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LETTERS FROM ADWOA, VALENTINE'S CARDS FEATURING BEAUTIFUL BROWN GIRLS


LETTERS FROM ADWOA, VALENTINE'S CARDS FEATURING BEAUTIFUL BROWN GIRLS via Swirl Nation Blog

We are LOVING this Etsy store called Letters From Adwoa! The online store aims to give young black girls Valentine's Day cards that feature their own likeness to pass out in class. As we all know representation is so important and these cards send a beautiful message! I love the comments in the reviews section of the Etsy page: 

I was totally blown away when these cards arrived. Also, when my daughter saw the cards she said "mommy is that me". Priceless moment!! Love theses cards that represent little black girls
Super fast shipping!!! Items just as pictured!! Thank you so much! My daughter and I absolutely love these beautiful cards! We can't wait to see what new designs you will have in the future. Hopefully you will offer some with little boys?!! Also children with locs 😉 (fingers crossed) will definitely be supporting again.

Etsy Store / Instagram

Personally I don't think Valentine's Day should be the only day each year we share cards such as these. Send the beautiful brown girl in your life one of these precious cards any time of year! 

LETTERS FROM ADWOA, VALENTINE'S CARDS FEATURING BEAUTIFUL BROWN GIRLS via Swirl Nation Blog

 

 

 

 

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“BROWN SKIN AND BLONDE GIRLS ONLY”, SAID MY DAUGHTER


It was the moment I dreaded. Today my daughter came home recounting her day with the casual tone she adopts when talking about homework.

But instead she told me she’d created a secret club.

“Oh?”, I said, intrigued.

“Yes, and it’s for girls only. And only brown skinned and blonde girls can be part of it.” At the mention of skin colour, my head turned. But, instead of the usual defensive lioness I’ve become so used to at the mention of anyone excluding her for being brown, I had to do a double take.

“What??? Why would you?… Who??….”, my voice tailed off. Realising she’d included blonde girls, I calculated that most of her friends were actually probably included- even with this strange entry requirement.

All except one. “Were all your friends allowed to join then?”, I asked carefully. “Yes”, she said. “Except N…”

My heart dropped. Just as I feared. One of her friends who didn’t play with her that often but who was often on the periphery of her little group was unfortunate to have brown hair.

My daughter was obviously oblivious to her error. In fact, she looked at me curiously to see why I might be so concerned.

What do you do and how do you say it? My automatic anti-racist, discrimination-hating, scary-Mum instinct was about to be unleashed where I lecture my daughter about everything that’s wrong with excluding someone because of their skin colour.

And yet I knew that if I scared my daughter with my reaction, what would be the impact on any future conversations about race? Would she want to bring up any more moments where race and skin colour come up and would she feel comfortable to know that she can ask anything- even if it is offensive?

Because keeping that conversational door open is one of the most important things to me. That she knows that she can ask anything of us- her parents- even if she suspects it’s not a comfortable subject for many.

We talk about race and heritage and colour because it’s there. Not because we want to make a big deal of it but because it’s there. And we don’t have a choice.

Fortunately, the people who make up my daughter’s entire world are all of different colours so I didn’t have to travel far to get her to understand.

“You do know that your rules mean that I couldn’t join your secret club”.

Armed with this new revelation, she seemed to pause and agreed quickly to change the rules so that blonde, brown and black hair, white skin and brown skin could be included.

In Shakil Choudhury’s recent ground-breaking book on diversity, he spells it out for us that our human brain is predisposed to be empathetic to those who are most like us. But as her immediate circle is made up of multiple skin colours and features, I knew that her concept of ‘us’ was unlikely to be limited.

So I didn’t harp on about the colour aspect. The incident that happened today could have happened to any kid, of any colour. For my daughter, it could well have been glasses, no glasses, brown hair, blonde hair or black hair, as long as her chosen friends were included.

In those next few moments, I chose to talk about exclusion as it happens to us all, not about colour specifically.

