Monday, 7 April 2014

Snakes and Ladders Hair Story Snippets

Tour starts on 10th April 2014. Book Tickets here.   

Listen to some of the mixed race voices talking about their hair experiences Snakes and Ladders Video

This is Barbara's hair story

Barbara is from London with a Nigerian Mum and a White dad from Essex
“The main thing for me was that my mum didn’t know how to plait my hair. And my hair was red and basically it was an afro when I little and then my mum just put it in bunches when the afro got really big.

Sometimes I look at photos of me with my big bunches and I say to my mum “how could you have left my hair like that?” We can laugh and joke about it now but at the time it was terrible. I hated having red hair, really hated it. In fact it was more about having red hair than having Black afro hair.  There was loads of name calling at school, like ginger and stuff. I felt like I really stood out. My white nan used to tell me that I looked liked Diana Ross with my big hair but I never took any notice of her!

I used to really liked it when my Nigerian auntie came round because she could plait my hair and I remember loads of fights with my mum when she was trying to comb my hair. But then when I got to about 10 or 11, I did my hair myself and I remember I didn’t comb the middle bit of my hair for a while and it went into a massive dreadlock. And then I cut the dreadlock off and hid it in a plastic bag in my knicker drawer and my mum found it and went mad!

I first had my hair relaxed when I was 12. By that time I was just doing my own thing with my hair and I was living with my dad and he just let me do that. I was so happy when I saw and it looked darker as well (less red) and that was fantastic. And because it was so big, my hair was really long when it was relaxed and suddenly I felt like I had “good hair.”

When I was 12 or 13 I didn’t mind the hours it took to do my relaxed hair because that’s what you do when you’re a teenager. I used to spend hours putting it into big scrunchies and ringlets. Sometimes I tied up so tight it used hurt my head! But I didn’t care!

Now my hair needs treatment every 2 weeks, I’m talking high maintenance hair. My mates think that it’s a luxury thing when I say I’m off to the hairdressers (yet) again but it’s a necessity for me. And when I go on holidays I always have to take the big hairdryer and avoid water at all costs. Sometimes I really envy people who have ‘wash and go’ hair. My hair takes up so much of my time.

My advice to mixed race people with hair like mine is leave the relaxing to as late as possible…and even if you don’t’ have people around you with hair like yours you can always look in magazines and books and stuff and find out for yourself!”
Tour starts on 10th April 2014. Book Tickets here.   

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Why Mixed Race Discussions Matter

This post was written by the Multicultural (Asian-Latina-American) Doctora in Training. S/He is a PhD student
Link to Blog
sharing information and resources as they navigate the predoctoral experience. The Multicultural Doctorate is a blog to share advice and information to current and aspiring graduate students of color, in particular the multicultural and multiethnic perspective.

I'm not a doctoral student in Ethnic Studies or Education or anything like that as this blog might suggest, however, because of my mixed identity I have always been interested in mixed race culture/s and how mixed folks navigate their identities in such a phenotypically-driven society as the United States. My studies focus on public health, and still, I am finding some very interesting and important ways to discuss mixed race from the perspective of public health.

Mixed race is a significant identity in our race-obsessed society. It causes that extra level of ambivalence, that extra set of questions about identity. It is similar in some ways to the immigrant American experience for example, however, being mixed adds another level of scrutiny.

Here are some reasons why mixed race matters:

1. Our Shared Experiences are Significant. Having parents who may not look like each other "racially" can be a normal way of life for us. Having siblings who look like "racially" different variations of us is a common occurrence. Being comfortable and feeling at home in different environments such as ethnic events as well as with our multiracial relatives can be normal to us. Having a love for multiple cultures which feel like home to us is a beautiful thing. Feeling the sense of being a cultural, ethnic, and "racial" bridge can be our life experience.

We are also aware of the experiences of being asked a set of similar questions and hearing particular comments. For example, frustrating questions such as "Which 'race' do you feel like you are 'more' of?" "So do you prefer to be ---- or ----- ?", or comments such as "Wow, that is so beautiful/exotic/amazing." "Wow, how did that happen?" "How did your parents meet?" just seem so ridiculous to us when we hear them, but these are very real, normal questions we hear often. Has anyone else had to endure hearing folks tell you their "favorite mix"? In all seriousness, some of these questions and comments are forms of racial microaggressions and begin to wear down individuals upon hearing them hundreds or thousands of times.

