An interview with Uju Asika, blogger at Babes About Town and author of soon-to-be released Bringing Up Race: How to Raise a Kind Child in a Prejudiced World.
Babes About Town is all about being out celebrating London life with kids. How have you been coping with lockdown and 2020 in general?
2020 has been a trip, which is ironic considering we’ve hardly left the house. To be fair, I’m actually a homebody and work from my living room normally so there wasn’t that much change to my routine. Homeschooling while writing a book was a challenge. I managed it by letting my eldest get on with his online assignments and switching between ‘chill mama’ and ‘The Punisher’ with my youngest. It worked… mostly. I’ve really missed going out to events and theatre and I’m glad some museums are reopening safely. We were so sad that Boomtown Festival was cancelled so I’m really hoping the line-up for 2021 is equally awesome.
What is your book about and who did you write it for?
The book is about my own personal experiences growing up Black in Britain and also raising two Black boys in London, with all that entails. I’ve also interviewed other parents and looked into research about how race and racism affects everyone (not just people of colour). My goal is to get parents and families of all ethnicities to have open, honest conversations about race with their kids and their peers. It starts with recognising your own internal biases and learning what you can do to move things forwards, both at home and in your community.
When is the right time to start talking to our kids about race?
Immediately! Don’t wait for that awkward question (and there will be many awkward questions) or for some big news event. Start talking now, even if you only have a bump in your belly. Seriously, talk to your bump! The earlier you begin, the more comfortable you will become over time. Studies show that really young babies are aware of ethnic differences and so it’s important to steer them in the right direction as soon as you can.
What kinds of conversations should we be having?
Start with simple chats and keep it age-appropriate. If your child is very little, you can talk about surface differences like hair or skin tone and always take a positive, inclusive stance. As your child gets older, you can talk more about racism as a system that works against Black people and other people of colour. Again, focus on what they can do to help change things.
How can we tell young children about racism without scaring them or stressing them out?
I think it’s important to be honest but not too heavy-handed. Don’t force them to watch news reports or scary shows, although if they’re old enough there are some fairly graphic shows and movies that are very educational. So use your parental discretion. Always try to bring the conversation back to how people have resisted racial injustice and what actions you can take too, so that they feel hopeful and empowered.
What can we as parents be doing better?
Talking to your kids is a first step. But also be aware that children are picking up stuff from your behaviour too. Where you hang out, what your close friends and social circles look like, how you interact with people who seem ‘different’ from you. So make sure you are being intentional about how you relate to people of all ethnicities, whether it’s for play dates, dinner parties or community events. If you have close friends of another race, don’t be shy around starting conversations about race with them either. We need more adults having open dialogues too.
Are there any resources you can recommend?
The best resources are undoubtedly books as they can help you get inside someone else’s skin. The book A Kids Book About Racism is a really good picture book (they have a whole series for kids on different topics). I also enjoy watching shows like Black-ish (Amazon Prime Video) and movies like Queen of Katwe that have sparked interesting conversations at home. If you head to Babes about Town (http://babesabouttown.com/tag/bringing-up-race/) you’ll find some helpful resources. I’m also putting together a list of podcasts worth listening to and below you’ll find my ‘antiracist playlist’ to get you in the mood!
Uju has also put together a magnificent playlist for us all to enjoy. You can listen to it on the Big Fish Little Fish Spotify Page here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5aOVv1EsDtPNbWAvit7pEH
by Uju Asika, author of Bringing Up Race and blogger @Babesabouttown
From spirituals to protest songs, music has always been a part of the struggle for race equity and human rights. Here are some tunes to get you thinking, feeling and making moves!
Lockdown – Anderson Paak Written in response to the artist’s mistreatment by police during Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020.
Black Parade – Beyonce A celebratory song released on Juneteenth (June 19), a date that marks the end of slavery in America.
My Skin – Lizzo A beautiful and empowering ode to #BlackGirlMagic by the fabulous Lizzo.
Happy Birthday – Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder originally sang this to inspire people to petition for a national holiday to mark Martin Luther King’s birthday.
Everyday People – Sly and the Family Stone A song about unity by a band with White, Black, male and female members (groundbreaking at the time).
Respect – Aretha Franklin Released at the height of the Civil Rights movement, it’s a clarion call for feminism and Black power.
Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud) – James Brown An anthem for the Civil Rights movement.
Happy – Pharrell Williams Because joy is our birthright but for Black people it is also our survival and our resistance.
Umi Says – Mos Def The lyric ‘I want Black people to be free’ says it all.
Brown Skin Girl – Beyonce and Wiz Kid A sweet tribute to girls with darker skin whose beauty and worth is too often unseen.
Redemption Song – Bob Marley Powerful song with lyrics adapted from a speech by Black leader Marcus Garvey.
I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to Be Free – Nina SimoneThis beautiful song mirrors the themes of Bringing Up Race.
Fight the Power – Public Enemy From the soundtrack Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, an absolute must-watch (18+).
Sound of Da Police – KRS-One A pull-no-punches protest rap against police violence and racism.
The Message – Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five Hip hop classic about the everyday pressures of ghetto life.
Black – Dave Strong words from the grime star about the many experiences of being Black.
Hell You Talmbout – David Byrne (Janelle Monae) Live remix of a song by Janelle Monae about victims of police violence, reminding us to Say Their Names.
Tennessee – Arrested Development ‘90s classic touches on how the ghosts of slavery affect the African American psyche.
Black Man in a White World – Michael Kiwanuka What it’s like feeling like the ‘other’ in your social world.
Slave to the Rhythm – Grace Jones A meditation on chain gangs, slavery and the music industry’s exploitation of Black artists.
I Am the Black Gold of the Sun – Nuyorican Soul A gorgeous esoteric celebration of life, music and Black joy.
Water No Get Enemy – Fela Anikulapo Kuti Mystical song about Black power from the king of Afrobeat.
Stimela – Hugh Masekela Haunting song that tells the story of oppressed Black coal miners in South Africa.
Strange Fruit – Billie Holiday Iconic song about the public lynchings of African Americans during the Jim Crow era.
Ooh Child – The Five Stairsteps Rounding off with a gorgeous song filled with hope.