- 22 Nov 21
Shaefri shares her thoughts and experiences as part of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism.
I’m from mixed heritage. My family is half-Irish and half-Egyptian, and I grew up between London and Mayo. That’s why my accent is sort of funny! My dad has experienced racism a lot more than I did, growing up in Dublin. I’m always sensitive to mixed race because my dad looks racially ambiguous. People would ask him the classic question a lot: ‘Where are you from originally?’
That’s a phrase that’s always driven me nuts, because it’s such a passive form of saying that you’re not Irish, even though you grew up here and have an Irish accent. Culturally, my family are super Irish and have Limerick in their blood. He grew up with that experience of outright racism in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Apart from Phil Lynott, there wasn’t much exposure to mixed race Irish people.
My dad would get remarks made about him at rugby matches and things like that, which were so foreign to him. He came from such a culturally open family. My granny married my grandad, who was Egyptian, back in the ‘40s or ‘50s. For someone from working class Limerick, it was kind of unheard of. I’m sure it wasn’t very accepted at the time, but my dad grew up in an open culture, and so did we.
Denise Chaila in ‘Dual Citizenship’ asks why she should have to convince either side that she belongs. Listening to Black artists and creatives of other ethnicities, reading first-hand pieces and fiction from them, is key. I think Ireland is definitely moving towards a more positive place. Maybe I’m just being ignorant myself, but I wasn’t aware of many Black Irish artists until recently. Now we’ve got people like Denise Chaila, God Knows, MuRli, Rejjie Snow; certainly in music, there’s a big tide.
BLM last year opened a lot of conversations, and while a lot of that was positive and encouraged people to learn, unfortunately it challenged racists. They came out of their shells and argued against us. That being said, we don’t hear about all the positive stuff because it isn’t newsworthy. We’re moving in the right direction in terms of art and wider public consciousness.
Read Part 1 of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism, in the current issue of Hot Press. Available to pick up in shops now, or to order online below:
Special thanks to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for their support in this project.