Jamaican/Norwegian | Nigerian
I am mixed-race, straight and have recently become an atheist. My mother was born in the UK in 1952; however, her father was Jamaican and her mother Norwegian. My father was (I am told) Nigerian. I have also been told that I had an Indian great grandmother and Ethiopian and Irish connections. My mother’s maiden name was Kelly which was born from the slave trade. Mum left her home in Liverpool at the age of 15 and moved to London. She then met my father who was a lecturer at university. She became pregnant with me and returned to Liverpool alone. Apparently, he loved her and asked to marry her, but she declined. I grew up in Kirkby, Knowsley which borders Liverpool. It was a very racist area. It was tough being raised there.
I was under 2 years old sat in a pram outside a shop when a group of children approached me and covered me in their spit and shouted racist remarks. That was when I knew I was different.
My grandfather on my mother’s side worked as a cook on the ships and was away for long periods leaving nana alone with all 9 children. She had also taken her sister’s (a prostitute) 2 children into her care, bringing the total to 11. Nana was harsh and said hurtful words to my mother like ‘What do people think of me with these nigga kids?’. On one occasion a passer-by complimented my mother on how pretty she was, nana then said to her ‘she just feels sorry for you that you’re not pretty, you’re skinny with a Black face’.
When her father was home the children were often severely punished for any wrongdoing. Several at a time being placed naked in a bath of cold water and left there till he would eventually enter and whip them using the wire flex off the TV. He thought this was a kindness as in Jamaica when he was a boy, he would be punished by being tied to a tree naked outside his home whipped and left for all to see including his peers. Sadly, this sort of treatment is often the perpetuated aftermath of the cruelty of the slave trade.
I was told that my mum was used as a drug mule by her dad being sent on a train carrying a bag of drugs. Who would stop a child? On one occasion she came home late and was met with a powerful punch to the face as punishment. Despite this treatment she felt loved and he did his best. He died when she was 15 years old and this caused much trouble. Kicked out of the family home at the age of 15 she moved to London. She met my father, a university lecturer from Nigeria. She left London and him and moved back to Liverpool in her pregnant state. When my nana found out about me she told my mother to get rid of me as she was too young to be burdened with a child. Mum couldn’t do it. Apparently (I found out when I was an adult) my father loved her and had asked to marry her, but she rebuffed his advances and never let me see him. (I should have been allowed to see my father, this still hurts. I searched for him when I was old enough but found he’d died in 1989).
I was born in 1970 and when I was 1 year old she became involved and baptised into the Jehovah’s Witness religion. In some ways this helped her to break free from her family who had fallen apart since grandad died. Nana had totally neglected the children and they suffered so much that they became involved with drugs, violence and some of them spent time in prison. I’ll never forget the time my uncle soaked his t-shirt in petrol and set it alight whilst wearing it, he quickly took it off and laughed at my distress at witnessing it.
There was a lot of violence in the home, on one occasion a heavy glass ashtray was thrown with such force that it wedged straight into the living room door, I was sat on the sofa and it just missed my head by a fraction of an inch. This prompted my mum to move out of the family home. She lived in a one bedroom flat with me and embraced all that the witnesses believed and required. She became a pioneer, spending 90 hours a month in the evangelising work (knocking on doors trying to convert people to the faith). I spent hours sat in the pram as she preached. She would read to me of an evening, bible stories about Noah and the flood, Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah, Jonah and the big fish, Adam and Eve, Jesus’ sacrifice and the promised ‘paradise’ that was imminent after Armageddon and the destruction of all those who did not obey God (the way JW’s did). I was constantly shown pictures of this wonderful paradise, (which was a sort of fictional utopia) kids playing with lions and tigers, massive homes, beautiful gardens and happy people of different nationalities and races. Loved ones being raised from the dead to be welcomed with copious amounts of healthy foods. This was contrasted with pictures of the destruction of the rest of mankind, these were so frightening, people being blown up, falling into earthquake crevices, buildings collapsing, people screaming in pain, fires, darkness and misery. it was horrific for a child to see such images. Yet I was told if I was loyal and faithful, followed the commands of the bible that I’d have nothing to fear and would live in paradise. However, if I didn’t I would be in the other picture.
She married another JW when I was 5 years old. He was a White man whose father (not a JW) vehemently opposed the marriage due to mum’s ethnic background. She was asked not to marry him because he was black and he would be sent on an all funded holiday of a lifetime. Despite this they married in 1975.
I hated him. He’d took my mum away. I’d slept in her bed till he arrived. He was not keen on me either. If I was naughty during the JW meetings or anywhere else, he would tell me that I was going to get a ‘good hiding’ when I got home. And I did. Mum would go to visit a friend around the corner, making sure she’d closed all the windows, so the neighbours wouldn’t hear me screaming, she’d leave me alone with him. He would remove my underwear, bend me over his lap and slap my bare bottom with all his force. I would scream and try to fight him off, but I was just a little girl. This treatment would happen often as I was a spirited kid.
We lived in a racist area. School was hard. Only two Black kids in the school (including myself). Most days I fought someone who had tried to hurt me with words, fists, stones or sticks. I was a tough cookie, I was big for my age and held my own very well. I couldn’t tell mum I had to fight as it was wrong in the faith. You should ‘turn the other cheek’. I was an only child and had no other back up. Even the teachers were racist. On one occasion the teacher shouted in front of the whole class ‘shut up nigga’ everyone heard him. I think he was sacked as I never saw him again. Every day was a battle, I was called nigga, nigga nose, rubber lips, coon, paki, golly-wog, I was told my skin was dirty and I was filthy. I responded with violence, violence and more violence. Hence my schooling was rubbish, I was busy staying alive.
