English | Zambian
My mum is English (Lake district) and my Dad is Zambian (Copperbelt). They met in Sunderland at university. I grew up in a small country town in Aberdeenshire called Alford in the North East of Scotland.
We lived in the north of England (Ulverston) until I was 4. On our estate there was a girl who would bully me. One day she said, ‘You’re adopted, how can your parents be different colours?’. My parents were outraged when I asked them what adopted meant. I remember my Dad marching out on to the street with a photo of my mum in hospital holding me after birth as proof. That’s my first memory of feeling different, understanding I was mixed-race and that having parents of different races wasn’t normal in society.
Music was our family’s language. I learnt so much about Zambia from the music my Dad would play in car journeys. Also, beyond Zambia I found my first deep connection with Black culture through the music he would introduce me to growing up. Similarly, with my mum, through her choice in music I got a real sense of British culture. I would see my Mum’s side of the family often, I feel lucky I had the opportunity to enjoy northern English culture quite regularly. It wasn’t until I was much older that I was able to begin to explore my Dad’s culture on a deeper level.
Predominantly I have experienced personal challenges caused by internal, fundamental questions of identity. I identify as a Black woman because one, that feels to be instinctively who I am and two, that is how I have and will always be treated and seen as by the world. In doing so though, I must be very careful not to deny half of myself nor half of my family. It’s a very fine balance to master especially when you begin to consider the history and current disparities and tensions between Black and White people. It can all get very confusing and cause varying degrees of identity crisis. I feel I am getting closer to becoming completely comfortable in my own identity. I have found the key is to understand and accept yourself for every part of who you are and to be brutally honest and open about all that has come before you regarding race relations.
I have now reached a point in my understanding where I feel privileged to be a result of love between two races and I feel lucky to have the opportunity now to write a new future that will support and promote equality and love between all colours. I hope for the generations to come that skin colour will cease to even be a consideration in human interaction and that a person’s character, identity and opportunities in life will not be judged nor dictated by race.
I would say that my social environment does play a part in how I choose my friends/partners. But usually the great friends I make aren’t much of choice. Often, I am lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and very deep, spiritual and personal connections are made out-with my control. I think that’s the beauty of being mostly in a musical environment. Creativity usually dictates my social surroundings and leads me to wonderful people.
I think more than anything being mixed-race has blessed me with an open mind from childhood. Growing up in a household with two completely different cultures has opened my whole world up. This mindset has affected everything I do in life whether that be work or personal. I feel it has rid me of judgement and prejudice of any kind and I believe throughout my life this has enabled me to make soul connections with people and allowed me to see beauty in everything. When it comes to my personal life it has also opened my heart to all cultures, races and types of love. Knowing the prejudice and difficulties my parents had to overcome to marry, I have always had an understanding that real love is worth fighting for and often you will be forced to. From very early in my life I have had complete faith that true love between any two people can withstand and overcome all the world has to throw at them.
Sadly, I can’t speak my Dad’s mother tongue Bemba. I would really love to learn in order to really connect with my family in Zambia and to also explore a deeper relationship with my Dad. They all speak English, but I know If I were to learn Bemba I could gain a much greater understanding of both my family and Zambia.
Culturally because I’ve grown up in the UK I identify more with my Mum’s side as it’s the only culture I’ve ever really known and experienced. Luckily London is so multi-cultural, since moving here African culture has become a beautiful part of my life that I have so desperately longed for. I am very thankful for music because throughout my life it has been my connection to my Black culture. Even up in the hills of Scotland with no training, the rhythms and singing styles of Africa came so naturally to me. It gave me great comfort knowing that within my DNA my Dad’s culture had been carried through via music.
When asked where I’m from I always give quite a long answer. People aren’t often satisfied with Scotland or England. I usually end up giving my parents heritage too. This used to annoy and confuse me, but now I am proud to give me full story even to strangers, because at the end of the day, there is no short answer, I am made up of many things!
I think the world is changing rapidly, even within my life, acceptance of mixed-race relationships has improved dramatically. The world has opened up so much and I believe if you have a deep connection, acceptance and understanding of both of your cultures, being mixed-race can be a beautiful experience. Without that grounding though, you can find yourself in a confusing, lonely place. Only when I began to dig deep and accept myself for every part of me, was I able to define my own identity and stop searching for approval and acceptance from other groups of society. I am who I am, and it feels wonderful to embrace my own diversity and to grant myself the freedom to write my own rules!
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I’d want to return exactly as I am with perhaps a bit more wisdom, so I could get to a stage of mental freedom earlier. If I could be rebooted with fluent Bemba that would be awesome too!