Representation Matters!: Making an Impact on our Mixed Kids

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How many times have you heard this one from your darling daughters before? “Mummy, I want long hair… like the princesses”.

Or, how about this? “Mum, I can’t be Superman without a mask. My skin is too brown”.

For Mums of brown skinned beauties, the words coming out of our children’s mouths seem to take on a familiar repetitive theme.

Perhaps we all take it for granted that little girls will all want long straight hair. And perhaps it’s not as big an issue as we’re making it out to be. Something they’ll grow out of.

I think this is a flawed way of thinking. White kids don’t go around thinking or wanting black skin. They don’t fantasize from 2 years old of having curly afro hair.

They don’t need to. Advertisements, magazines, books, models all show a one-dimensional version of beauty that mostly embraces the white-skinned, straight hair version of beauty. Our children can’t be expected to be immune.

Whether it’s conscious or sub-conscious. Our children absorb everything they see in the world. I remember the day my daughter said to me ‘superheroes are for boys’. And that ‘princesses have blonde hair’. It’s because they had only been exposed to the single story.

With time, the story narrows even more. Black men are dangerous. Teenagers are scary. Rich people are white. CEOs are men. Scientists are old.

I am raising 3 mixed race daughters (half Nigerian, and half Iranian/English). And from an early age, my daughters became aware that their skin colour was different to mine. That their hair is curly and thick while mine is thin and straight. And that much of the television shows, ads and books that they adore feature white, blonde, blue eyed princesses, mermaids and fairies.

When my oldest, at 4 years old, came to me and said she wanted “vanilla skin like you Mummy”, I knew we had our work cut out for us.  Self-assurance and acceptance of who you are does not just happen haphazardly. And while I thought she would have a healthy sense of who she was just by virtue of the fact that her family is so diverse, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Our children are bombarded with images and advertisements, role models and authority figures who are more often than not, white. I realised that if we were going to give our daughters a fighting chance of remaining positive about who they are, we needed to be intentional about it.

Thus began our journey to #readtheonepercent- searching out the one percent of books that feature a black or mixed race protagonist as its main character. Being intentional about buying black or brown skin dolls, choosing television shows and movies that feature brown skinned characters.

It’s not easy, I mean, at times, it’s a battle. I went into London’s largest department store and found not a single black doll in their display. When queried, the salesperson suggested it was because the demand is high and so they go quickly off the shelf. ??? That didn’t add up to my basic understanding of supply and demand economics but it reinforced one thing for me. This is a lifetime of effort.

The premise that #representationmatters was highlighted a few years ago during the Oscar’s debate when a number of talented black actors and actresses were bypassed for the prestigious award despite stellar performances that year.

It’s been highlighted by black singers, artists, scientists and celebrities who understand that their success is being watched not just by the general public but by countless children around the world who see themselves reflected in their image.

The impact of Barack Obama’s presidency cannot be overestimated in terms of its effect on black boys and girls in America. Serena Williams’ understands her achievements are being watched closely by little black girls around the world who aspire to play tennis but can’t see a single black face on the court.

These images and faces are impactful. And each sighting is another cog on the wheel of positive reinforcement for your little ones.

I’ve got 3 daughters so an obvious gap in their obsessions was the lack of brown princesses and superheroes. It’s been harder to find but authors, publishers and toy companies are starting to wake up to the reality that children’s toys, books and activities need to reflect the world around them.

I’ve harnessed that momentum and launched a line of t-shirts for mixed race girls and boys so they can see themselves reflected in what they wear. My girls were delighted to see images of curly haired princesses, superheroes and ‘curl friends’ imprinted onto their favourite colour t-shirts. (https://mixedracefamily.com/shop).

For us, it’s about being intentional and searching out every opportunity to make representation matter. It means going further afield for that dance class, ordering abroad sometimes if a book isn’t available over here or, sadly, ordering online if local stores do not stock diverse doll collections.

Set your mind to be intentional and see your child’s eyes light up when they see images of themselves reflected in everything they

do.

 

Black or Multiracial?: Raising Biracial kids

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Black or Multiracial?: Raising Biracial Kids

The other day I came across a post from a fellow multiracial mama about how she refuses to call her biracial kids black but instead intentionally refers to them as multiracial or mixed.

It generated an interesting discussion about why, why not, and whether that is truly the message we should be giving our biracial children.

