History lessons and love stories

Today marks the start of February, the month of love. It’s also the day that my article about The Colour of Love, one of Nottingham’s most fascinating volunteer groups, goes live in Left Lion magazine. Seeing as I fell in love with the group a little myself, I couldn’t help but share some of their story on Oo! That’s A Bit Racey! too.

Founded by Coleen Francis in 2015, The Colour of Love, is a thriving organisation of 15 enthusiastic and committed volunteers whose mission is to learn, document and share the stories of mixed race relationships in Nottingham between 1940 and 1970. In doing so, they’re redressing the balance of history by ensuring these stories, which were often controversial at the time, aren’t lost and that they are, in fact, celebrated. More than that, they help us learn about our communities and our own identities.

Their next project is to take their learnings into schools, to educate and inspire the children of Nottingham. They have already inspired me, through the conversations I’ve had with some of their members, the book I’ve adored pawing through and the memories they’ve evoked about my Gran and Granddad.

Sadly I never met my Granddad, he died before I was born, but my Gran and I were very close. She was one strong lady. My Granddad, David, came to Nottingham from Nigeria to study Maths at the university. Relatives described him as kind and generous, and my Gran used to say that when I was daydreaming I looked like him. They made Nottingham their home, where my Mum was raised. They tolerated racism with dignity. My Gran always held her head high, I have no trouble imagining the grace she will have carried herself with in the face of ignorance and prejudice. I think of them when I read “And Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, “bringing gifts that my ancestors gave”.

Mixed race relationships weren’t often celebrated historically, but that doesn’t mean they were uncommon. Nottingham was second to London in the number of mixed race relationships within its community. Many had to work hard for their love, including Coleen, founder of The Colour of Love‘s mother who was beaten by her parents and locked in her bedroom in an attempt to prevent her from seeing her partner, Coleen’s father. Ndinda, one of the fabulous volunteers I interviewed for the Left Lion interview, explained that her mother lost her job in the Salvation Army when she fell in love with Ndinda’s father in Kenya.

Thankfully, a lot has changed over the years, but mixed race people have shared feedback with The Colour of Love, explaining how much their work means to them. They appreciate the representation of mixed race relationships and mixed race people. It’s well known that history has often been taught through the lens of White people and we’re now seeing more focus on diversifying the curriculum to include Black perspectives. Mixed race people are also finding their voices, and The Colour of Love’s book, celebration event and film showings have helped to activate this across Nottingham.

The film will be available to view online for the first time on 13th February, so I encourage you to book via Eventbrite to see some of the beautiful photos and learn about some of the wonderful love stories. There are lessons we can all learn from, no matter who we are or what our background is. Lessons about courage, strength and, most importantly, love.

Photo by Loe Moshkovska on Pexels.com

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