What’s your full name?
Darcy-Dionyves Heira Joadie River Martin Lake.
Mum wanted to include as many family names and initials as possible. Dionyves Heira Joadie River Martin-Surage was my given name, and is an amalgamation of Dion and Yves, two French male names (like in maths, two minuses make a plus). At 15 my mum and dad had my sister, and six months later he adopted me. I never had a relationship with my biological father, and so I took on my dads name, Lake. I had a tough time at school and ended up leaving and made the decision to change my first name.
How old are you?
24, born right on that scorpio - saggie cusp.
Where were you born/brought up?
I was born in Croydon, and grew up in SE London living in, Catford, Dulwich, Crystal Palace.. but Forest Hill is home. Mum and I lived with my grandparents on the top of the hill overlooking the city, next to Coxes Walk. My mum grew up in that house too; it held a lot of memories. I was gutted when my nan sold it a couple years ago. When I was little I would spend most of my time at the Horniman Museum watching the fish and admiring the Giant Walrus. It is a culturally diverse area, and I loved growing up there.
At 11 years old, my family moved to Kent to attend my chosen school. After a week I had the notion I was the odd one out. Colour was seen in a way I hadn’t previously experienced. Though there wasn’t much racism (more ignorance was experienced), I found Kent tough, there wasn’t as much awareness or acceptance, and I moved back to London as soon as I turned eighteen. It’s there I feel most at home.
What do you do for a living?
I have done too many things. I was a musician and model, but I got pretty low and focused on luxury retail management. That was a good diversion but now I have returned from two years living abroad and I have returned with no job, no savings, no plan, just a dream to create and do something that will make a difference. Something I can call my own. A legacy, so to speak. I am a really good quitter, so my next plan is to quit quitting.
What’s your ethnicity?
LONDONER! But yeah, I am pretty mixed. I was once asked ‘where are you from, like, originally?’.. I answered the same way I always have. My father is Jamaican, St. Lucian, Indian and Scottish. My mother, Russian, Dutch, English, Latvian, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese.. but I was stared at and corrected. CORRECTED! I was told, ‘You can’t be that many things, you have to choose’. Well I believe we can choose, and I choose to embrace all of these things.
How did your mum and dad meet?
My mum liked music, and he owned a record store. The rest is history.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
In London, people didn’t see me differently. I was blessed also by having a fair amount of white privilege, my hair is wavy and I am from a family of all white people. It was only once I moved to Kent at 11 that I noticed the difference, both in the lack of diversity and the things people called me.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
Realising that you have all these different heritages, that there are so many varying stories that make me who I am today was extremely rewarding. My mum traced our family tree back quite far, and discovering how often your ancestors overcame prejudice and racism does wonders for perspective. I know I am strong, because I have the blood of people who kept on growing; rising in the face of adversity.
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
I was raised by a single white woman in south east London. She prepared me tremendously well because I wasn’t subjected to racial prejudice until I was older, at which point I had already grown to understand my identity regardless of the fact that I grew up in an all white family. I didn’t see in colour, but I was aware that culture and race were things that I could not alter or remove from someone.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
An older woman who I love dearly told me that black people are a different species, and I think she believes that. She doesn’t love me any less for it, but it pisses me off. I also have grown quite used to having my ‘blackness’ (or apparent lack there of) mocked.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
I wish there was more of an understanding that race isn’t just about identifying with one race. I wish more mixed race people didn’t feel the need to adopt just one part of their heritage. It’s a heartbreaking experience to hear my mixed friends say ‘I’m black, I’m not white,’ or something similar. I’ve had plenty more people tell me I’m more white than I am black. What is this need to box everyone? Why can’t I embrace all of my heritage? Why can’t you?
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
I think less stereotypes of mixed race people are portrayed than before, but that’s still a work in progress. I know that film and TV is still improving every day. Predominantly black/white mixed individuals are represented, and still it seems most media is very focused on filling the quota rather than casting blind or for character depth.
There is a lot behind mixed race culture that gets cut out. Things like having different religions and cultures, enjoying different traditions and foods. Knowing different languages and countries. Connecting with different types of people. These important and central parts of being mixed are largely forgotten when the media represents mixed individuals.
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?
Being mixed race has become more common because different cultures keep coming together. Prejudice is rooted in the unknown. As humans we play roles within each others understanding of the outside world. If someone hasn’t been exposed to other cultures very often, we should take the opportunity when someone asks us about ‘where we’re from’. The same goes when someone uses the wrong terminology. Though it isn’t our responsibility to fight prejudice, it is an honour to spread knowledge and share our experiences of life. Racism has become more subtle, but it has vastly improved. We have a long way to go but you only have to walk down the street and look at people’s faces to see that the world is changing.
I also think racism has deeper roots in older cultures and societies, which cannot always be changed. We are a product of our generation and it is hard for some to see past their own opinion. If you find you’re being subjected to racism, travel. Not to escape racism, but to realise there’s a fuck load of people out there who are more interested in who you are on the inside, rather than the colour of your skin.
There’ll be white people who know my culture more than I do and that feels hard because as a system: 1) they can fit in to a culture they told me I shouldn’t want and 2) because I don’t fit in blackness, now BOTH white and black cultures won’t want me. I don’t know how true that is but it’s a feeling. I believe that the most successful form of racism, is teaching oppressed groups that they shouldn’t love who they are. Therefore they shouldn’t love their families and communities. They should want whiteness. That way you can be used more efficiently to make sure racism continues to oppress yourself and other people. And you will do this through your own self hate.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
I wouldn’t call it either, it’s just the way I am. I understand why particular people adopt great pride in their heritage for particular reasons, and I have great pride in who I am and where I come from, but it doesn’t confine me and I don’t know what it’s like to be anything different.
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’ve never felt I had to choose a side, but I have been asked to. I have had to let some friendships with mixed race people go due to this fact: I have experienced more racism from mixed people who labeled me as ‘too white’ than any other racial group.
This really saddens me to admit. I felt more a lack of identity on one side because I had little contact with my black and Indian heritage. It is hard to embrace cultures you rarely experience, growing up in an all white family. Being the only one with brown eyes, brown hair.. these things meant I didn’t truly see the colour of my own skin for a long time. It’s a nice change, I once found it amusing constantly checking myself, as if you just got a new haircut or new phone, and you’re like, ‘oh, i’m being asked where I’m from cos I don’t look like how I feel on the inside.’ It was only once I travelled these past couple of years, meeting such a diverse bunch of people, that I have begun to recognise myself in the mirror, and I am learning to love it.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To love yourself more. I’m trying to learn that lesson still.
Is there anything more you would like to say?
Race is a difficult subject. We all have varying experiences, some nicer than others. We all have so much to learn. I want to continue learning, about myself, other cultures.. I think the more people we embrace and the more honest we are, the better our experiences of life will be.