British | St Kitts
I identify as Black British. I grew up as a Quaker and it has informed my spirituality, but I wouldn’t say I was religious at all. My Mum is from Manchester and my Dad is from St Kitts in the Caribbean. He emigrated to Leeds when he was 13. Being mixed-race is not something I ever recognised it just always was. Growing up with my Mum she was always very encouraging of my appreciation of my heritage.
I was born in Harlesden, which is one of the most multicultural areas in London with strong Caribbean, African, Asian and Irish communities, so as a young kid I was aware of everyone it was never really anything I had to be aware of. When I was 8 years old however, due to family circumstances, we had to move out of London to a small town called Chesham which is the last stop on the metropolitan line (Zone 9 - who knew). When I moved there I was the only Black kid in my whole school. The only two communities were White and Pakistani. So, I quickly became aware of my identity.
My Mum is from the North West of England which has a strong cultural identity of its own, growing up I spent a lot of time in Liverpool and Manchester so was exposed to that side of my English culture. My Dad has always been in my life and would tell me stories of his time in St. Kitts and gave me a lot of education of the general history of the West Indies. I feel a strong connection to my Caribbean heritage but feel that it’s something that I need to explore throughout my own life.
Growing up in a town where you’re one of a handful of Black people, you naturally find yourself assimilating. I have always identified as Black and that has always been encouraged by both my Mum and my Dad, but I would find myself having to deal with other people’s perception of my race and that’s what can be very tough for a kid. If we were playing sports or going out, then I was the ‘Black kid’ because my race would be used as a positive for the White kids around me. But if I ever was present when someone said something racist or tried to make a joke at the expense of Black people, then I would often be told that I’m not really Black, or I’m only half Black ‘anyway’. So, it was frustrating having to justify my own identity on other people’s terms.
Most of my oldest friends are white but I have many friends of many different shades. Your environment definitely plays a part because you can only be friends with the people around you. My girlfriends have mostly always been mixed White and another race though, which I’ve only really just
realised writing this. My exposure to Black women has been a lot less than I would like though, but hopefully life’s course alters that.
My culture has given me a strong connection to music, as a musician and former dancer I’m very aware of my connection to rhythm which definitely isn’t from my Mum’s side. I don’t think my fashion is cultural, but there is a really funny photo of me at a primary school disco where I’m wearing a full Ecko tracksuit and a durag, I stick out like a sore thumb amongst my White mates who were wearing Bilabong tees and spikey hair. After growing up I grew my hair out into a huge afro, but I think this was more out of laziness than cultural connection. I hated unsolicited touching of my hair though, so I have been shaving my head ever since which I suppose is quite sad. I don’t think my culture is connected to food, but I may have an overcompensating love for jerk chicken.
I love my connection to White and Black culture. I feel that I have an amazing perspective on the world and can adapt to any situation. I used to go from working for a catering company in Buckingham palace straight to Visions in Dalston and no one would bat an eyelid. Especially for anyone that has moved out of London to ‘middle England’ you realise that it’s a very useful skill to have, because communication is the most powerful thing that we have.
I’ve always been intrigued to think how I would have turned out had I never left London, but other than that I’m pretty content with how I am, I wouldn’t change anything.