Biracial kids

What is their true identity? And, what, if any, is the message we as parents should be giving our children about their identity?

biracial kids
My oldest mixed race daughter

My own experience as mixed race Iranian/British growing up in Canada was that my parents just didn’t talk about identity. It left me confused, in denial and ashamed at times when teasing at school pointed out the differences in me.

My parents’ preference was not to talk about identity or the many cultures that made up who we are. Instead, they assumed that we (my brother and sister and I) would assimilate into Canadian culture if they just didn’t acknowledge our differences.

Unfortunately, there were enough reminders of what made us unique and different for us to remain confused. Food, family, language and culture around us were daily reminders even if we didn’t always look the part. Though my light skin and features allowed me to pass into the majority white culture, I knew my experience gave me away.

It was only at University when I was old enough to embrace my multiple identities that I began to meet other mixed race and biracial people and understood the benefit to acknowledging and discussing what being mixed race means in today’s world.

Because of that, I have always made it a priority to talk to my biracial kids about the multiple cultures and identities that make up who they are. When faced with the potential backlash that perhaps we talk about race and identity too much, I know that to ignore it and hope that it doesn’t become an issue is absolutely the wrong message we need to be giving our children.

So what message do we give our biracial children when their identity permeates the boundaries between black, brown, multiracial, mixed race, biracial, multicultural and all things in between. And does it mean they’re not just ‘black’?
Biracial kids
My DD2 wearing traditional Nigerian head wrap

Can they be both?

For me, being biracial can mean many different things at different times. Being black and white are not necessarily mutually exclusive though many mixed race celebrities in the US are conflicted.

While Taye Diggs refused to call his mixed son Black, Thandie Newton and Halle Berry only refer to themselves as Black women. And most famously of all, we didn’t often hear the former President Barack Obama referred to as mixed but instead the first black President of the United States.

So do I refer to my daughters as mixed, biracial or black and does it vary with each one depending on how many outward African features they’ve inherited as black girls?

I’ve come to see my biracial daughters’ identities as evolving. Evolving with age, and with their own experiences. And, like me, I know that at different times, they will identify accordingly.

When I was immersed in Iranian festivals and food and culture, I felt wholly and truly Iranian. Other times, I knew I could only partially lay claim to this identity and mixed Iranian and English felt a more appropriate term for how I felt. Still, there will be times, for example when I moved to England from Canada, when I feel my Canadian upbringing comes out strongly.

Identity is More than just a feeling… it’s an experience

My daughters will likely want to identify with the political solidarity that comes with black identity. They will, at times, feel very strongly about who they are as black women when they are faced with the injustices of discrimination and racism.biracial kids

They may, on the other hand, also be aware of their white privilege. And know that their experiences as part of a multicultural, multiracial family lent them different and perhaps more privileged experiences than that of other Nigerians.

How they are perceived by others will also influence how they identify themselves. But it is not our job as parents to teach our biracial children that they are only mixed and not just black or just white.

Instead, we should encourage them to be confident about who they are, to stand up to others whose perception doesn’t marry with their own experience and to embrace all the parts that make up their identity. Acknowledging all the while that this will change and identities will shift as they explore what that means for themselves.


10 Fun Free Ways to Celebrate your Multiracial Familybiracial children

Multicultural Children’s Day Book Reviews

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I’m so excited to be able to review three diverse children’s books as part of the Multicultural Children’s Book Review!
You know I love sharing book resources and couldn’t wait to share some of the more recent books I’ve been sent by some contemporary authors. 

This book is called “Being You” by Alexs Pate. I love the pictures in this book and the poetic style Pate uses throughout.

Written for 6-12 year olds and illustrated by Soud, ‘Being You’ captures the sentiment every parent wants to teach their child. Be yourself, remember who you are. When other children whisper about you and question the things that you do and how you behave, answer them with confidence.

Being You Book Review

It’s a well-written book about letting your child shine and helping them to face on the world- even with all its bad parts- and without fear.

I read this to my three daughters, ages 7, 5 and 3 years old. My 3 year old lost interest but my 7 year old was reading it aloud, intrigued by the messages that mirror much of what she experiences day to day.

Even better, there were images of children that look like my children. Brown skinned, black skinned, light skinned and dark skinned. It’s a book for both boys and girls and gives a powerful message.

Being You Book Review

Highly recommended!

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 My Dad's JobThe second book “My Dad’s Job” by Deirdre Pecchioni Cummings, illustrated by Erika Busse took me on a little journey. 

