Koko Brown

What’s your full name?

Koko Brown.

How old are you?

Mid-twenties.

Where were you born/brought up?

Born and raised in North-West London, in between Kilburn and West Hampstead.

What do you do for a living?

I’m an artist who blends theatre, spoken word and vocal looping.

What’s your ethnicity?

I’m half Jamaican, half Irish.

How did your mum and dad meet?

Is it awful that I don’t know? I should probably start asking questions and finding out about what came before me!

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How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?

I was young but it happened very gradually. It kind of shaped my childhood in a way that I didn’t notice until I was much older. I became used to being the odd one out and just accepted that that was normal. I now naturally make work about being ‘the other’ because it’s all I’ve known.

 

 

Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?

No because my features were always seen as a positive thing. I have a thin nose, grew up with 3C hair and am fairly light skinned. I was always praised for my looks and never really got picked on for any of these things. I was privileged to be born with an appearance that fitted within the European standard of beauty but can only imagine how much harder it would have been if I was born with more Afro-Caribbean features. I’m really glad that things are changing and that society’s view of beauty is changing and growing.

Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.

I have never not been aware that I’m mixed-race. It was something that people identified me as and I was very proud of. Being half-black & half-white I was always used to being the other so I was always aware of that part of me. Especially as my brother and I are the only mixed-race kids in our family, being at any family function I was aware of my other-ness.

Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?

No and I don’t think they could. My mum is fully white and my dad’s fully black so what would they know about being mixed race? They taught me right from wrong and to always be kind and that’s the most they could have done.

What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?

I identify as a black, mixed race woman and have had people say that I can’t be both. But I am. At any time I’m a black woman and a mixed race woman. Those two parts are never not me. I am never not black and I am never not mixed race. I wish people could understand that.

What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?

I wish that they understood that there are difficulties we face that they don’t. Unlike other mono-racial people, we don’t really have a space of our own - we usually have to fit into the spaces that are built for one part of our racial identity. Where do you go to be around people like you? Where do you find people with similar experiences? For mixed-race people it’s not super easy to find that right now. I think that we’re beginning to start these conversations and these create spaces for ourselves but it’s still very new.

Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?

No but we’re getting there.

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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 (but not easy) to be mixed race now. If anything it’s seen as some sort of advantage, which is ridiculous. This is, however, very dependent on your mix, skin colour and your features. But in comparison to times in which mixed race people were seen as proof of sin, we’ve got it alright.

 

Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?

It’s such a blessing. Even with the stupid questions that I get asked and having to fight stereotypes, I would never want to not be mixed race.

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’m still working on self-acceptance - some days are easy and some days are hard. There are still times where I don’t feel ‘black enough’ and have to remind myself that being ‘black enough’ isn’t a thing. Then there are moments where I’m the only black person in a room and I feel like I’m being forced to be the representative for all black people.
I found that making 'WHITE' really helped me to start asking questions and start exploring my identity.  

What advice would you give to your younger self?

You will level up real soon, don’t stress. (And ‘Keep Moving Forward’ of course!)

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