A royal baby with black heritage will have absolutely no effect on the issues facing black Britons like me

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United Kingdom on 2019-05-12 17:57Z by Steven

A royal baby with black heritage will have absolutely no effect on the issues facing black Britons like me

The Independent
2019-05-07

Kuba Shand-Baptiste

This is the same United Kingdom that was so taken aback by Jon Snow’s remark on ‘Channel 4 News’ that he had ‘never seen so many white people in one place’ at a predominantly white Brexiteer rally, that thousands of people, unfamiliar with being classified as anything but the default, complained

So, the new royal baby is here. Since Meghan Markle’s explosive arrival on the scene, the media has speculated wildly about the significance of her heritage, as well as that of her child.

What did her race say about this country? Was this as monumental a moment as Obama’s presidential election, then thought of as a marker of post-racialism in America? And now that the baby, with his mixed-race American mother and white British princely father, is here – does he represent the so-called progressiveness the United Kingdom increasingly ascribes for itself?…

…The United Kingdom this baby has been born into still struggles to muster the introspection to really grapple with its existing history with race. We’ve seen it in dog whistle attacks on Markle over the last few years, even in the last few months, from outrage over her star-studded baby shower in the States, to accusations of the Duchess of Sussex’s bad or “difficult” attitude. Yet, it seems, vast swathes of the nation are still taken by the notion that the arrival of this child has the power to eclipse that. No chance…

Read the entire article here.

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Chi-chi’s classic tale of real talent

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2017-03-13 20:09Z by Steven

Chi-chi’s classic tale of real talent

The Independent
2016-11-14

Julia Molony

Irish-Nigerian double bass player Chi-chi Nwanoku has been breaking down barriers all her life. She tells our reporter about her remarkable childhood and career

The home of classical musician Chi-chi Nwanoku offers a glimpse into the mind of a person driven to the greatest heights of excellence in their field.

For one thing, it is immaculate. “I’m fastidious,” she admits, miming obsessive wiping of kitchen surfaces. She is also, “a very literal person. If someone says ‘play that staccato’, you won’t hear it played shorter.” Then, of course, there is her double bass in the front room – the oversized instrument, “a man’s instrument” as she was told when she started out, seeming cartoon-ish here, despite the tall ceilings of her elegant Victorian semi-detached house.

After you have taken in Nwanoku’s jaunty, jewel-coloured afro, and the surprise of her bright turquoise eyes, the most striking thing about her is her energy. She is, she says, only five feet tall. But she is a woman clearly driven by a relentless, indefatigable energy…

…She was born in Fulham, London, the eldest daughter of an Irish nurse and Nigerian medical student. Mixed race couples were an anomaly at the time and her parents faced enormous prejudice, both from society and closer to home, within their extended family. They were economic migrants to the capital of the British Empire at a time when landlords routinely posted signs reading “no blacks, no Irish, no dogs.” But her parents’ love flourished and endured for 50 years until they died. It was through witnessing her parents’ bond, that Chi-chi’s own iconoclasm was formed….

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Zawe Ashton interview: The actress is moving on from Fresh Meat with a starring role in Channel 4’s comedy drama Not Safe for Work

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2016-07-28 22:28Z by Steven

Zawe Ashton interview: The actress is moving on from Fresh Meat with a starring role in Channel 4’s comedy drama Not Safe for Work

The Independent
2015-06-19

Gillian Orr


Multi-talented: Ashton likes to do her own thing Immo Klink

Acting, directing, writing: Zawe Ashton is a woman on the move. Gillian Orr tries to keep up

I’ve only just been introduced to Zawe Ashton and she turns to me and whispers, “Let’s make a run for it!” The actress has been holed up in her publicist’s office for the past few hours. Her minders are just out of earshot. “I need some natural light,” she says as we scarper out the front door and head down a Soho street to a cafe. “I’m going to get into so much trouble,” she laughs.

Ashton is very much a woman on the move. And she likes to do her own thing. We might know her best for her portrayal of the wannabe punk Vod in Channel 4’s student-life sitcom Fresh Meat but there is far more to her than acting. She also directs, produces, and writes. Over the past decade she’s been energetic in theatre and film, and soon she’s going to be published. There’s just no holding her back, and here she is again, coffee ordered, keeping one step ahead.