“Why would you want to exclude N***?”, I asked her.

“Is she mean?”

“No.”

“So, why?”

She didn’t really have an answer. Perhaps because it was easy to exclude N***.  And because her best friends were all blonde-haired or brown-skinned.

I continued. Today, you’re in control of the club but tomorrow, it may be those very same kids who exclude you because of your curly hair or your nose or your shirt or… your skin colour.

“How would you feel if…”

Pausing, she said she understood. And she felt bad, I could tell. She’s not a mean kid and I know she’s been known to stand up to bullies and other kids who turn on others. But what happened today, she was reminded of who she is and what she stands for. So proud was she of her ‘secret’ club and the fact that she’d come up with rules to make it even more exclusive (probably inspired by the recent episode of Peppa Pig), she’d forgotten how it felt to be left out.

Tomorrow she’ll go in and apologise to her friend. She’s done with secret clubs for now, she says. And she’s got a renewed incentive to be kinder and to ensure everyone gets included in her circle.  Because when encouraged to imagine themselves in the others’ shoes, children don’t need much encouragement to change their behaviour.

I hope that my daughter got the lesson. I certainly did not think I’d be having this conversation with her, especially at 5 years old. But, then again, I’m glad it happened and I can understand better when young children do make judgements and decisions based on skin colour. Later, it may become more sinister and I’m ready for those conversations. But it’s a reminder that in this racialised world, none of us are perfect and we’re learning along the way. Talking about race is not taboo, nor should we scare our children or run away from such conversations. Even when when they surprise us with the most unimaginable.


Post was originally published on Fariba's blog, mixedracefamily.com

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A MIXED RACE FAMILY'S LOVE OF LONDON


A MIXED RACE FAMILY'S LOVE OF LONDON via Swirl Nation Blog

Someone asked me today, why do you love living in London? I admit it has taken us years to get where we are, to feel settled in a way where both of us can admit this feels like ‘home’- for awhile at least.

Our journey around the world to get here has been interesting, though restless. Starting out in Wales where my husband and I met, we felt out of place, alone and often resentful at having to drive to London so often to visit friends and family. South West England was better but it too had different issues that niggled at us. Its segregated feel, drawn along false economic lines made us feel uncomfortable as a mixed family, knowing our loyalties lay on both sides but our economics pushed us to one more than another.

Our journey to Edmonton, Canada (where I grew up) and then eventually Lagos, Nigeria (where hubby grew up) were both attempts for us to feel grounded and settled. And though both were satisfying in many different ways, the pull was always back to London.

So what is it with this place that keeps us coming back? And what has finally made us feel like this has more of what we’ve been looking for? As a mixed family, I’ve always been told it’s important to find somewhere neutral for both partners- a place that isn’t home for either of you and that you can both forge an identity starting from scratch. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. Starting out in London has been an entirely new beginning, from finding schools for our daughters, to researching areas to live, tradespeople for jobs and transport to get places, all the knowledge we’d built up as a couple over time was wiped for us to start again.

We don’t complain though. For me, it’s been exhausting with three kids but strangely enjoyable. From the smog of Lagos to the emptiness of Edmonton, London has offered us more than we could even imagine. 

But the most important: diversity. Not just from a race point of view but from every different angle, you see people doing their own thing. They’re even trying to be different so they can stand out from the crowd. Sure, you get that everywhere but perhaps not on the scale that you do in a big city such as London.

