Tag Archives: biracial

A real honour

I am a big believer that everyone we come into contact with, we do so for a purpose. As the saying goes – some for a reason, some for a season. A few years back, I organised a community event. A woman from a local church came along and asked me if she could write up an article about the event in her church newsletter. I was very flattered and of course said yes. A year or so later, I met her again when she came to the local library to attend my mixed race exhibition. So I was really astounded when I received a phone call from her, asking me to speak at a Black History Month event.

There were numerous speakers lined up to share their knowledge and experiences at the event. I was so overwhelmed to have been asked to share my experiences of being part of a mixed race family. The lady in question has a niece who is mixed race whom she had asked to speak about her experiences growing up as a mixed race woman.

I was asked to speak for ten minutes and after sitting down and thinking about what I wanted to say I soon realised that I would need to heavily edit all that was buzzing around in my mind if I wanted to stay within my ten minute time frame.

Unfortunately, the day of the event clashed with a birthday party that my daughter had on the other side of town. And you know children and parties, you just cannot drag them away half way through a party… It meant that I turned up half way through the event. My daughter and I crept into the back and scanned the packed room looking to see if we could find a spare seat. Just as we edged our way to a seat, I heard the MC announce my name! I quickly had to put my bags down and asked my daughter to wait for me. She wasn’t having any of it though, and wanted to come up on stage with me. So up we rushed to the front together.

My daughter quietly stood listening to me as I started by discussing the mixed race exhibition that I held and what had prompted me to do this. I mentioned the kinds of reactions that I had received from other people, both good and bad. I also spoke about some of the situations that being part of a mixed race family had bought to my attention. Some of which I have discussed in this post, such as misrepresentation in dolls, books, greetings cards and of course – hair care! At this point, my daughter chipped in with ‘And I don’t like people touching my hair!’ The crowd erupted with laughter and I couldn’t have been more proud.

Proud that she had the confidence to speak in front of a huge crowd of adults. Proud that she could is a girl that will stand up for herself if she doesn’t like something or feel comfortable with something. Proud that she knows that she has the right to exert her own opinion.

We finished the talk soon afterwards and went to join the rest of our table. What we didn’t realise is that just before we had come on stage, the lady’s niece had been talking about her experiences of growing up mixed race. One thing that she had particularly commented on was that as a child she hated people touching her hair  and especially without asking first.

It was a fabulous evening and we were inundated with people coming up to tell us  about their experiences of being part of a mixed race family and how much they enjoyed being part of a multicultural city. And of course the majority of the praise was reserved for my daughter who definitely stole the show as well as everyone’s hearts. It was a wonderful atmosphere, with people from all backgrounds celebrating the diversity in our little pocket of Birmingham; I knew then that this small minded comment from an ignorant person which had prompted the exhibition, had only made us stronger and more cohesive.

 

Advertisements

Awareness

I wondered how long it would take before my daughter realised that there are so many differences in the way that we look. When I say ‘we’ I mean not only us as a human race but also the differences between the two of us. Well, its started to happen, or at least, she has started to vocalise it.

A few months back, I noticed that she would talk about people who looked similar to her. Particularly other children that had hair of a similar texture to her. She commented that a friend’s child had ‘beautiful hair, just like me’ and also told me that she loved her friend at dancing because she’s got ‘hair like me’. I could see that she had started to notice these subtle differences in hair colour and texture but was really encouraged that she was speaking so positively about her features.

Then slightly more alarmingly, she told me that she had hair like another boy at nursery. True, they both have afros….that’s not the alarming bit. Then she said that the boy in question had ‘too much hair, like me’. Now,  I have never, ever told her that she has too much hair and neither has anyone else in my ear shot. As readers of the blog will be aware, I am extremely careful to instill in my daughter a positive relationship with her hair. I can only assume that it came from nursery – I am hoping a child rather than staff member. I guess it is naive to think that your child will never receive any negative comments about their appearance but its our job as parents to counteract those comments and give our children the confidence to ensure that they have a robust enough ego to let these comments bounce off them.

The next indication that my daughter realised that she differs in appearance to myself and other family members wasn’t said to me but my Mum. My Mum was getting dressed with my daughter watching when she told her ‘Grandma, you’re yellow like Mummy, I’m black’. I think my Mum was quite taken aback but I know she fully understands importance of my daughter loving her skin and so she told her what a beautiful colour her skin is. The conversation then moved on, as two year olds do….