She is down from Manchester, where she’s been filming the fourth – and final – series of Fresh Meat. Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong’s brilliant creation has helped turn Ashton into one of television’s most striking new actresses, but now she is moving on. A new Channel 4 comedy drama – Not Safe for Work, which begins at the end of the month – is going to show Ashton in a very different light.

Following the chaotic personal and professional lives of a group of dysfunctional government employees who have been forced to relocate from London to Northampton, Not Safe for Work sees Ashton playing Katherine, a recently divorced woman coming to terms with her displacement from the capital and having to live in a flatshare at an age when she thought she’d be having babies…

…Later that year she also won the award for Best Breakthrough On-Screen Talent at the Creative Diversity Network for her work in Fresh Meat. With Vod, just as it is with Katherine, the fact that Ashton is mixed race is never made out to be an issue that needs to be addressed in storylines. It simply isn’t mentioned. Anyone of any ethnicity could have played these characters. Was that a sense that she had strived to achieve? “I’m glad it seems effortless,” she says. “It’s something that I’ve worked really hard at. I think I’ve always felt that I want to do a very specific type of work and I’ve made informed decisions. You know, hopefully be part of a quiet movement or revolution.” She pauses to giggle. “Without sounding too Che Guevara about it.”

She says that as a child she would hand back scripts to her mother and tell her that she didn’t like how certain characters were represented. At the same time, she doesn’t want her background to be ignored. “I don’t want to be ‘de-ethnicised’. I hate it when people say, ‘Oh I don’t even think of you as a woman’, or, ‘I don’t even think of you as a black woman.’ Well what do you think of me as then? A loaf of bread? But any actor of any race can tell if a part is well written or not. It’s really just about reading stuff that feels well-observed and truthful.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Mary Seacole statue: Why Florence Nightingale fans are angry the Crimean War nurse is being commemorated

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2016-06-29 21:21Z by Steven

Mary Seacole statue: Why Florence Nightingale fans are angry the Crimean War nurse is being commemorated

The Independent
2016-06-27

Kashmira Gander


Some Florence Nightingale experts say Mary Seacole isn’t a nurse

It should be a symbol of pride in a black British heroine. Instead, a statue of Mary Seacole, to be unveiled on 30 June, has become a source of controversy

Staring proudly across the River Thames towards Big Ben, her cape caught in a gust as she strides away from a backdrop of the Crimean battlefield. This is how the Crimean War heroine Mary Seacole will be memorialised in a powerful 10ft bronze statue by the distinguished sculptor Martin Jennings, to be unveiled outside St Thomas’ hospital in central London on Thursday.

The campaign to commemorate the nurse once voted the greatest black Briton began when a group of Caribbean women approached their local MP in Hammersmith. Seven years later, the sculpture – the first public statue of a named black woman in the UK – is complete thanks to donations from tens of thousands of people. Happy days.

Except a small faction of hand-wringing Florence Nightingale experts and fans are not at all happy. To them, placing Seacole’s statue outside the hospital where the Lady with the Lamp established her revolutionary nursing school is an affront…

…Then there’s the argument that Seacole is a symbol of political correctness gone mad because the great black British icon isn’t, er, black. In a Spectator piece Rob Liddle took the baffling stance that Seacole was “three-quarters white”. This is despite contemporary depictions of her as a person “of colour” (and her own recollection that a white American at a dinner party said he wished he could bleach her skin).

But how tiresome this mud-slinging is. If we were going to pick holes, we could point out that even Nightingale couldn’t compete with the fact that her military hospital at Scutari was placed over a sewer, meaning many patients died. But we celebrate the best in her: her initial impulse; her skill in creating and organising the British nursing profession in later life…

Read the entire article here.

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No, Bill Clinton, we’re not ‘all mixed race’ – and you of all people should know that

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-02-17 02:17Z by Steven

No, Bill Clinton, we’re not ‘all mixed race’ – and you of all people should know that

The Independent
London, United Kingdom
2016-02-15

Remi Joseph Salisbury

If you’re claiming you’re ‘colour-blind’, you’re not being progressive. You’re part of the problem

In a seemingly fear-fuelled attempt to halt the rapidly growing popularity of Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton has once more turned to her husband – her “secret weapon” – to move along the discussion. Except it’s all gone terribly wrong.