Having a space to share these experiences is important. Additionally, some mixed folks feel a shared identity with each other regardless of ethnicity. By being mixed, I have been able to discuss some unique experiences with other mixed folks, though we are from different ethnic backgrounds.

2. Our Differences Matter, Too. It's good to be respectful of our differences as mixed race folks. Do you have siblings who identify differently than you do? I do, and I choose to respect their identities. We all know we are mixed, but their selected categories are different. I also choose different categories over time, and based on the situation. There are also mixed folks who have been much more welcomed by one ethnic population and not others, and they choose not to identify with these groups. There may be folks who also claim not to be mixed, or select not to be identified or broken down into identity fractions and that's fine. It's not easy to guess and not my place to presume what all mixed individuals have experienced, but it's important to be respectful of our different experiences and identities.

3. Our Critical Lens Can Inform the Public Policy of Racial Categories. As the nation's demographics continue to change and become increasingly diverse, organizations such as the Census Bureau have been attempting to define all groups in new ways at least every ten years. These changes may be to maintain the relevance of categories, to be politically correct, or to more successfully capture the specific identities of populations.... Social perceptions of race do impact the way that the federal government and other organizations decide how to define diverse individuals, whether it be the "Other" category, "Multiracial", "More than One Race" or the "Other Race plus Non-Hispanic" or "Some Other Race plus White" categories. As the number of identifying mixed race folks increases, these categories will continue to change to represent the population the way that the federal government and other organizations believe is most appropriate. Providing your feedback such as in the "Other: Please Specify" column also informs these categories. By speaking to our community, local, state and federal officials, we can help to influence the ways that publicly defined categories of mixed race can be changed to be more inclusive and more accurate of our nation's demographics.
(See and

4. Our Discussions Can Have Far Reaching Influence. By continuing the discussion by conducting our own research and data collection in policy, education, ethnic studies, history, and other disciplines, we can be part of making significant progress in serving the mixed race population. For example, let's look at the public health side of mixed race. A variety of studies have shown that individuals of mixed race experience higher levels of depression, substance abuse, various aches and pains, and sleep disorders. Health services organizations tend to prefer clear race categories in their attempts to provide appropriate and relevant services, while mixed race folks and adolescents in particular are not being served in the same way. Culturally competent health services to mixed race populations is not highly developed at this time. Society does not make it particularly accommodating to be mixed race in its perception of identity. However, continuing these discussions in public settings can bring about new ways to improve the quality of life for mixed race individuals.

Here are some links to public health research on the effects of society on mixed race individuals:

Standing on Both Feet

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders is a play by Sarah Naomi Lee, directed by 
Kerri Mclean which is about  hair and being mixed race in the UK today

TOURING London and South East 10th April -3rd May 2014
Snakes and Ladders is a fast and funny family tale about three mixed race sisters and their relationship to their hair, inspired from real life stories collected from Black hairdressers in the South East of England in the Positive Hair Day project.

Award winning actress Cathy Tyson (whose film and TV credits include Mona Lisa and Band of Gold) joins a forces with a creative team made up of BBC writer Sarah Naomi Lee and director Kerri Mclean who recently was awarded an "overall excellence award" in the New York International Festival 2013.

Amma can't bear to relax, Kim loves being the one "blessed" with "good hair" and Sista is allergic to all forms of family life, Beyoncé and any Timotei advert.

Each sister knows her place, that is until Simone comes along and suddenly no one knows who they are any more.

Think Mike Leigh meets jerk chicken, this play will make you both laugh and cry, a must see.

“Sarah Naomi Lee's writing is fresh, buoyant, and touching” - Financial Times

To see a list of venues and dates and to book your tickets click  here


By Nadia Riepenhausen at follow her on twitter @Nadia1977

What are you? A question that is fairly straightforward for many, but not so much for me. Before you roll your eyes, expecting to hear another lengthy diatribe about another ‘tragic mullato’ identity crisis, hear me out.

