In Conversation with Mix-d

In Conversation with Mix-d

the mixed project

First to enter is Jeanette. Attired in an elegant blouse, she is ready for her close-up. Her sweet smile and murmur of ‘good morning’ gets immediate replies from the rest of us in the studio. Jeanette’s blue eyes will not get completely accustomed to the dim lighting, they are not as sharp as they used to be. Bradley Lincoln, her son, standing a few inches taller is leading her from behind and with a tender hand on her waist, he guides her to turn left into the studio.

The pair make their way to the sofas. After a long train excursion from Manchester, tea with milk for Bradley and water for Jeanette puts everyone at ease. Mother and son sit with the warm sun on their backs, facing Rhoda and Andy. Angela, Andy’s assistant is away from the studio today. Andy’s younger daughter, Emilia and I are sat parallel to the group, excited for the discussion to begin. Faint music can be heard playing from a distance. Bradley is usually the one asking the questions. In 2006, he founded Mix-d, an organisation that aims to elevate discussions on mixed race identity. Mix-d is today a place where all people of multiple heritage are able to express their feelings on the subject. This fantastic organisation has several ongoing projects, including an information pack offering helpful advice for parents and imminent parents of mixed race children. Last year they held the second Mix-d Face, the UK’s first modelling competition for people of mixed race and judged by Jade Thompson, the winner of Britain’s and Ireland’s Next Top Model.

Today, it’s Rhoda who will be asking the questions. Andy explains the project originated from several questions that kept resonating in his mind. “What impact, if any, does having an English father and a mother of Afro-Caribbean descent have on my children? How does the world’s view of my three children affect the way they see themselves?” Bradley nods in between Andy queries. “Okay, I get that.”

Andy concludes, “and it would be interesting to have a project where we could get people from different mixed backgrounds to share their life experiences and bring new faces and a new dimension to the discussion.” Bradley is the ideal candidate for this project. He has spent his life negating his own racial identity and brings this determination to helping others at various stages in their own understanding…

…Excerpts from Bradley and Jeanette’s testimony.

Rhoda Where are your parents from?

Bradley My Mum is white English, my Dad is black Jamaican.

Rhoda And how would they describe themselves?

Bradley My Dad describes himself as Jamaican. My Mum, how would you describe yourself?

Jeanette White English.

R How did you meet Bradley’s dad?

J I used to work in a pub. I worked at the bar and he came in quite often with his friends. I’d already been married. I already had three sons. I met Lloyd then.

B It’s all right, we can be honest. My Mum and Dad are not still together…

R When you were growing up was there anybody or any media personality with whom you identified or were particularly proud of?

B Not necessarily proud of, but I remember going to my Dad’s and he used to have the Ebony magazine and I’d read it. And maybe I just felt more attuned to that styling, and thought I can’t bring it home because my brother is going to think that it’s racist so I didn’t bring it home but I used to look at it and see black people in a certain way. it was a very mild sensation, but…

R So it wasn’t anyone in particular, it was the notion of there being a clandestine black elite.

B Yeah, somebody who wasn’t white. I lived in a predominantly white environment and in school I remember not being represented in the curriculum even though I couldn’t articulate it. the small bit of work we did around black history which was very minimal. I didn’t feel like I could authentically be with this because I’m not fully black. I felt quite absent from lots of things but because I had a happy home life in lots of other ways I think that counter balanced it, but given the personality I have I was always searching for what truly represented me without having to give up my Mum or my Dad.

J I think also when Bradley’s father came over here from Jamaica he tried to pursue another lifestyle, he didn’t want to be seen as black. He tried to fit in into the white…to assimilate. So I think this is maybe why he didn’t navigate Bradley through some of the Jamaican culture because he himself had come from that and he didn’t want that any more, he didn’t want that in his background. He just wanted to be seen as someone who had lived in England for years and years. He didn’t want to take Bradley through all this, he just wanted to push all the Jamaican things to the background. Cos it was later on wasn’t it, when you got older started to investigate your Grandma and everything. It wasn’t up to your Dad that instigated that…

R Are there are any personal thoughts you’d like to see included in the debate?

B I’d certainly like to see the discussion handed over to more younger people. Cos I’ve done some work in Europe, in the States and here and I find we can get locked into that victim or blaming other people, or victimhood, or looking for a problem. I find that lots of people seem to be looking for a problem. So they want to have a conversation but not to the end of finding an issue. Creating a space that gives them permission to talk about it. It seems that lots of academics enable the conversation by looking at the sociological and the psychological. Sociological is how it’s introduced in schools and how governments see mixed race. The psychological is the disconnect between the two, but the larger voice is the sociological voice. What I’d like to see is people who are mixed race from different backgrounds and experiences just talking about things from their own point of view, to kind of balance out the academic discussion. Cos the academic discussion is a different language. When I went into this project I wanted to look at the academic route but they’re actually just saying the same things. You can codify it and break it down. And they’re moaning and complaining and being intellectually superior to each other, which doesn’t actually involve the individual. It’s more of a cerebral exercise that they pass between each other. I’m more interested in nurturing the emotional side of this discussion, which then leads to the vocabulary of the psychological and the sociological so they can talk about it…

R The things that define these kids is that they all sound the same.

B Yeah, that’s true. I was tired of academics talking in a certain way so I didn’t start this project til I was 36 so I’d seen lots of different discussions and I thought this is boring, everyone was saying much of the same things. I was trying to find a way to have this conversation with young people in a way they wanted to have this conversation. And that was quite freeing because nobody was doing that and people criticised it, academics criticised it and that’s what they do, but they critique to the point where they somehow find problems that aren’t there. But there is a way of still having this conversation, to have it in a way where being seen as mixed isn’t victimised. It’s a very middle line, that some will resist, but it exists and people say, yeah, that’s where I live, that’s how my mind works. But academics don’t like that.

Read the entire interview here.

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