At a rally in Memphis on Friday, Bill Clinton demonstrated his ineptitude in offering any meaningful contribution to political debates about racial equality when he argued that “we are all mixed-race people”.

This comment – an attempt to downplay the significance of race – represents a lack of respect towards, and disregard for, the lives of people of colour living in the United States.

Bill Clinton has had a lot of opportunities to think about race. He might have thought about the centrality of race to prejudice in US society when his “tough on crime” stance saw him introduce the 1994 crime bill. When this bill supported a burgeoning prison-industrial complex that disproportionately incarcerates African Americans, often for non-violent and petty crimes, he might have stopped to think about race…

Read the entire article here.

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Is Obama a black man?

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-02-13 04:14Z by Steven

Is Obama a black man?

The Independent: You Buy the Truth, We Pay the Price
Kololo, Kampala, Uganda
2016-02-08

Andrew M. Mwenda, Founder and Owner

How he has accepted the categorisation imposed upon him by a racial system that subjugated black people

US President Barak Obama calls himself a black man. Indeed, America and the rest of the world refer to him as a black man. Yet we all know he is actually a person of mixed ancestry. His father was a black man from Kenya, his mother a white woman from Kansas. If Obama had been born in Uganda, he would be called a “mucotera”, in apartheid South Africa, a “colored”, in Brazil, a “mulatto” and in mainstream English, a “half caste”. This teaches us that racial categories are not biological but social constructions.

Some would think Obama sees himself as a black person because of our patrilineal cultures where a child takes after their father’s identity. That is not the case in America. Even if Obama’s mother had been black and his father white, he would have been seen and treated by American society as a black man. This would also lead him to see himself as a black man. The categorisation of anyone with black blood, whatever the percentage, as a black person is a very American thing rooted in that nation’s slave history and the politics around it.

Slavery in America was based on race. To justify keeping a certain group of people in perpetual bondage, white supremacists developed ideologies that dehumanised black people. Blacks were referred to as sub human, or as animals in the category of monkeys and chimpanzees. This justified white people owning black people as private property – just the way one owns a horse, a cow or goat. Interracial sexual liaisons threatened to upset this social order because they showed that black people were as human as white people and therefore capable of loving and siring children with whites…

Read the entire article here.

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When society sees my mixed race children as merely “a lighter shade of black”, it does them a disservice

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2015-11-25 17:51Z by Steven

When society sees my mixed race children as merely “a lighter shade of black”, it does them a disservice

The Independent
2015-11-24

Dawn Jarvis

My daughter says to me, “Nobody has ever said to me ‘Do you feel white?”

I am a divorced black woman with two mixed race children. Do I want my mixed race children to identify with me as a black woman, or their white father – or both?

The actor Taye Diggs caused a media storm in an interview last week on the website Grio by saying that he teaching his mixed race son to identify with the races of both his parents and he would like him to be identified as mixed and not black. He has been accused of self-hate and being ashamed of being black, which he has refuted in a recent Instagram post.

I shared an article about this on my Twitter feed and got a mixed response which surprised me. Most were positive but, one gave me cause to pause it: “I reckon he should identify with the human race given that’s what he is part of.”

While agreeing that race is a social construct and we are all indeed part of the human race, I didn’t think that response showed any understanding of where Taye was coming from…

Read the entire article here.

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Being a writer was a counter-force to people saying I was a half-caste, a Paki, a mongrel.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2015-10-18 23:00Z by Steven

“Being a writer was a counter-force to people saying I was a half-caste, a Paki, a mongrel. It was a real thing in the world, an identity. I needed to call myself a writer back then because they were calling me a fucking Paki… We are all mixed-race now – me, Obama, Tiger Woods, Lewis Hamilton.” —Hanif Kureishi

James Kidd, “Hanif Kureishi: ‘We’re all mixed-race now,” The Independent, October 23, 2011. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/hanif-kureishi-were-all-mixed-race-now-1909507.html.

