Hey, I’m Christopher. Born in London I was adopted by my grandparents from my birth mothers side. My birth mother was white, assumed English and birth father from the West Indies. Because my birth mother left him at an early age I knew very little about him until recently when I found him and his other children via a DNA test.
I was always told I was a mix of a mix. Not sure if this was an attempt to make me more palatable to the neighbours, however I’ve recently learnt both his parents were black/brown and hailed from Montserrat.
My experience as someone being a mixed raced child wasn’t great. From a very young age I expeirenced racism, often being told to go back to my own country with much racially based slurs and bullying at school.
After my adoptive father died when I was 8 years old my adoptive mothers boyfriend was a racist. Would often call me a black bastard and the combination of school and home abuse led me to attempt to take my life around the age of 11/12.
One of my saddest experiences of racism is weirdly not vile words from piers, being turned away from rental proporty when they see the colour of my curly hair and dark skin or even knowing you didn’t get a job because they were not expecting a dark skinned boy to come through the door. It was a young girl who came up to me in the midlands to say ‘I can’t talk to you because you are black’.
Shocked I did the thing many of us do when confronted with something we feel uncomfortable with and made a joke ‘Well you can half talk to me because I’m half black’.
I’d say something different today and with the loss of my hair and lightening of skin and living in the amazingly diverse London Borough Of Lambeth, I now face a new perspective of being of mixed heritage ‘Well you look very white’ said as if it is a compliment that I should be pleased with.
As someone who was made to feel that I never quite belonged – I was told it repeatedly – and hearing other racists voices in my own family discovering my birth farthers side of the family has been very important to me. Discovering the other side of what made me, me is more significant than I even imagined it would and I feel as if I belong slightly more.
Living in Lambeth and Black History Month (BHM) has really given me a sense of belonging. A community where I feel accepted (have not been told to go back to my own country in a while) and BHM giving me a positive view of that side of my heritiage. This boy no longer looks into the mirror, cries, and wishes he was white.
I was really proud to be Mayor of Lambeth at the time of Windrush 70th Anniversary celebrations. Little did I know then quite how much I was connected to those amazing people who left their homes after being asked to come to the United Kingdom. I remember talking to one lovely lady who told me how the Queen had asked her to come and become a nurse in the NHS.
I am always curious when meeting people of mixed heritage what their mix is and what their experience has been. They are hugely varied including one guy I met who said he did not know his mix, or even his birth day, because he had been found on a doorstep. I hope he has since done a DNA test and may have been able to find more of his story.
And that’s where Mixed Heritage Day comes from. With over 2 million people of mixed heritage in the country, contributing in so many amazing ways – it’s time to tell our stories. It’s time to explore and teach our history. It’s time to celebrate our uniqueness and contribution of our community. It’s time to celebrate Mixed Heritage Day.