British | Somali

Liz Awad.jpg

I was born in London but grew up in the Midlands after my dad left. We lived in a white community with white friends. I always had this sense of not quite fitting in. I knew that I was different from a young age. I looked different to everyone that was around me and I was very tall. Much taller than children my own age. So I really stood out. There was no hiding. I was also a really shy, quiet kid. That and being in the spotlight as well and always trying to explain who I was, it was kind of a weird thing to have to deal with. 

My name originally was Zainab which was the name my dad gave to me. When I was 7, I changed my name to Elizabeth. On the surface it seemed to be a positive step and a chance to start again in a way. I think that i wanted to have a more English sounding name and make it seem as if I fitted in better. But I think that really that probably did more harm than good because it gave me the message that I needed to change myself to be accepted by others. And that’s been the case for my experience as a kid and my experience with my father. If I want to be accepted, it is me that has to change. 

I like being mixed race and I think it is only going to become more and more common. For me, I’m 41 now, when I was younger, it was quite unusual especially where I grew up. Now there are so many mixed race people around which is great. I think that especially in this age of rising racism that we see throughout the world, it is something that is going to be a connecting force and a positive influence. If people can start to focus less on race, it's a cliche but we know race is a social construct. We need to stop drawing the line between people based on their physical characteristics and realise that we are just all human beings and start to treat each other with the respect and compassion as a whole and get rid of all the dividing lines. So hopefully as the future develops and things change we can go to a more accepting place. I hope things get better for everyone really. That would be ideal.