A couple of Sundays ago, I found myself in a ‘battle of the races’ on twitter, a ‘twar’ for the lack of a better term. It started out as a pleasant debate regarding racial categories in South Africa, and the difference between a cultural and racial identity. It ended with me being called a racist who hates black people by choosing to identify as ‘mixed race’. I have been called many things, but a racist is definitely a first for me. I’m not going to justify my non-racist claim, by stating something lame like “some of my best friends are black”, because as I am mixed race, I am also black, but some people just don’t seem to get or accept that it’s possible to be both of these things at the same time

In the aforementioned twitter debate, I was explaining to my fellow tweeters that I prefer to identify as mixed race, rather than ‘coloured’. For those not in the know, ‘coloured’ is how mixed race people are referred to in South Africa, and in Zimbabwe where I grew up. For me ‘coloured’ is more of a cultural identity, rather than a race. Although both of my parents were born coloured, I have never been comfortable with the label. This is mainly due to the way that I have been socialised and the environment that I grew up in. I grew up with my German stepfather and spent parts of my childhood in Germany. I went to predominantly white schools, and was one of a handful of so-called ‘coloureds’ in my school. I found myself with either white or black friends, and when it came to debating issues of race or politics, I adopted a black identity. During the time I was in school, I didn’t have the means to question my identity too much, but always found it difficult to answer questions pertaining to what I was. I didn’t live in the areas that coloured people lived in, I didn’t speak the way they spoke, nor did I go to the same places they did. I may give the impression that I was afflicted with a superiority complex, and that I thought I was better in some way, but this was definitely not the case. I would have loved to have blended in, but I simply did not. The few times that I attempted to, I was told that I ‘didn’t belong’ and was even beaten up by a girl once for being where I don’t belong. Many years on, I have no desire to blend in with any group and have embraced my ‘otherness’.

It was only when I moved to the US for college, where I was confronted by race all the time, that I found myself really questioning my identity. It was through a life-changing course called ‘De-colonization of the mind’ with Professor Mustafa Masrour, that I finally had the tools to challenge all the previous labels put on me. I read writers like Franz Fanon and heard the term ‘mixed race’ and for the first time. Things came together for me and the term ‘mixed race’ was one that just seemed to fit and make sense to me. Of course this did not mean that I was able to sail off happily on a caramel coloured rainbow or anything like that. The term mixed race is also a label, and comes with its own complexities and misconceptions, which are vast and which I don’t wish to get into here. It did however; lead to my interest in exploring mixed race and issues of identity more. I wanted to know about my ancestry and heritage, so I asked lots of questions and read lots of books dealing with mixed race identity to try to understand more.

I moved to Cape Town, after having spent time in New York and London, and there I was confronted with a new racial dynamic. The coloured community in Cape Town is big, and the coloured cultural identity is very strong and defined. I did not identify with coloured people in Cape Town in any way at all, thus the label did not fit for me there. I found myself constantly explaining my identity and why I speak the way I do, etc. To be very honest, I also did not want to be associated in any way with the negative stereotypes of coloured people there, which may sound elitist to some, but I do not apologise for it. It became tiresome to try to explain why I refer to myself as mixed race, as people typically assume that means that you have parents of different races. Both my parents are mixed race, as is my grandmother and most of the members of my immediate family. I have a mixed ancestry, which is black, white, Pakistani and those are just the ones I know of. It used to be of great interest to me to know exactly what my heritage is, but now I don’t particularly care.

So back to the ‘twar ‘that I referred to earlier. This guy decided to involve himself in a previous discussion I was having with two other people. He stated that by calling myself mixed race instead of coloured, I was cowardly and that I was running away from my identity. He basically stated that ‘mixed race’ doesn’t really mean anything, as there is no defined mixed race cultural identity. When I made reference to Obama as ‘mixed race’, this dude lost the plot and said how dare I refer to him as such, as Obama identifies as black. Yes he does, and in no way do I wish to take that away from him. Obama for me is as much mixed race, as he is black. But I don’t get to decide his identity, he does.

I believe that people have the right to self-identify in whatever way they choose to. You don’t, however have control as to how others perceive you though. I get mistaken for different nationalities on an almost weekly basis. Ethiopians think I’m Ethiopian, Indians think I’m Indian and Brazilians think I’m Brazilian and so it goes on. I don’t really understand this fascination with needing to know where somebody is from or what their race is. I never have a desire to ask strangers where they are from or what race they are. Of course my curiosity is slightly piqued when I see a person that also looks mixed to me, but I certainly don’t need to try and figure them out.

