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)

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Meet Up for Mixed Race People

This is a reflective group in the outdoors

Wednesday, August 13, 2014  - 6:45 PM to 8:15 PM

at Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses
Herne Hill/Brixton, SE24 0PA, London (map)

For more details and to reserve a space (Contribution towards costs £5.00) go to the Mixed Race Matters website

This meetup is for people who are mixed race.

  • Being mixed race is a unique experience which can lead to a rich understanding of race, culture, identity and belonging. This reflective session creates the space to connect with other mixed race people and to share thoughts, feelings and experiences on a range of issues.
    The reflective session will follow the themes and discussion raised by its participants, however some example topics we may want to talk about are;
    - How you see yourself, how society sees you
    - How it feels and what it means to be mixed race
    - Labels, which hat fits? Black/Asian/White/Bi-racial/Mixed heritage
    - Half and half or whole
    - Caught inbetween; family, race and culture
    - Belonging; the same but different/Different but the same
    - Racism and internalised racism
    - Good enough? Compensating for not being white enough/black enough
    - Physical appearance, Beauty, Hair, Make up
    - Confidence, self esteem, knowing who I am
    The session will provide an opportunity for you to explore and share experiences in a therapeutic group setting with others who can more readily relate to your experiences.
    The meetup will be facilitated by Beth Collier who is a mixed raced psychotherapist (see
    The session will be held in the beautiful garden of Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses, Brockwell Park, SE24 at 6.45pm to 8.00pm on Wednesday 23rd July 2014.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Mixed Race - Shades of Grey Updated

Robert first shared his story of mixed race marriage in April 2013.     
July 2014

We live in a divided world. It’s divided because of the condition of a man’s heart.

We have many differences in the human race. Culture, language, skin or race. But these are not the causes of division, as we are simply the same species that occupy the same expanse of land. So why the division? It has always been a mystery to me why a man can carry a malice toward another over a simple difference. But what do we do, how do we cope, how should we act when faced with such disdain for being different.

I am a white British 43 year old man. Why does that matter? It shouldn't  but for some unknown reason, it matters to some. I am either preferred or not preferred. Even though I am married to a black Ugandan woman, doesn't change the fact I am sometimes chastised for crimes against humanity as though I owned a slave, like I’m a member of the KKK, yet I have more black friends and family than I do white. Yet I’m considered racist by some because I am white.

I have seen the prejudice from both sets of eyes. A conversation my Dad had with an old school friend of his. “My son is getting married……..she is from Uganda, a black girl” Why was it not, “my son is getting married”, friends response, “Are you ok with that?” Of course he is, but why do people see colour before they see people. My wife’s father was far from amused she was getting married to a Mzungu (White). Although that changed when we met, I am now considered blood, but I was still white before I was Robert Wood.

My best friend is black, and we were at a bar somewhere up north and a guy bowls over and leans on him, “hey, my new negro friend” My friend laughed it off but held my arm as he saw my face as I was a cats whisker from caving his head in. It either offended him less than it did me, or he just dealt with it far better, knowing that sometimes, your reaction or action has the power to change a man’s thinking. Perhaps had I knocked him out cold, he would have learned nothing, but I learnt a lesson that day.

I am 2 months away from my wife delivering our first baby. What will it be, black, white, shades of grey? What do I tell my child of their identity when it seems to matter so much to people to have a defined one. My skin is white, yet I feel more comfortable with black culture, music, food and yet I feel neither black or white, yet I am still tagged either way.

If I were born blind, and nobody ever pointed it out, how would I know what I am and why would I even care. I am what I am. Accept me or not. Either way, I really don’t care!

Yet we face the reality that growing up in a divided world, may take out that division on my child, on my wife as she walks with our baby to be in the park, eyes of judgement “she’s with a white guy, he’s with a black girl, he/she has mixed parents.

My advice to parents would be this and what I will tell my child. “You are fearfully and wonderfully made, God has brought 2 PEOPLE together and you were made out of Love, you are a symbol of perfection made in defiance of a partial world who would say you are imperfect. Instead of showing such people your back, show them your heart for they will no longer see colour. Love conquers all things, hate, jealousy and hardened hearts. You will always be loved among those who matter most which is God, your parents and the friends you will make who will not care what or where you are from, as they will love you regardless. As for the others, be strong, stand firm and try and show them Love, even when they show you hate, for you will walk away with integrity, they will leave with a lesson, one of which can change the world into one that no longer sees difference, but one that has acceptance and unconditional Love…….What are you my child? You are us, and we are you. Robert Wood
Trinity born 12th June 2013

Thank you to Natalie Tomlinson at  The Sunday Essiett Company who made this connection possible.  Check out the link for more mixed voices from Southwark, London. If you would like to share your Mixed Race Family story so that you can help others, please e-mail  me at  marking you message My Mixed Race Story.  I look forward to hearing from you.