A picture book with cute illustrations all about a black father and son and his so-called ‘job’ to teach his son to be a man.

A sweet story showing the child growing, eager to learn but not realising until he turns 18, that he has been learning all this time.


“I Want to be a Bennett Belle” is also by Deirdre Book Review of I want to be a Bennett BelleCummings and illustrated by Erika Busse and was slighly less relatable as I’m not based in the US and don’t have any knowledge of Bennett College nor the American Black Historical Colleges.

It’s a picture book set in the US, Louisiana  but is meant to resonate with the millions of others who have attended and benefitted from other Black Historical Colleges in the US. 

It was touching and clearly the author was appealing to others who had attended Bennett College. The way in which the Grandmother refers to her days there and relates to her grand daughter is sweet.  However, it wasn’t a book that I could read to my daughters with any meaning. We are based in the UK and I’m not sure they would understand it at this age.

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Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board!

*View our 2019 Medallion Sponsors here: https://wp.me/P5tVud-
*View our 2019 MCBD Author Sponsors here: https://wp.me/P5tVud-2eN

Medallion Level Sponsors

Honorary: Children’s Book CouncilThe Junior Library GuildTheConsciousKid.org.

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat BabiesCandlewick PressChickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcitoKidLitTV,  Lerner Publishing GroupPlum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone PublishingCarole P. RomanAuthor Charlotte RiggleHuda EssaThe Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge PublishingJudy Dodge CummingsAuthor Gwen JacksonKitaab WorldLanguage Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ LanguagesLee & Low BooksMiranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, RedfinAuthor Gayle H. Swift,  T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s DaughterTimTimTom BooksLin ThomasSleeping Bear Press/Dow PhumirukVivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board

Honorary: Julie FlettMehrdokht Amini,

Author Janet BallettaAuthor Kathleen BurkinshawAuthor Josh FunkChitra SoundarOne Globe Kids – Friendship StoriesSociosights Press and Almost a MinyanKaren LeggettAuthor Eugenia ChuCultureGroove BooksPhelicia Lang and Me On The PageL.L. WaltersAuthor Sarah StevensonAuthor Kimberly Gordon BiddleHayley BarrettSonia PanigrahAuthor Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing DreidelsAuthor Susan BernardoMilind Makwana andA Day in the Life of a Hindu KidTara WilliamsVeronica AppletonAuthor Crystal BoweDr. Claudia MayAuthor/Illustrator Aram KimAuthor Sandra L. RichardsErin DealeyAuthor Sanya Whittaker GraggAuthor Elsa TakaokaEvelyn Sanchez-ToledoAnita BadhwarAuthor Sylvia LiuFeyi Fay AdventuresAuthor Ann MorrisAuthor Jacqueline JulesCeCe & Roxy BooksSandra Neil Wallace and Rich WallaceLEUYEN PHAMPadma VenkatramanPatricia Newman and Lightswitch LearningShoumi SenValerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci SorellShereen RahmingBlythe StanfelChristina MatulaJulie RubiniPaula ChaseErin TwamleyAfsaneh MoradianLori DeMonia, Claudia Schwam, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls RevolutionSoulful SydneyQueen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty ArabAgatha Rodi BooksAll Done MonkeyBarefoot MommyBiracial Bookworms,Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms ShareColours of UsDiscovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon ReadsEducators Spin on it Growing Book by BookHere Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin LeeJump Into a BookImagination Soup, Jenny Ward’s ClassKid World CitizenKristi’s Book NookThe LogonautsMama SmilesMiss Panda ChineseMulticultural Kid BlogsRaising Race Conscious ChildrenShoumi SenSpanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party. GO HERE for more details.

FREE RESOURCES From MCBD

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Barbie vs. lego: Giving our daughters a real choice

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So I realised something this holiday. Everyday this week, we made our way to the different art galleries, literature festivals and museums, taking advantage of London’s amazing culture. Growing up in a family that spent its holidays outdoors hiking, walking outside and sightseeing mostly in the beautiful landscapes of North America, I can say that these are things that would not come naturally to me.

I make a deliberate effort in the holidays to ensure my kids are exposed to as much science and culture as possible. And true enough, even I was surprised and excited by the result. Art and science can be exciting for a child – given the right teachers and exposure.

It made me think. Unless we deliberately expose our children to new and different things from what we as parents enjoyed as children, will they ever organically discover interests other than our own? I have my doubts. Should we only pay attention to what our Children show an interest in?