For me, race is a social construct and not a biological one, and this forms the basis of my opinions with regards to race and identity. It states on my twitter handle that: ‘I call myself what I like’. This was also the title of my my recent thesis that I wrote on mixed race and identity and social media. In my thesis, I sought to show that social media allows mixed race people to construct their identities in a way that is not always possible in ‘real-life’. I also sought to show that identities, specifically mixed race identities are fluid and constantly changing. Through the interviews I conducted, I was able to show that many mixed race people choose to identify with more than one racial identity. It just makes sense doesn’t it? I navigate my way on a daily basis between a mixed race and black identity. It might seem hypocritical to some, but it works for me.

So back again to this asshat (apologies for the crude term, but it just seems to fit so aptly) on twitter who said I am ‘anti-black’ and denying my blackness by choosing to identify as mixed race. He butted in on a conversation that was to do with mixed race identity, where someone was asking how she should explain to her children that they are mixed race. The discussion was not do with blackness, yet he somehow jumped to the conclusion that it was a rejection of blackness. He seemed like an intelligent man, yet he made such a ridiculous assumption. Had the topic been ‘blackness,’ I am pretty certain I would have been able to contribute as well. This person does not know me or my life, yet made a quick assumption that I was a racist, based on a few 140-character tweets. He in fact, compared me to the founder of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd??!! What kind of nonsense is that? I wanted to reach into the screen and issue smacks to this guy! I realised though that not everyone is going to agree with my ideas on race, and they are entitled to their opinions as much as I am to mine, despite seeming to lack neither rhyme nor reason.

This ‘gentleman’ seems to come from the ‘one drop rule’ school of thought, where if you had one drop of black blood it made you black. That is some old US slavery mentality that has nothing to do with me. I re-iterate that people have the right to identify as they wish, and I refuse to make others feel comfortable by fitting in with their socially constructed labels and categories. I am pretty certain that my identity will continue to evolve and change as I continue on my journey. Race is complex and whilst I attempt to understand it, I definitely don’t have all the answers. Race is important to me, but it certainly does not define me.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Global Designs by Issosy Children

Introducing your children to clothing which represents the different cultures of your family and friends is one way of showing them that you value the diversity.  From time to time fashion is influenced by African and Asian design and you can sometimes pick up globally influenced 'fusion fashion wear' to add to your child's wardrobe from the high street. But why not be one step ahead? ...Check out this article about Isossy Children which appeared in  Vogue Bambini.

Global Designs
Isossy Children was founded by Amanda Rabor in 2010. Isossy Children is a celebration of colour, vivacity, global influences and fashion. It offers children and their parents’ choice, style and design, which is why many of the pieces are limited edition prints. "It keeps our style unique and fresh. We want you to visit the website frequently with the knowledge that our styles and colours will change offering parents new ranges for all occasions", says Amanda.
Isossy Children

The collection is traditionally separated into Isossy Classic, Play and Occasion, covering a fantastic array of styles in wonderfully vibrant and ethnic colours.  Isossy prides itself on catering for the ever changing needs of its customers, and the collection for spring summer 2013 had just a little bit of everything to make it truly special.

The brand is honoured to stand by its ‘Made in England’ manufacturing ethos, combined with the international African, Asian and Western cultures.  The fabrics and styling of these countries are evident within this vivacious collection.

Childrenswear brand Isossy Children continues to be the forerunner in global clothing for kids.  With its smart, casual and lively range for girls and boys.  Check out their website. 

The range sees plenty of Tween pieces for girls and boys (8-14 yrs) that look as though they’ve just stepped off the catwalk.  Key styles such as the all print pant suits for girls and boys are going to be a real player within the range. The 80s makes a comeback for girls with playful cheerleader style dresses and drop-waist box pleat detailing.  The cheerleader dresses also have unique details such as the mock waistcoat feature. 

Isossy Children
Playsuits and the iconic jumpsuits that Isossy do so well have also been updated with halterneck styles with elasticated back bodice detailing.   Picture perfect cute dresses have frilly cap sleeves and racer back is perfect for summertime. Tailoring for boys and girls has become an integral part of this ever evolving range. Easy machine-washable fabrics in soft jerseys and cottons add to the elite quality of this beautiful collection.