It didn’t matter though, the JW’s frowned on any sort of further education, no 6th form, no college and most certainly no university, that was a place the devil ran wild, drugs sex and debauchery. I was to do the work of the lord, become a pioneer like my mother and be an exemplary JW. We had 3 meetings every week. We met at the Kingdom Hall on a Tuesday at 7:30pm for an hour, Thursday 7:15pm for 2 hours and Sunday morning 10am for 2 hours. We had to go knocking on doors every Saturday morning 9:30am till 12 noon and Sunday’s after the meeting had finished for an additional hour. Monday evening, I had to pre study for the Tuesday meeting, Wednesday evening was pre study for Thursday's meeting and Friday or Saturday evening was pre study for Sundays meeting. At meetings all are instructed that they should be doing their best and that they should find room to do more evangelising. There really was no time for education.
When I was 12 one of my mother’s younger brothers who was involved with drugs became very troubled and he came to stay at our home. Sadly, one morning he got up and asked my mum to unlock the front door as he was going to visit another family member. He went immediately to a nearby block of high-rise apartments and jumped off the top floor. The rest of the family blamed my mum and her husband for his death and set out to kill them. One night while I was asleep my mum came and woke me, the most violent of mum’s brothers was kicking down our front door trying to get in to kill them. I started crying and begged him to go away. The police arrived before he got into the house. That night we packed a few things and went into hiding. This lasted for 6 weeks, the kids at my school thought I’d left. The situation remained strained for a couple of years, then mum received a phone call to tell her that another of her younger brothers had hung himself, leaving his two small children behind. Mum was an emotional wreck and leaned on me for support. (So many other things happened, one day I’ll write about them)
He stopped beating me was I was about 13/14 as I was too big to physically handle. But I’d be grounded. Once when I was about 15 I went to a valentine’s party and came home after midnight, drunk and with an attitude. I was beaten by him and my mum and grounded for 6 months. I was tired and wanted to leave home.
I’d decided I would only romantically be with a Black man due to the treatment I had received from White men. While I was at a JW convention I met a man, half St Lucian and half Bajan. I was 17 and not allowed to date till I was 18, so on my 18th birthday he showed up. (By the way JW’s don’t celebrate birthdays Christmas Easter Valentine’s Day Mother’s Day Father’s Day Halloween and so on). In 1989, I was married before I turned 19 years old (as there is no sex before marriage).
We stuck to the JW routine despite realising after 10 years of marriage and 2 kids (born in 1992 and 1994) that he suffered with depression. It had always been a bit up and down with him, but I kept busy with my job within the local council, my two kids and the JW life. We had a 3rd child (2004) which tipped his depression into bipolar. It was hard now with 3 kids and his illness I got worn down.
I started to talk to another JW about it, he was what I needed. We got too close. We had a drunken fumble, but we did not sleep together. I was emotionally attached to him. I felt so guilty for allowing things to get out of hand after all God was watching. I told my husband all about it, but he didn’t want to know, I think he couldn’t cope with it on top of his illness. He went on holiday with his mother to St Lucia for 2 weeks and when he got back I told the congregation Elders (men who are in charge of running it) about what I’d done.
They decided it was a great sin which required a judicial committee (like a court hearing). Three elders sat opposite me and I was told my husband had to be there as well as this was God’s way. They asked me questions about what had happened between the man and I, as we had not had sex together they wanted to know exactly what we had done so they could assess the severity of the sins. They asked me in front of my husband; What was I wearing? What items of clothes did I remove? Where did he touch me? Where did I touch him? But the worst question was ‘Did he climax? I felt so humiliated and ashamed. I ran out of the room crying jumped in my car and drove away. It was decided in my absence that an announcement was to be made to the entire congregation of over 100 people, that I have been seen by the judicial committee, they had publicly reproved me for my sins and that I was repentant. I never recovered from that experience.
My husband moved out of the home (2011) as I needed space. I decided it was over. He pressured me to sell the home and give him his share of the profits, He has disowned all of his children and hasn’t seen them in years. I eventually started dating and this led me to be disfellowshipped from the JW religion. I lost my job (it was tied with the religion), all my friends and even my mother. She views me as dead and actively shuns me. She will not speak to me and I have not seen her in years. I text her every couple of months, but she doesn't reply. She will only accept me again if I am reinstated to the JW religion. It’s very sad.
Since I was alone and had no job or support, I decided to get an education to better my chances at getting a decent job. I graduated with a degree in Psychology this year (2018) and am working in a multicultural secondary school with the goal of qualified teacher status in sight. I am able to identify with lots of students. I help and support EAL pupils, encouraging them to be proud and confident of who they are and where they originated from.
When looking for a partner intelligence, love of all people, acceptance, kindness and fun are a few things that I look for. I married an amazing man (2018), a White middle class, open minded, loving, loyal man, who loves me and takes care of me and my children. I have one long term friend left, her name is Heather. I was disfellowshipped from a religion and all my friends and my mother have disowned me and now actively shun me. Heather also left the religion partly due to the way I was treated by them.
I do think there are bias attitudes towards mixed-race people, but maybe not as much as in times past. I feel it can be an unspoken bias and there appears to be a bias to the shade of skin colour, half cast, quarter cast, although these terms should never be used as they as offensive, a bias still exists. I feel lucky that I have experienced all these things, I feel I have been moulded into a better person.
If I had the opportunity to be born again I would want to be born exactly as I was. No changes. I love being who I am. My life experiences have moulded and shaped me into a person I am comfortable with and proud of. There is so much more to this story, I have left so much out. One day I hope I can write it up in full and get it published. I’d love to help someone who is going through similar circumstances to be strong and say ‘ENOUGH, THIS IS MY LIFE, MY WAY’.
I hope in the future it will become ever more diverse as people integrate and migrate. I hope that one day there will be just one race, the human race.