English | Nigerian
I consider myself mixed-race & heterosexual. I follow no traditional religion but strongly identify with the ways of certain Amazonian and African indigenous earth tribes. My mother is English, my father was Nigerian. They met at an anti racism rally in Hyde park in the seventies. I grew up in Putney, London. Up until they moved when I was eleven I also spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house in Guildford.
I recognised I was mixed-race on my first day of primary school where I was bullied for being Black. My parents did not stay together, and my Father moved back to Nigeria by the time I was born. My Father wanted my mother to move to Nigeria and raise me there but my Mother, being a strong and independent woman decided that it would decrease my opportunities in life. She decided to do a fantastic job in raising me as a single parent in London. My Father was always the black sheep of his Nigerian family, but weirdly having a son inspired him to reach out to his family and go back home, leaving his unborn child in England!
My first day of school in 1981 fundamentally changed my life. Up until that point I had lived a great childhood in a loving family with no concept of my colour. During my first play time on the first day of school I had a group of about ten kids surround me in a circle menacingly chanting ‘BLACK JACK, GOLLYWOG, BLACK JACK GOLLY WOG’. Their cruelty reduced me to tears, it was my first profoundly traumatic moment. My life changed at the point because it made me realise that I was Brown but my family and most people I knew were White. My four-year-old brain rationalised ‘being brown is bad’ so ‘I don’t belong’. A few days later I beat the main ringleader up and we all became friends, but my core wound was installed.
In general, I’ve had a wonderful life with great friends, but I have always been different and my sense of not belonging has popped up throughout my life. Even in communities of people who consider me to belong. My friends have all fallen in to my life naturally. I’m privileged to know a diverse spectrum of people from different backgrounds and countries. I have no ethnic preference for sexual partner or friend although having grown up in predominantly White communities a large percentage of my closest friends are White.
My second primary school was diverse, and I enjoyed being one of many kids of colour, but my formative years of secondary school were in a largely White private all boys school. Growing into my teenage years at that school made me comfortable in White communities (despite suffering some subtle racism from teachers). When I was 16 I went to Richmond College I was exposed to big crews of Black people. I felt really ashamed and embarrassed at who I was in front of them because I had dark skin but a fairly well-spoken private school accent. It was then that I really felt the hole in my black heritage. It took me a few years (and a few silent meditation retreats and personal development courses!) to get past that hole in my identity to eventually become comfortable with who I am and freely express myself around all people.
My mother was always concerned that I was not discriminated against and so racism was in my field of awareness when it popped up, but I always chose to not give it any energy and I tended to be very confident at humorously engaging with any protagonists in ways that would win them over.
Being mixed-race affected my career decision. Although being perfectly comfortable in a White environment I still believed I might suffer from being mixed-race in a work force and so from the word go I knew that I didn’t want to work for anyone. I could never condone the idea of my success being at the mercy of other people’s decisions. Ultimately, I consider it to have had a positive affect in inspiring me to be a freelance entrepreneur and master of my own schedule.
I think it’s possible that being mixed-race in my community has made it more challenging to find my true sweet heart. I have found myself to be more attractive to foreign women than English.
I never had my Father in my life, so I was never exposed to my native language. I would say that having a void around my African heritage definitely affected me. It was very challenging as when I was young but at the same time I can only feel gratitude because that same wound launched me on a path of self discovery. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for this gap in my identity, it helped forge the character I am becoming. I was brought up with my second name Thomas because my Dad essentially wanted me to be called Junior. About ten years ago I decided I wanted to honour my African heritage and start using my first name Deji (which was also thrilled to realise was an anagram of Jedi - Star Wars was my first film in a cinema when I was four and was convinced that I was going to be a Jedi myself!).
I grew up English, so it would be stupid to say that isn’t what I connect with most. I love the humour, art and music of England but part of that love is the appreciation of being a member of such a multicultural society (in London). I’m a drummer, I love African music. I spend time with indigenous tribes. I feel that my mixed-race identity has given me a free pass to engage with any culture I’m drawn to.
I’m half Yoruba over the last few years my path has taken me to become an apprentice Babalow priest. Working with the divination system called IFA. It has a similar essence to the iChing divination of China. It works with the ancient earth energy matrix’s which are known as the Orisha’s (used throughout Africa and the Americas) and uses the oldest binary system known to man. I am still early in my relationship to this way, but I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to connect with the power of my ancestral blood through this ancient practice. When asked where I’m from I say I’m half Nigerian, half English and grew up in London
The flip side of not belonging is that I kind of belong everywhere. My life has been an extraordinary adventure from streets in the hood, to tribes in the jungle to the company of the rich and famous, to working with young leaders in far corners of earth places like Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan and Nepal. I have no doubt being mixed-race has been an active ingredient for my blessed path.
Being mixed-race means you are between two races, which gives you a unique perspective on society. It makes it very hard to be racist and I believe in my case it has helped increased my capacity to be able to connect and identify with people from everywhere. Let’s face it, mixed-race people are generally pretty easy on the eye, and at 41 I’m enjoying the perks of the ‘black don’t crack’ effect (thank you Dad).
Overall, I would say being mixed-race in today’s society is great. I have been delighted to see things change from when I was young and pray that it will continue to move in the same direction (although reading some of the stories of my younger mixed-race brothers and sisters on this page makes me realise that there is a way to go). At times I still feel challenged with my sense of not belonging but there is no person in the world who does not have a wound or challenge to deal with. I’m grateful for the path my wound has led me on and feel excited to see where it’s leading. I’m forty-one and still full of playfulness and curiosity, I can’t see that energy fading anytime soon (in fact anytime).
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would want to return as myself, but I’d definitely be curious to be born as peer of my descendants seven generations on!