I really love the designs and the mix and match nature of the outfits means that you can blend African, Asian and Western designs, so that your child can see that all their cultures are valued in your family.  Not only that, but your child will most definitely not be bumping into someone else wearing the same outfit at the party. To view more of this range and to purchase, check out the website:
Isossy Children
Isossy Children
Isossy Children

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Colour of Hope

Marcus Roberts is an  actor who is based in London. This is how he feels about growing mixed race.

Being mixed race can be both a blessing and a curse. Growing up, I never felt that I had one cultural identity. Most people are from either one race or another. White people never question their whiteness or black people their blackness. But as a young mixed race person you don't know whether your more white or black and to which race you truly belong. White people would classify you as black and black people would see you as light skin, still not one of their own. It's like being caught between two worlds, wondering in the wilderness. 

The unity of our upbringing by parents of different ethnicity is a special thing which gives us empathy and insight into both sides of the coin. Makes us blind to the differences that many others may see, knowing that if one of our parents are black and the other white then there isn't any separation between us and the rest of humanity. We are all one human race at the end of the day, the colour of our skin being just a small variation out of the many that make us interesting. We are really the bridge between two worlds, by our births we merge them into one just by being ourselves.

English people know a lot of their history and celebrate their cultural identity in lots of ways. Having events and gatherings where they do traditional things as a group. The same for Welsh, Irish and Scottish people. Beautiful occasions where their culture joins them together to remember where they come from. Especially those of them that are away from their homeland, these occasions help them to feel a connection to their roots and their ancestry. As a person of mixed race, we don't really have a firm sense of our roots. No yearly celebration exists where we gather as one and celebrate where we come from.

It is especially hard for young mixed race children growing up to find stability and a sense of where they belong. To have that to deal with as well as all the other pressures that all children face is a challenge that makes us as strong as we are. We haven't had others like us before really in the public eye who we could relate to and look up to. We now have shining examples of others of mixed race parentage in the Spotlight who are excelling in all fields. For example Tiger Woods, Mariah Carey, Leona Lewis, Jessica Ennis. People in Music, Sport, a Olympic Star amd Professional Golfer, a Grammy winner. This is a great thing as our future generations can look up to them as role models for them to aspire to. People that lead a good life and by their example encourages us that we too can aim high and be the best that we can be.

The times are changing and it is becoming more and more common for people to be of mixed parentage. Before when my mum was with my dad in the 1980's they used to get lots of racial abuse for being a interracial couple. People would spit after my mum in the street as she was pushing me in the buggy. And men would try to fight my dad saying he should stay away from their women. Now it is a everyday occurrence for different races to marry, the stigma attached to it is a thing of the past. Soon the world would have more mixed race people than people of one ethnic decent. That is the future, where we are heading with the crossing of borders and unifying of continents. Our time is now, the things that separated us before are no longer holding us back, it's a new world out there, time to step up to the mark and say I'm here, I'm mixed race and proud. I belong to the world and treat everyone as my equal regardless of race. One world, one love, Mixed Race.

Marcus Roberts 
Actor London

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Happy Hair UK

Happy Hair UK's  mission is to make every child with Afro/Mixed (Kinky to Curly) hair feel happy with their hair. To make Afro/Mixed hair manageable using natural products whilst keeping hair care to a high standard. We want to make Black/Mixed children's hair care accessible in all areas of the UK. And if it cannot be accessed to provide tips, advice and support.
We will achieve this by hosting free events to promote and educate people about black/mixed hair care. 

Hair appointments (in your local area/own home) can be booked and paid for on our website. 
Natural hair care products and accessories will be available to purchase on the website. 
The website will provide tips and advice and an agent will be on hand (live) to answer questions/queries. 

The service will target parents, guardians and foster/adoptive parents of black/mixed children who need help to manage their child(ren)'s hair. The service would provide hair cutting, barbering, braiding/cornrow/canerow, braided extensions - all hairstyles except straightening. The cost would typically start from around £20. Our aim is to eventually roll this service out nationwide.  

Please give them feedback on this great idea by taking part in their survey . Follow them on twitter and like them on facebook