I love that the guy who helped me pull my pram onto the bus the other day was black transvestite male. I love that my daughter asked out loud whether he was a girl or boy and he answered her with a smile. I love that my eldest daughters’ class has at least three kids from mixed black/white families, that there are over 15 different languages spoken in the class and that my daughter actually wants to speak a different language so she can be like her friends. I love that our friends consist of families of all different colours and mixes, even with seemingly monoracial families, the mixes span cultures and religions and this is normal. I love that I can point out beautiful, smart, curly-haired women everyday to my daughters on our way to school. I love that my daughters’ friends include kids of all different abilities and this is also normal.. I love that the tube was filled with blue and purple haired girls the other day inspiring my daughter to imagine her own self with purple hair. I love that the bus journey into the city is littered with shops selling all sorts of wear such as elaborate costumes, beautiful wooden instruments and ornate, kitsch furniture that looks as if it belongs in a palace. I love that my daughter thinks every ornate gate in London is Buckingham Palace. I love that police officers ride horses and wear funny hats. I love that the Science Museum is free, workshops are led by young diverse students and that we’ve been three times in three months and each time we’ve had a completely different experience- all positive. I love that my daughters have seen a West End show already once in their life. I love that hubby and my date night was at a restaurant that is filled floor to ceiling with beautiful Victorian paintings-and it wasn’t pretentious. I love that Chinese New Year wasn’t just celebrated at my daughter’s nursery, they actually paid a visit to Chinatown to get the real experience.

There is more I could list but I think you get the picture. It’s not perfect I know but I’m enjoying it for now as I show my Mom around this beautiful city.  I just wanted to appreciate out loud that the last three years have been up and down but we are here in this place, at this time for a reason and as I contemplate ‘home’, I realize it is here.


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I WANT A MAMA WHO LOOKS LIKE ME...


I WANT A MAMA WHO LOOKS LIKE ME via Swirl Nation Blog

We were running late. After 2.5 weeks off, it was back to school last week and back to getting 3 kids out the door- on time.

On day 1, I got overwhelmed, frustrated that I couldn’t find one of DD1’s take-home reading books. Costing a small fortune to replace, I shouted at her that she should take better care of them.

We got out the door but she refused to talk to me. I tried the usual cajoling and apologised for shouting but she refused to smile. Guessing she was overwhelmed by the roller coaster of emotion she was probably feeling over seeing her friends and teacher after so much time off, I left her.

We’d spent a lot of time together over the holiday including having my Mum over from Canada. I stopped though, weary of being late but feeling guilty because I knew I should have kept my cool. Leaning down I looked her in the eye and asked her what was wrong.

Then she said it. “I wish I had a Mama that looked like me”.

This year has been huge in my daughter’s life as she’s become more and more aware of both her own colour and that of people around her. We only talk about race and colour in a positive way, acknowledging the differences but recognising that people are all the same inside.

My heart dropped- sensitive to the hurt I might have caused her but devastated as well that she would think skin colour would mend her broken heart.

I tried hard not to be heartbroken but I knew that I was completely unprepared for this this morning. Gradually, we each took a turn to say what makes us mother and daughter. Not the colour of our skin. The fact that she has my mouth and my eyes and that she’s good at certain things and not so good at others. But our love for each other. And how that will never change… Even when I’m shouting.

We arrived on time.  And she’d forgotten about it when I raised it again after school. Flippantly, she said, “we already talked about this Mum”.

What made her feel this then… on that particular day, I’ll never know.  Perhaps she had been feeling it all this time. The feeling that perhaps we don’t match or she doesn’t fit in… or that someone who looks like her might not shout?! All at the age of 5.

I imagine her older, walking beside me and feeling the same thing but perhaps more equipped to be able to dismiss this feeling of matching skin colour as unimportant because well… it just is.


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Mentoring Moments: “Is that a Pokemon character?”

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Mentoring Moments: “Is that a Pokemon character?”

I work with young people.  Many young people do not know the value of choosing words carefully.  They do not understand connotation and inferencing.  I am so afraid of my students leaving their little comfortable bubble and getting punched in the face because of something they say, so exercises in ignorance are met with mentoring moments.

After explaining to one of my students my husband’s family is from Peru, I told the student I couldn’t wait to finally visit Peru.  I told the student I was excited for the food and finally seeing Machu Picchu.  The student asked, “Is that a Pokemon character?”  Uhh…

Mentoring Moment…

I googled Machu Picchu for the student and then had a serious talk with our Geography/Social Studies teacher.

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