Monday, 2 March 2015

50 Shades of Beige…



by @TweetsByBilal

Been a good while since I put pen to paper. Wait this is awkward, fingers to keyboard rather, 2015 and all that. In any case, I’ve been thinking for a while about something of paramount importance. Me. (Vote Bilal..) or rather, people like me. By this I mean mixed-race people. But this is where I may lose my fellow beige skinned people who got excited that I have some enlightening news from Mixed-Daily. Actually, maybe I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the people who are mixed ‘unconventionally’ you know – those of us who, God forbid, are mixed with two or more ethnic minorities. Madness. Those people exist?
You probably wouldn’t think so would you.. I mean as much as things have progressed and we now have our beloved beige beacons, Jess Ennis, Lewis Hamilton, etc. – where are the people like me? The 50 shades of beige people? Actually now let me ‘throw some of those shades’. Don’t be alarmed, I’m not trying to scare you into giving me a voice, I mean according to certain Arquette’s, it’s probably time we take a break in the ‘march (at the speed of a granny on a Zimmer-frame) of progress’ and start paying homage to those I can only think of as the resemblance of every FOX news Anchorwoman… *insert Virtual DJ siren noise, wheel it back up again*. However I AM saying that there is an unmistakeable gap in the representation of the experience of another type of mixed-race voice. So often the voices of those who are mixed ethnic minorities are left out of a discussion of what it means to be mixed-race. So how do we identify? Where do we fit in?
My dear mum herself is one of them. With her ‘darkskinned’ (loaded terms deh) or for a much better use of language, black, let’s use that for all skin-tones people, mum and her Oriental looking, but of shady/ambiguous origin dad, she grew up in Jamaica unaware that she would not be categorised as mixed race when she moved to the UK. Instead, she found herself coming here and for the sake of avoiding writing an extended thesis on any Monitoring Information forms just decided to self-identify as black. That was all good for her, until she found my Pakistani dad, Mr. Khan (you may have seen his name on various butchers throughout London – please – no photos). Sorry dad, as much as you claim to be Kenyan, we both know that I will never be English, works both ways bruh. Fast forward a few years and the happy couple give birth to this hybrid creation, Bilal Harry Khan, a mixture of all colours non-white, born into a society where to be mixed-race was a progression from being ‘half-caste’ but the term is still loaded with connotations of being ‘half’ white and ‘half’ otherOther. Horrible word. To grow up wondering what your Dadami just said to you in Urdu and just assuming it was ‘more food?’ and then going back to your Nana’s yard and being loaded with curry goat and rice and peas is a great thing. (You half white people are slyly jealous now aren’t you? Pub food is good and that but…) Sorry. That was a joke, if you know me that was ‘Bilal-funny’, not actually funny, but if you’re smirking/rolling your eyes you lot are empathising. But to grow up like that in a society where the ‘so where are you from?’ question is almost fundamental to any social introduction can cause a lot of problems for your own interpretation of identity. Particularly when you never see or hear of much representation of anyone like you. In fact, outside of the Caribbean and Brazil, perhaps the holy grails for being mixed beige pon beige, you could almost be lulled into a false sense of security that ones genetics MUST contain at least some white in order to pass as mixed in our society. Maybe I’m TOO different. A question that all too often passed through my mind, even growing up in a place like Brent, apparently the most multicultural borough in the whole of London I’ll have you know. Great Ikea there as well.
But, It’s obviously a very personal experience, depends entirely on the interaction with both sides of your parentage, the area you’re from, the school you went to, the food you ate, and *insert the rest of the infinite variables that created you here* but regardless, speaking from my own life, the experience of being mixed with a number of ethnic minorities in a still capitalist white patriarchal society with no recognisable space for yourself , not even on a form – and don’t give me that ‘other’ nonsense, cannot fail to put you at a disadvantage.
Now please don’t all jump at once and vote me as champion for all colours of the Dulux beige colour chart. I prefer being a keyboard warrior. But don’t we all think that it’s about time we change our perceptions of what it means to be ‘mixed-race’ in Britain today? It’s 2015, in the urban sprawl where society is increasingly multicultural, perhaps it is time we open up further representations of what it means to be mixed, that being mixed is not just about being half-white, that indeed #ITooAmMixed @Tweetsbybilal
For more articles by Bilal and to follow his blog, please click here 

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Mixer Race & Education - Open Debate 2015

People in Harmony are hosting an Open Debate on Mixed Race and Education on Saturday 25th April in Bethnal Green London. Sir Keith Ajegbo and Respond Academy were both present at their AGM which I attended in September 2014.  I have put the date in my diary already!