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Hanif Kureishi: ‘We’re all mixed-race now

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Religion, United Kingdom on 2015-10-18 22:03Z by Steven

Hanif Kureishi: ‘We’re all mixed-race now

The Independent
2011-10-23

James Kidd

Immigration, Islamism, multi-culturalism – as his new collected stories attests, the hottest topics of the day have long been the bedrock of Hanif Kureishi’s fiction. Just don’t get him started on the joys of ‘Big Brother’…

Hanif Kureishi is, by some accounts, a hard man to interview. In the days before our meeting, any number of people insist that the author of My Beautiful Laundrette, The Buddha of Suburbia and The Black Album is cantankerous, sarcastic and prone to lengthy lacunae in the middle of conversation. This portrait is corroborated by some of those closest to Kureishi: his sister and more than one ex-partner have complained of literary parasitism, that their lives have been exploited in the service of Kureishi’s art. It is a charge that he doesn’t exactly refute: “If [your writing] doesn’t upset your family, you must be doing it wrong.”

Perhaps the problem is that no one got him on to the subject of Celebrity Big Brother. This not only sparks his enthusiasm, it proves that Kureishi speaks like he writes – an entertaining mix of irreverent humour, personal revelation and social critique. So a relatively grave discussion about “the psychotic exhibitionism of our time” (or “the age of Jordan”) triggers a lengthy dissection of the recent reality series.

“My missus says Jordan chooses really nice men then destroys them. It seems a good way to pass the time. The cage-fighter [Alex Reid] is a nice bloke – thick, but nice. Unlike Vinnie [Jones]. He was quite hardcore – a naughty, tough daddy. I think Vinnie had an evil edge. People were afraid of him.”…

…What he does remember is the urgency to become a writer. Growing up in Bromley in the 1960s, surrounded by racist teachers, skinheads and the National Front, it was his means to self-expression and political empowerment. “Being a writer was a counter-force to people saying I was a half-caste, a Paki, a mongrel. It was a real thing in the world, an identity. I needed to call myself a writer back then because they were calling me a fucking Paki.” He pauses. “We are all mixed-race now – me, Obama, Tiger Woods, Lewis Hamilton.”

Kureishi says he was fortunate that the themes which distinguished his seminal works – race, immigration, Islam and multi-culturalism – have so profoundly defined 21st-century global culture. “You are lucky if you hit it for five years. I suddenly saw that the story of my father, a Muslim man coming to Britain, was not only his story, it was the story of the West. It was gold dust. No one else was writing about it, and people didn’t welcome it. ‘This is very good, Hanif, but do they have to be Indian in a cornershop?'”

Twenty years after The Buddha of Suburbia helped change the landscape of British fiction, and society, Kureishi continues to have plenty to say. He is certainly still politically engaged and enraged. “My dad’s family always thought that power rendered white people unsophisticated. Look at the stupidity of invading Iraq. Every Muslim would think that was hilarious stupidity. It has destroyed American power in the world. They aren’t going to invade anywhere else now. The Iranians aren’t afraid of them. The Koreans aren’t afraid. How stupid was that strategically, let alone morally? They have, as it were, shot their bolt.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Leading Aircraftwoman in the WAAF and one of the first black women to join the British Armed Forces

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2015-10-18 21:41Z by Steven

Leading Aircraftwoman in the WAAF and one of the first black women to join the British Armed Forces

The Independent
2015-04-06

Stephen Bourne


Lilian Bader (1918-2015)

Bader trained as an instrument repairer, became a Leading Aircraftwoman and soon gained the rank of Acting Corporal.

I first met Lilian Bader at the Imperial War Museum in 1991 at the launch of Colin Douglas and Ben Bousquet’s book West Indian Women at War. She was the only black Briton interviewed in the book. Feisty, outspoken but not without a sense of humour, Bader was proud of the fact that, by the end of the 20th century, three generations of her family had served in the British Armed Forces.

She was born in 1918 in the Toxteth Park area of Liverpool to Marcus Bailey, a merchant seaman from Barbados who had fought for the British in the First World War, and Lilian, her British-born mother, whose parents were Irish. The Baileys had married in 1913 and Bader was the youngest of their three children. In 1927, Bader and her older brothers, Frank and James, were orphaned – and she was raised in a convent where she remained until she was 20, because no one would employ her. However, she was determined to overcome racial prejudice.

She found employment in domestic service, but, when the war broke out, she joined the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) at Catterick Camp, Yorkshire. She was enjoying herself until she was asked to leave when her father’s West Indian heritage was discovered by an official in London. For weeks her supervisor avoided informing her of this decision – but eventually he had to tell her the truth, and release her…

Read the entire article here.

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