Irish | Trinidadian
Ethnically I identify as Afro Caribbean and Celtic. My mother was from Trinidad and my father was born in Ireland. I grew up in South East London. I’ve always known I was mixed-race. I don’t think my parents really coordinated their education into my culture. My mother always told me about where she was from, it’s history, traditions, stories and folklore and of course it’s culinary heritage and my father did broadly the same. My father always sang traditional Irish folk music around the house, he used to sing me to sleep and was forever telling stories of myths and fairy tales. I felt a strong connection with Irish ballads and the Celtic culture, but I had no real or lasting relationships with his side of the family although I did visit Ireland regularly with him for a number of years as a child. All my extended family experience came from my mum’s side. I actually went to live in Trinidad with my mother in 1989 for a bit, too. I find I identify far more comfortably and readily with my Caribbean roots.
When I was a child I experienced some difficulty surrounding my mixed heritage, during secondary school from 1 or 2 2nd generation Afro Caribbean kids. It was more playground foolishness than anything else. The majority of the issues I’ve faced have been from English, Irish and Europeans. Maybe mostly from Irish people in Ireland.
Mutual attraction and intellect [not necessarily academic] are the only factors that interest me when choosing a partner. As for my friends, perhaps my social environment does play a part. Most of my friends are Afro Caribbean or African and involved in music somehow, so social environment probably does play a massive part in the coming about of my friendships.
I was interviewed by a musician I was working with a few years ago as part of a documentary on mixed-race people and culture and she asked if my mixed-heritage had any effect on my work life. It was the first time I really considered it. Generally, my external and internal identity is a London-born Caribbean [or ‘Black’ for lack of a more relevant term] with an Irish father: I’d never considered the specifics of my mixed heritage as a factor in the eyes of society. Broadly I feel that’s still the case for the most part, but that interview and this has made me consider the more subtle interplay around my ethnicity [e.g., it’s been suggested that my ‘look’ is a big part of the reason people hire me for live session work, tours, videos and photoshoots]. Perhaps there is a fetishization that I’m generally unaware of? It’s almost certainly naive of me to think there isn’t. I’ve always seen mixed ethnicity as a fundamental fact of being Caribbean, the melting pot of the Atlantic.
I understood the snatches of Irish Gaelic my father used to speak to me, and the same with Spanish and my mother, but I don’t speak any other languages. I’ve never felt ‘othered’ by Caribbean’s and I’ve never felt that any Irish people I’ve met – family, friends or acquaintances – have ever really considered me as one of them.
When asked where I’m from I will usually say that I am from London. Being mixed-race in today’s society is very interesting! I’m perceived as Black for the most part, so It feels as if the one-drop mentality prevails. Or at least is still a strong influencing factor whether subconscious or not. It’s also very nuanced.
If I had the opportunity to be reborn I’d return as me, no question. But I do sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a singular cultural identity.
I’ve recently released a record produced by an almost entirely mixed-race collective. The first track was recently released, check out Wicked Labour from the ‘Brutus Stone’ project. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYzvlXJg0Ug