 Please see the poster below for further information.


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

'My Mother's Mixed Race Experience'

Dreams of my mother...

by Tony Thomas

It's October 1959; Paddington station is busy... Scanning the departures board for her train a nervous looking woman hurries towards the platform. In one hand she carries a suitcase and holding her other hand tightly is a pretty 2 year old; a mixed race child. The girls's name was Rosemary Walter and the journey she was about to embark on would change her life forever. She could not have known it off course but she was being rejected; hidden. You see Rosie's mother, a white woman married to a white man had had a black lover and Rosie was living proof of a relationship that was not just illicit but in those days deemed utterly shameful...

These are not my words but the word's of George Alagiah narrating the three part series Mixed Britannia. The little girl in the story is my mother; this was the tale of the early years of my mothers life...

My mother was born in 1957 to a white mother and a Jamaican father; in 1959 at the age of two she was handed over to the National Children's Home and transported from London to Wales; she would spend the next 16 years of her life in children's homes across the country.

The world that my mother inhabited in her youth was not like today; there were not as many black people in the country; there was no noteable mixed race population and Wales was more or less a white's only territory. Wherever my mother would go she would not fit in. Her hair was too frizzy, she had big lips and a big nose; there was no way that she could "pass". She was clearly an object of curiosity to the people that she met who had never interacted with a "darkie" before. On holiday's such as Christmas unlike the other children my mother did not have a family that would come and take her back to the family home; she would spend the holiday's with kind Welsh and English families doing a good deed.

My mother spent most of her time in care in Wales; she was sent to London, Brixton at the age of 14 to be with her "own kind" as Brixton had become known as a place where the West Indian community congregated together and it was also where her mother lived who had become an honorary Jamaican. It was the thinking of the children's home that as she was getting to the age of having boyfriends she should be around her own kind for mating purposes. 

For my mother Brixton was as much a culture shock as Wales. My mother had a Welsh accent; she was mixed-race and had never met her Jamaican father. Although she had always sympathised with African-American struggles and her obvious "otherness" made her desire to understand that part of her she knew nothing about; she was not a part of the Jamaican community.

My mother faced as much isolation in her early day's in London as she had faced in Wales; she was different; a "red gyal" with a Welsh accent and a lack of understanding of Jamaican culture. She was not accustomed to the ways of the big city and she was alone... 

Gradually my mother began to fit in; she learnt the cultural codes; she began to make friends, kind friends that took care of her because they empathised with her life circumstances. Not long after arriving in London my mother ran away from the children's home to stay with a school friend. Her friend had brothers and at the time Rasta was dominant in black youth culture so my mother became aware of it; the young Rasta men were protective of my mother and ensured she was treated with respect and dignity by the more unrespectable men. Eventually my mother would return to the children's home but maintained the relationships that she built whilst away.

I was born when my mother was 17. She was technically still in care. She had met my father at a wedding. He was a handsome "Shaft" looking guy who wore fancy clothes and had a nice car, he was an ambitious person but perhaps not emotionally equipped to have a relationship with someone who had experienced the trauma of detachment from such a young age.

By the time I was 12 my mother was a single parent with 3 children; a care-leaver with no solid family relationships and a limited education; the odds were stacked against her. She seemed destined at the age of 30 to become another statistic but things changed...

My mother's life experiences had filled her wit a burning desire to help people to do something good and to support people like herself. My mother had always been unbelievably sympathetic to the plight of down and outs and saw herself in them. So she set out on a journey to do something positive in the world and to one day tell her story. She enrolled at university; she struggled every year to make the grades; she struggled with depression and poverty whilst dealing with a son involved with youth-crime and detained in police stations across London but she was able to find the strength to make it through and get the grades. I remember her watching the movie "Educating Rita" over and over again. I think she saw herself in the character "Rita" and it inspired her to become something more than the statistic that she might have been.

My mother's years of study are what inspired me to want to read; go to university and to think about politics and civil society and change the world... Today my mother is a team manager in social services and a qualified social worker; she has escaped the trap of so many care-leavers and is able to support other's whose lives are damaged but she never forgets the struggle that she has been through and still has a burning passion to make the world a better place. A passion that she has passed onto me.

The narrative that I began with has been the culmination of my mother's rise from abandoned child to matriarch; the telling of her story on national TV! It is a story of overcoming struggle and adversity in order to become a change maker; a story of identity that I want to continue. In my work I am not pursuing the "dreams of my father" like Obama but the "dreams of my mother"...

Written by Tony Thomas   Twitter OrganiseLondon

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