality for all. Jayne’s book Legacy was a bestseller on amazons racism charts and documents her experiences in northern Ireland. Legacy is available on all digital platforms. @jayne_legacy

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Positioning of the Mixed Race Author and Mixed Race Protagonist in British Children’s Literature

by Ludovic Foster 
Originally from South Wales, Ludovic is a PhD candidate in Gender Studies at the University of Sussex in the UK, currently writing an alternative “hidden” history of the tomboy figure within popular culture.  Here he examines a few of the issues around the positioning of the mixed race child, and mixed race identified author in a literary context. Considering the mixed race child in this context is particularly important and necessary in a society where the marginalization of non- binary identities is embedded within foundational ideologies and power structures of the white supremacist heteropatriarchy in which historically binary ways of thinking have also often been used as a tool of Western colonial oppression. 

The mixed child as a character could be said to stand as a figure of resistance against such normative symbolism. When writing about the subject of multiracialism, I am conscious of the inherent historical global and cultural changeability and instability of language when it comes to describing mixed race people and it means to be mixed race; and the fact that the term mixed race can describe a wide range and intersections of racial, ethnic and cultural identities such multifold identities that are not dependant on whiteness for validity.
“The term ‘mixed race’ itself may not reflect the complexity of its own formation through historical entanglements and contemporary redefinitions. This may account for the gradual displacement of ‘mixed race’ by a notion of ‘multiraciality’ that points to multiplicity being the form of contemporary identity itself” (Parker, Song 2001: 8). There is a very complex and nuanced global cultural history of people defined as “mixed race,” and I am aware that even the term “mixed race” itself could be seen as upholding a system that gives credibility to the notion of a singular and “pure” mono race. Although I believe that all people are “mixed” to some degree there is a very particular political, cultural and racialized positioning inherent in being identified as first generation mixed race in certain national transnational and global social and economic contexts. I suggest that the global cultural influence of the American hierarchical racial ideology and classification system known as the “one drop rule”, a hypodescent system which is embedded in a history of white supremacy, and the economics of slavery and racial segregation, has had a particular global and cultural impact on the way we think about what it means to have a mix of African and European ancestry.
The novel Hero (2001) is the story of a mixed race tomboy set in early 19th Century East London, and written by novelist Catherine R. Johnson. Johnson identifies herself as mixed race; she was born in London to a Black Jamaican father and white Welsh mother. Johnson has established a name for writing about mixed-race teenagers. I feel that there is a powerful and political statement in the act of a self-described mixed race, female author placing a multiracial multi-heritage female protagonist at the centre of a novel, (in this case a young adult novel).  Such a centering of the mixed race child in a narrative gives greater nuance and substance to that  character’s particularly “queer” cultural and gender complexities, while at the same time challenging dominant white queer, neoliberal, homonormative subjectivities. This endeavour of centering potentially allows for a broader and more nuanced perspective on the intersections of childhood, race, gender, radicalized gender identities, sexuality and the meaning (and contestability) of queerness in 21st century British young adult literature.
Due to a fairly recent Western cultural and media trend or a neoliberal cultural phenomenon that emphasizes mixed race exceptionalism, and “hybrid vigour,” mixed race individuals have often been presented as more attractive, more desirable, or as having “the best of both worlds.” These Western cultural clich├ęs position mixed race people as a novel feature of a utopian post-racial future, a future without any racial boundaries. However, mixed race people are hardly a  “new” phenomenon in the United Kingdom, as British poet and Young Adults novel writer , Malaika Rose Stanley (herself of mixed race), has noted in her article “Black, White and just right”:
“Mixed-race people have existed ever since our ancestors first set out to explore and wage war – and today, the UK has one of the largest and fastest-growing mixed race populations in the western world.” (Stanley, 2011)
In spite of the sizable number of mixed race individuals in Britain, there has been very little complex, nuanced or truthful representation of the mixed race experience in children’s books or Young Adult literature, as Stanley again notes:
Although mixed-race people are highly visible in some spheres of life – we can model haute couture, win F1 Championships and BAFTAs, and even become the President of the United States – in some fields like educational policy, we are often ignored. Is the same true in children’s and YA publishing. (Stanley, 2011)