Barbie vs Lego: Giving our Daughters a Real Choice
Barbie vs Lego: Giving our Daughters a Real Choice

Partly because of my experience. Music wasn’t big in our family, hence none of my siblings nor I, am really into it. My parents weren’t interested and thus neither were we. We  never really had the choice. To hear the radio blearing loudly in the car (even today), I find uncomfortable, preferring silence to unwanted background noise.

On the other hand though, we are all pretty sporty and outdoorsy because, growing up in Canada, that was what we were exposed to. (Mum and Dad, if you’re reading this, I’m not knocking you).

Recently, I’ve been busy looking at interesting and educational gifts for my daughter who turns 7 next month. Typing into google “gifts for 7 year olds” without specifying gender, I get a whole list of ‘science-ey’ activities and toys that I perhaps wouldn’t have thought of before. Shamefully, even with all my consciousness around the issue of gendered-toys, I assumed she’ll be less interested in them.

She’s a girly-girl, loves dressing up, role-playing, singing and dancing. But as she gets older, her tastes will change and why shouldn’t they evolve to include lego, hot wheels or magna-tiles (look them up, they’re super cool). Why shouldn’t we encourage our children to like other things?

gender-specific toys
Discovering nature

Watching her at a classmate’s (a boy) birthday party recently, I saw her flock to toys she may never have played with or thought that she liked because she, just as I do, gets sucked into what she thinks she should be playing with. Truth be told, she loves magnets and building and ran over to me on more than one occasion to show me what she’d built or what she’d discovered.

At the science museum too, we happened upon a show that was 75% filled with little boys (the other 25% made up from what I could tell were sisters) called “The Rocket Show”. It was full of big bangs and explosions and all things we might typically associate with boys.  

I didn’t tell the girls beforehand what the show was about- thinking perhaps my oldest would protest that it was for boys. But as soon as we got in, my girls were captivated- right down to the explanations of Newton’s laws of motion and gravity. How many little girls missed out on that show because they thought it wasn’t for them, or it sounded like a ‘boy show’? And how many parents agreed?

Fast forward to secondary school, then university when girls are all choosing their majors. How likely are they to choose engineering having had so little exposure to building and motors and science because neither they nor their parents thought it was something they were interested in.

My 3 year old making a structure out of magna tiles.

Ironically, my previous career was developing policy to encourage women into STEM (Science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in higher education. I now have first-hand experience of the sad reality of gender-based subjects and I genuinely fear its future impact.

So What to do about it?

If we expose our children to a variety of interests and activities and we are deliberate about seeking out things that they may not think they are interested in, you might find your child finds a new interest- something they are good at but would never have tried before.

 What’s the consequence if we don’t? Well, maybe nothing. But it can’t hurt to try. Parents who enrol their sons in dance classes just because they’d like them to try it. It could go either way, either the boy will hate it or love it but at least he’s had the chance. Others who seek out out-of-the-ordinary type activities like circus skills or cricket for girls. How would you know unless you try?

It worries me, what my husband and I are missing in our interests and exposure. I know we’re very different so we’ve got a lot covered in terms of our interests but art and culture don’t really feature. It’s no coincidence that the offspring of two maths professors is most likely to be interested in maths.

Between us, our kids have a good chance to like books, language, urban life, history, music, sports and nature. Hubby’s view is that if they’re interested in it, one window of exposure is enough for us to know if it’s something we should pursue for her. But I’m not so sure. She never went on about dance after just one dance class. It’s been continual and cumulative- building up over time so that now our little ones are dancing and singing at every opportunity. Buying her a karaoke set is a no brainer.

My daughter is naturally good at English, reading, and writing stories. She struggles more with her maths. But is that perhaps because we, her parents, are both writers? Because we weren’t good at maths?

We have to do something differently though if we are to give our daughters a real chance to discover what they’re genuinely good at and love. She’ll love to sing because she (and us) believe it’s what she’s good at. But that science kit is something we need to make an effort to buy.

We owe it to all of our daughters that if they decide science or art is not for them, it’s not because they weren’t encouraged or exposed to it at every opportunity. It’s because they genuinely chose to do something else…

While I’ve written this with my daughters in mind, all of this can apply to sons. Whatever the gender, we cannot pigeon hole our kids into certain activities and toys just because they show a liking for them.

Clothing and accessories for your Mixed Curly Kids are now available! Visit our shop today! Dismiss

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