Over the next few weeks, there were several occasions where she would mention different friends of hers and their skin colour in relation to hers. It was like she’d just realised that skin comes in different shades and tones and she wanted to relate to it constantly.

All of these comments were made in a very matter of fact fashion (as only a two year old can!), with no hint of unease or discontent. Just today when I collected her from nursery she asked me why I had straight her like her friend at nursery. She was perfectly satisfied to hear that some people have straight hair and some have curly hair but either way it’s still beautiful.

I had initially been comforted by the fact that she has a number of friends with similar hair texture and skin tone to which she can relate. It did lead me to wonder whether she would have been quite so blasé about it had she not found others to identify with. However, at this stage, I really do suspect that she’s too young for this level of scrutiny and as kids do, would just accept the status quo even had she found no one else with similar hair and skin.

At present it’s gone no further than a general awareness but I’m sure that further questioning and possibly discontent will follow…

A beautiful introduction to differences in families

As a child, I loved reading and so I am really happy that my daughter seems to be taking a real interest in books and reading. As readers of this blog may know, I am always looking for books and toys that represent my daughter and our family.
Whilst looking for a book for my nephew, I stumbled across a gorgeous book called The Family Book by Todd Parr. It’s bright and colourful and very simply talks about the differences and similarities in all our families. A snippet of the pages include ‘some families have two moms or two dads’, ‘some families have one parent instead of two’, ‘all families like to celebrate special days together’. There are pages that address issues such as adoption, different skin colours and long distance family. It ends quite simply yet beautifully with ‘there are lots of different ways to be a family. Your family is special no matter what kind it is’.
I am looking forward to reading this with my daughter. It is a gorgeous introduction to exploring the differences in families, as I am sure this is something she will start to have a greater awareness of in the not too distant future.
This is just a short post, but with the festive period approaching, this would make such a lovely stocking filler and I wanted to share it with you.

First Christmas. A time to think about how we do things

ImageFor a number of reasons, it’s been much longer than I would have liked since I was able to write a new blog entry. However, I couldn’t let my daughter’s first Christmas go by without writing something – even if that was a while ago now!  

We haven’t had any children in our family for a long time, so to have three new babies to celebrate with this year was fantastic. As she is only 11 months old, needless to say, she didn’t have much idea what was going on at all; but she certainly enjoyed all the people, the music and the wrapping paper, tags and pretty ribbons.

More than anything, she LOVED her Christmas dinner. Especially, she loved her Christmas pudding; this came as a surprise to me – maybe because I haven’t ever enjoyed it! 

Our Christmas dinner was very traditional – roast turkey, roast potatoes and parsnips, pigs in blankets, carrots, sprouts, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauce. This is what I have eaten on 25th December for as long as I can remember; sometimes we change the vegetables we have and sometimes we have bread sauce or Yorkshire puddings; sometimes we even have a Vegetarian and a nut roast comes out! I know that every household have their own traditions on what they normally tuck into for their Christmas dinner; but it hasn’t escaped my notice that what we eat is very traditionally English. No rice and peas. No macaroni cheese. No coleslaw. Now, I don’t see this as a particular problem for my daughter – after all, it’s only a meal.

Our Christmas eating habits have always been quite traditional too. Like a lot of people, we don’t have the usual toast or cereal on Christmas morning and instead bling up our breakfast with bagels and smoked salmon or croissants and pain au chocolat. Two years ago, I returned from a trip to Jamaica on 23 December. I had eaten ackee and saltfish for breakfast for pretty much two weeks straight and so introduced the traditional Jamaican dish into our family Christmas breakfast. It was a hit all round and we have made it a new family tradition. So although the roast remains steadfastly English, we have a taste of the Caribbean to start the day.

Next year I am thinking I may take it a step further and extend our Christmas dinner to include a little hint of Jamaica alongside the huge portion of English tradition. With our turkey and pigs in blankets, you may see some plantain or maybe some rice and peas as well as our roast potatoes. Because tradition is great. But there is nothing wrong with introducing new traditions. Our family is changing and so should what we do and what we eat.

As I mentioned, it IS only a meal. I reflected on this and thought – is this worthy of so much thought and even more so, worthy of a blog post? However, when I think about a lot of the things that I do for my daughter to embrace her heritage, a lot of them may seem trivial in isolation; but these small pieces of the puzzle add up to a rich and colourful picture that will help shape her understanding of who she is.