What’s your full name?
Ava Naana Twuba Welsing-Kitcher
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
Born in Los Angeles, brought up in North West London, Bournemouth, Amsterdam and Lisbon.
What do you do for a living?
What’s your ethnicity?
Half Ghanaian, half white British.
How did your mum and dad meet?
In a jazz bar in LA
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
I left London aged 9 to move to Bournemouth, and that was honestly the first time I was aware of race. Growing up in such a diverse area, surrounded by friends from all backgrounds made me blind to my difference until I was in a place where I was one of four non-white children in my entire school, where people openly gaped at my family in public or threw dirty looks our way.
Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?
Not my face. I look like my mother and grandmother, and their Ghanaian features are reflected in me. My mother and grandmother have always been the most beautiful women to me growing up, and that guided me away from longing for a narrow nose or differently shaped eyes and lips. I hated my hair, though. I wanted either afro hair, or straight - not something in between. I straightened it every Sunday for years before finally giving it up. My inner peace with my ethnic identity has always been intrinsically tied up in my hair.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
Being referred to as “the coloured girl” by a primary school teacher. Realising that my white father’s parents didn’t just dislike my mother, they resented the fact that their son had married a black woman. Learning that they were suspicious that I was even their grandchild, as they assumed my mother had cheated on my father and trapped him into marriage. Being asked repeatedly by people of all ethnicities whether I felt more white or more black (top first date chat, thanks mate). Being told “I love mixed race girls” or “everyone knows mixed race babies are the cutest”.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
I’ve never had a conversation with my dad about race, ever. My mum taught me from an early age that I’d find myself in situations which would make me feel lesser than my white peers, and it wouldn’t always be obvious, it might just be an indescribable feeling. I think my mum’s brought me up to feel pride in being black, rather than specifically being mixed race - she doesn’t know what it’s like, so it’s up to me to navigate my own journey - but she’s taught me that I’m a more palatable version of blackness for a lot of ignorant people, and I’ve got to use that to open up the conversation.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
That sooner or later you have to choose. Or that we’re inherently sad or lost, doomed to wander the earth in some in-between limbo - we’re not all tragic mulattas, lol. That we think we’re better than darker skinned people. That we’re not aware of our own privilege.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
Just because mixed race people symbolise social progression to you, that doesn’t make it acceptable for you to objectify us in a ‘positively racist’ way. You’re still seeing us through the filter of our race, and not as people. Doesn’t matter if it’s positive or not. Don’t hold me at arms length, scrutinise me and pop me in a category cause it’s easier for to you digest and process me that way. And don’t keep mistaking me for the other mixed race girl in the office!
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
Yes and no. I think it’s oversaturated with white mum/black dad situations, as if the world isn’t ready to see a black woman be wholesomely desired by men at all, let alone white men. The world shits on women of colour, so don’t exclude them from the narrative when there are countless numbers of black women who are raising their mixed kids to love a part of themselves that the world’s telling them to hate. I think there’s an oversaturation of mixed and light skinned women representing black women, from the natural hair movement to music (literally every black woman dominating music right now is light skinned).
Back in the late 19th century/early 20th century being mixed race held a stigma, as it was clear proof of interracial relations which was seen as an affront to society’s morals. Do you think it’s easier nowadays to be mixed race or is it more that racism has become subtler?
It’s definitely easier! At least, not as many kids are being whisked away from mixed families because it’s ‘child abuse’. Reading “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” really made my heart ache, realising that so many kids of colour were treated like stray dogs who weren’t supposed to be born in the first place only fifty years ago.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
A blessing. 98%. I’m so happy with myself and everything I’ve become, but that 2% still lies in being made to feel too white for the black kids and too black for the white kids at times. I’ve realised that I’m only made to feel that way by people who feel a need to categorise to put themselves at ease. The people I love and have in my circle don’t demand that from me, so it’s about weeding those others out.
Have you felt a struggle with your identity? If so, how did you deal with it and if you are now at peace with who you are, how did you come to a place of self-acceptance?
I did when I was younger. I went from a very mixed environment, to a completely whitewashed one for all my teenage years. I felt complicit when I stayed silent when white ‘friends’ would say stuff (“it’s not racist, it’s just banter, freedom of speech and all that”) and felt like I was betraying my blackness. I don’t feel the need to choose, but I personally don’t feel as if I get to choose my white side and label myself as white because the racism I’ve been through and watched my family endlessly go through has taken away any kind of white privilege. I’m constantly balancing the fact that I was raised almost completely by a Ghanaian family with little connection to my white family, but then spent most of my life in white schools. Maybe if I was white passing I’d struggle more with choosing, but that’s besides the point.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Chuck the straighteners out, your hair looks sooo much better natural and curly. When white boys come up to you in clubs and try and get you to twerk, throw your drink down their pants. If any boys tell you they’ve “always had a thing for Rihanna,” don’t take it as a compliment - you’re being fetishised. Realise that you’re the only person in your entire life who gets to define you, nobody else.
Is there anything more you'd like to say?
If the HaluHalo project had existed when I was a teenager, I would’ve realised my truths and centred my sense of self a lot sooner. Thank you for giving a platform to a group of people who are assumed to never have complaints because we have it easier compared to a lot of people. It’s all relative, and despite being simultaneously privileged and unprivileged, I plan on using that combination to challenge people and open up the conversation wherever I can to the people who deserve to be running it.