Irish | Nigerian
I identify myself as mixed-race. My mum is from Dublin, Ireland and my dad is from Imo State, Nigeria. They met in a club called ‘Afro Spot’ in Dublin in the early 80’s.
I was born in Dublin and came to live and grow up in London aged 4. Although we moved to London we would spend the 6 weeks summer holiday with my mum’s family in Ireland. I grew up in the East End (Stratford East) in a multi-cultural environment and went to a Catholic primary & secondary school. In secondary school I loved athletics and despite being pretty short (I’m 5’3” now) I had long legs so my ‘specialist’ event was triple jump! I graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama with a BA in Theatre Practice: Performance Arts. I worked as a youth-worker in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for 4 years alongside studying and after graduation. I travelled to Canada and Brazil on youth-work related voluntary projects during this time. In Brazil I was happy to come into contact with such a diverse range of mixed-race people! I moved to Glasgow, Scotland to work in the theatre and after another 4 years I returned to London. I am an actress and currently live in Tottenham, North London.
I was around 3 or 4 when I first understood I was from different cultural backgrounds. One of my earliest memories of living in Ireland was moving out of our flat. My mum and dad had just got married (I was a flower girl!), I was sitting on my uncles’ knee in the van as it was being loaded with our belongings by my mum, dad and family. Out of the window of the van I could see an older woman sitting on a deck chair outside one of the flats with two younger men sitting either side of her. They were laughing and calling us names as they watched us. I asked my uncle why they were laughing, and he said that they were just bad people. Even though I think I had just turned 4 I remember knowing that they were laughing at us because we were different, because I was mixed, and they were happy we were leaving. It felt like they were celebrating our departure. This upset me a lot as I had a lot of friends in the flats and I remember being very happy there. I found out a few years later that the two younger men were the sons of the woman in the deck chair. Under their mother’s instruction they had tried to set fire to our flat twice and on one of the occasions robbed my mum and dad’s wedding presents, some still unwrapped. It was too dangerous for us to be there, so we moved.
All of my friends are pretty different to me culturally, race and culture hasn’t affected my choice in both friends and/or relationships.
I definitely think there are still stereotypes toward mixed-race people. When I lived in Ireland I was the only non-White child in my area so sometimes this helped me to make friends, but also isolated me from the ones who didn’t want to play with someone ‘different’. When I came to London I was exposed to so many different cultures and it was a bit of a shock as I hadn’t really thought about race in a conscious way (my first day at school in London was pretty scary). There were so many different races it actually became more important to define what my race was and this confused so many people. From these early days I would say I felt like I was being constantly judged/labelled by people I had any sort of relations with because of my mix. I have found some men for example to have a ‘mixed-race/light skin fetish’ which I have found pretty baffling and disheartening. On a positive note I feel my background has helped me to be curious about others and connect with people from all different walks of life.
If I had the opportunity to be born again I wouldn’t change my current identity. I think being mixed race has definitely helped me to see things from a few different perspectives/cultures so whatever background I had I would want that!
I think the future of people of a mixed-race background is positive overall. I think it will continue to get better as society becomes more open, aware and global. It’s a population that is only getting bigger. There will of course be challenges depending on where you go but also ignorance in places you wouldn’t expect. I think the notion of ‘culture’ is something to also be aware of because in my opinion some people really put a lot of value in upholding all the laws of their original culture. When you have a mixed person, who has two or three or more cultures running through them this can be a conflict still, a fight between all cultures. Not necessarily from the mixed-race person in question but from the people around them who are asking them to conform to a specific culture. This is just one specific example which will affect some mixed-race people. Either way I think it is really important for mixed-race kids and ALL kids to know their value as an individual first and the culture, race, mix, can come after. It’s an important part of us but it doesn’t define us.