As  part of our Black History Month feature, Rhian discusses who she is proud to be and gives an insight into her journey there.

Date: 04.10.21

Hi, I’m Rhian, a 25 year old from Yorkshire and I am black and white mixed race.  

My Caribbean grandma is everything that I know about my black culture.

I grew up in a predominantly white neighbourhood, was one of a handful of black children in my high school at the time and we didn’t have any family that lived in the same town as us. Naturally my day to day life became influenced by my white heritage more, as that’s how I connected to my friends. So as I went through school the plaits were swapped for straightened hair and R&B was swapped for Pop Rock.

But then those weekends came at My Grandma's House. It felt so special, a culture that came from so far away but felt so much like home. Walking into the smell of food, plantain, dumplings, salt fish, chicken curry, rice and peas. It was always a full house on the weekends, all my cousins, aunties, uncles, family friends, you would sit wherever there was an empty space in a room. 

Caribbean music in the background, with lots of different conversations happening over the top. The sound of my grandma shouting to my aunties and uncles from the kitchen as I try to digest their conversations in patios. My aunty whispering translations to us kids to keep us in the loop as she plaited our hair.

Still, at the end of the night, we would go home and a part of me stayed there until I next returned. It was like I had two identities, I was acutely aware that I wasn’t white, but being around my grandma was the only time I ever truly felt black. Would that magical connection still be there when she’s gone?

Last year, in the wake of George Floyds murder, I began to question my racial identity, “who am I?”.  I set out in search of support groups to try to find a safe place where I could hear from other people who were in a similar situation to me to try to understand more about how I was feeling and if it was normal. Then I came across a network called "The Mixed Message" on instagram, dedicated to celebrating and exploring the complexities of Black mixed race identities, and one post in particular really hit home for me. 


“Disconnecting from my blackness”, by a lady called Ella. Her story was so close to mine and it wasn’t until I read her story that I realised that I had the exact same feelings.

I’m privileged to be more than just bi-racial. As well as my Caribbean heritage I'm also Irish and English and with that comes a specialness on my mothers side. I would always look forward to my weekends  in the countryside. Visiting my Irish great grandmother as we all gathered into her house on a Saturday for lunch, as she’d share stories with us in a thick irish accent, a neat whisky in hand.  Driving out on Grandad’s tractor in the paddock, picking bluebells with my grandma in the woods, filling in the Rabbit holes and planting potatoes. Dinners with the log fire on, Grandad’s Irish Ham and Cabbage dish. 

But reading Ella’s story, and having that account as a safe space to learn, share stories and understand how other people from similar backgrounds felt or still are feeling, has allowed me to begin learning that I don’t have to completely identify with just any one of my ethnicities , I am a product of them all and I just have to be me. 

My hope is that Unity can do for others across the company what The Mixed Message did for me, and provide support by connecting to others who are going through the same things, or willing to learn about what they can do to help.

So, I’m Rhian, I’m 25 and I’m proud to be mixed race.