Show Racism the Red Card interviews the rising Welsh music star about her background and what it's like being Kizzy...
Q1. Kizzy, you have parents that are different nationalities – can you explain a little bit about your background and where you come from?
My father's parents are from Barbados and moved to Reading in the 1950's where my parents were born - my Grandad was in a skiffle band. My dad, Eady (my sister) and I have been over to Barbados with him to stay with the family. My Barbados family is huge and we are all in touch on facebook and Skype. Although my Dad and Granddad are now English, we still feel very connected to Barbados and my family who live there and its very much a part of who I am.
My mum is from an ordinary, south east of England comfortable background - middle class I guess. Her parents, my granny and Grampsie used to look after us when mum went back to work, and they moved to Aberaeron to live nearby to us when we moved after mum and dad divorced. Grannies family have some Indian and French ancestry from back in the 19th century - they have a family bible with all the names in, and Grampsie has East end Jewish heritage...so plenty of diversity there!
I identify as Welsh and have been educated in Welsh as a first language since I was 4. Speaking Welsh was just what everyone did - still does - in West Wales and I think I picked it up very quickly as an instant way to fit in. I certainly do feel that I am Welsh, and creatively I compose lyrics in Welsh more easily than English, which I guess is pretty unusual - unique maybe, for a mixed heritage girl with Bajan/English roots ! I am proud of all my cultural background and influences.
Q2. What was it like growing up in a town that was not very multi-cultural? Were you treated differently because of your background?
My parents were obviously very conscious of us moving to a tiny rural harbour town in Wales. I think when you are little, you accept whatever is around you without questioning it too much - although my mum is quite unconventional in lots of ways, and did encourage us to question and challenge ideas. I did know I was different at school. Eady and I were and are very close, and I was glad when she was ready to start school. I think it may have been easier for her, because I was already there. Mum was very positive about our heritage and saved cuttings and articles from magazines and the newspapers and would talk about political issues regarding race. I now see how valuable this was and how it strengthened and shaped my identity and confidence. The kids at school were interested in our hair and skin and the teachers were uncomfortable about this and would discourage questions or hush children up if they pointed out differences, so mum went up to the school and told the teachers that it was normal and ok for us to answer questions such as “Why are you brown? We would say, because my dad is brown and mum is white and little kids are happy about that and move on. Mum went into school twice with a lot of our books and sat doing our hair into braids, explaining about how we look after our hair. That was fun and made us feel special. The teachers were more awkward than the children at that age!
However, as we got older, the other pupils would say things which could be hurtful - using names and stuff on purpose to hurt me. For example, if someone asked where I was from and I said ‘Oxford’ they would say "No, where are you really from?" or ask if your family are all good dancers or expect you to be good at sport. That's stereotyping and they are probably reflecting what they hear because they haven’t been around black children.
The funny thing is, the teachers would really not know how to deal with racism - they actually said in my school "Oh, we don't have racism in this school". They didn’t actually do anything at all. I think people in small communities are uncomfortable in confronting what they think is an accusation of racism. Some kids don't realise just how offensive they are being, maybe its phrases they hear their parents saying. There was no racial inclusion policy in my school and when mum challenged them about it, they said it was because they didn’t need one as there were hardly ever black people in the area.
Q3. You are an up and coming Welsh singer songwriter, what do you use as inspiration for your music?
I grew up hearing the music my mum plays - a lot of jazz, folk and 60's/70's stuff like Nick Drake, Kate Bush, Tracy Chapman, Joan Armatrading, Seal, Carpenters, Joni Mitchell, Meic Stevens, Steely Dan, Steelye Span, John Cale, Doobey Bothers,10cc and a lot of classical music too - baroque especially ,and Vaughan Williams. She and my dad always played a lot of soul, reggae and funk, plus a lot of Roy Ayers ,Jamiroquai, Bob Marley, Carroll Thompson, Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross.
Now I listen to Corrinne Bailey Rae, Gwyneth Glyn, Gareth Bonello, Lianne La Havas, Hud, Omar, Frank Ocean, Jill Scott, Imogen Heap, Bjork, Sara Tavares and MSMR. I think these influences can be heard in my songs. I tend to go for complicated harmony and it's very important to me that lyrics have meaning and are memorable. I've never wanted to write directly about feelings like love in the way a lot of artists do, although obviously my feelings do influence my writing, it's just that I prefer to use metaphors. I loved studying Welsh literature at school and have written a lot of songs that is directly influenced by poems we have worked on. Sometimes family situations or people I meet give me ideas for lyrics and if I want to look for ideas or feelings, walking up on the common above our house never fails….
Q4. Why do you think educating young people about Racism is so important?
When you're young its easy to learn and accept what is stereotyping and what type of things are unacceptable to say or do. It's different when you’re older and start to develop your own opinions. When it comes to racism, it’s either down to immaturity, ignorance, or stereotyping. If kids are educated about racism at a young age they'll grow up with the right attitude towards people and will be able to educate others correctly. It's very important that children from a mixed heritage background don't feel isolated and have to carry responsibility for educating those around them as well as to cope with their feelings about the ignorance they may be affected by. It's especially important in areas where they might be in a tiny minority, where other people may think it's not important to consider their feelings. We have to empower young black and mixed race children in Wales, to help them find a voice. And we have to help everyone else to understand how to do this too.
Q5. What message would you give to young people that are experiencing prejudice because of their background?
I'd say be strong and be proud and remember you are beautiful. Tell someone if you are hurt and don't be afraid to speak up and tell the people who are hurting you to stop, and tell them why. After experiencing prejudice myself during my early school years, I discovered over time that speaking out about it was the only way I could solve it. I was once called a 'foreigner' when someone at school didn’t believe I was Welsh because of the colour of my skin. I was eventually able to deal with the way this made me feel through my music. I hope my music can touch people and speak to them too.
Q6. What can we expect to hear from Kizzy Crawford in the future? What are your future ambitions?
My ambition, as a black welsh artist, is to make welsh folk/funk fusion the biggest new sound out there! I want to become an ambassador for Wales through my music and through my multicultural heritage. I would love to perform across Wales and the rest of the UK, Europe, and maybe the world, bringing Welsh sounds to people who've never even heard of the language and using music to transcend language.
Like Kizzy on FaceBook by clicking HERE
Kizzy is playing at our ‘Stand Up Against Racism’ event on Saturday 30th November 2013 – to order tickets or for more information click HERE