LIZ AND LOU TAYLOR Liz, 49, and Lou, 54, met 18 years ago and are married. The couple live in Southampton and have a 13-year-old son, Nathan. Liz is a management trainer and is studying for an MSc. Lou runs LowRyders advertising. He is also one of the ambassadors for Black History Month in Southampton.

“We met when I went into a pub where Lou was playing as a musician,” says Liz.

“It was like at first sight. We felt like we’d been friends forever.

“When I introduced him to my mum, she was really fascinated by him, because she’d never seen anyone of colour up close. She said she found it quite hard to look at a really black person to start with, because she found his face quite aggressive. That was as someone who had never mixed with anyone of colour.

“Now she’s really wise and she’s counselling one of her friends whose daughter has got together with a chap who is black.

“I do get people saying ‘I wouldn’t expect you to be with someone like that,’ but it’s funny because when they know us they say we’re a really good fit.”

Lou says: “I was aware of the changing identity of your partner because of being in a mixed race marriage. Liz’s experience from when she was growing up to when she met me changed somewhat because people’s reactions to you are different. “The racism I’d experienced growing up that I explained to her was completely outside her life up to that point.”

“I’m not aware of racism towards us in the UK,” says Liz. “We drive a car – we aren’t walking around as a family. We do experience it abroad though. Paris was awful. I’ve never experienced a more hostile environment.”

“Having a child together, it’s been really important for me for him to know that he’s Nigerian. That’s important – to understand there’s a history behind us that’s outside of the UK,” says Lou. “And one of the things you’ll find with Nigerian families is the emphasis on education and working hard. It’s all about study, study, study.

“Also, respect is important. If there’s anything culturally influential in our relationship it’s that.

“You respect each other and you respect your children and expect them to be respectful. I’m very much Nathan’s dad. I’m not his mate.”

Liz adds: “I find it difficult to attribute our parenting to culture. Lou is Lou and I’m me and we talk through everything. Lou was born in Britain. It wasn’t like I’d just met someone from Africa and we were getting together. I don’t think that would have worked as well.”

She continues: “Our son goes to private school. We felt he might have peer pressure to be cool, trendy, urban, street, hip-hop, whatever, so to be with people who aspire to do more would be good for him. And some of it was to do with colour, to buck the trend that peer pressure might have. Also, he’s sporty so the easy thing is for people to say ‘he’s black and he’s sporty, so we’ll just push him down that road’.

“Something else you’re aware of is that a mixed-race child is considered cute, but as an urban youth, a mixed-race teenager is seen as a threat. We wanted to give him the confidence so that by being articulate and intelligent and the opposite of what people might think, he wouldn’t be seen as a threat.”

Lou says: “That shift can be quite marked. I’ve seen it before and it can happen almost overnight. People love small mixed-race children – then the minute they see a mixed-race 15-year-old they turn their back. The proportion of black and mixedrace teenagers being stop and searched is disproportionate (black people are searched seven times as often as whites).

“That’s how I see things changing for someone like Nathan – it’s important for him to be aware that the world around him will change.”

Daily Echo:

Maria Crittell, 26, is a model actress and dancer and is training to be an occupational therapist. She grew up in Southampton. Her father is white and comes from Southampton, while her mother is from Belize.

“WHEN I was younger, I didn’t feel I fitted into any of the demographics of ethnicity in Southampton,” she says.

“I felt misplaced and that I didn’t have an identity.

“As I got older I became more interested in my mum’s culture. I realised that not many people have this mix and it made me feel unique and has become something that I like to talk about. Now when people say ‘where do you come from?’ it doesn’t feel like an attack. I feel I want to teach them.

“As a child, my parents didn’t really educate me about my background, which was part of the problem. My mum moved to Southampton when she was young and wanted to divorce herself from her ethnic background. There was a lot of shame about it for her and she would seldom talk about it. Spanish was her first language, but I only ever remember her saying one or two words in it.

“It was very confusing, that side not being taught to me. If I have children I will embrace teaching them about their background. Now my mother and I talk about her background a lot more. We have both grown to embrace it and let go of some of that shame. We’ve also embraced the family abroad and it’s good for both of us to feel connected back to that.”


Daily Echo: Olu and Jo Rowe

Olu, 48, and Jo, 34, met ten years ago and married in 2006. They live in Locks Heath and have a six-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter. Olu is a professional musician and promoter, while Jo is a nanny.

“I was adopted by an English family as a baby, so culturally I’ve done the English thing, but I’m in touch with my Nigerian mother,” says Olu.

“I have pride in my African heritage. I always knew where my parents came from and I first visited Nigeria when I was 13.”

Jo adds: “It’s important our children know about that culture. They think Africa is quite cool. They think there are lions in their grandmother’s back yard!”

“I grew up in a village in Hampshire where I was one of two black boys,” continues Olu.

“My whole experience was in a white community. When I started going to Southampton I found that black girls weren’t interested in me because I was deemed to be too white, in the way I spoke and behaved, but to look too black.

“Things really changed in terms of my dating prospects when I signed a record deal with Virgin. I was dating a white girl who had been with me while I was struggling but I had all the stereotypes thrown at me about successful black men dating white girls.

“When I was younger some white parents said they didn’t want their daughters dating me and right wing elements warned me to stay away from white girls. But I’d grown up with these white girls and boys and they were my friends.

“By the time I met Jo I’d been out with white and black girls, but I had it very clear in my head that I was going to marry a black girl.

“I was fed up with some members of the black community saying ‘why are you always dating white girls?’ And I was irritated by black men who said they would only date white women. I loved my colour and I always liked seeing black couples together. But then I met Jo and my plan A was thrown out.”

Jo says that she hadn’t thought about any of these issues before she met Olu: “I’d never dated a black guy before. We met in the gym and he was so warm and friendly that I was attracted to him. We went on a date and then another and here we are, happily ever after.

“I had some unexpected responses from friends. One woman was visibly shocked when she found out that I was seeing him. I think it hurt her to have to include him in invitations. I’m proud to say I was a bit naive and didn’t expect that at all.

“No one has ever come out and said anything racist to us, but you get looks and sometimes there’s a sense that other people don’t want to talk to you.

“Some rough children once said to our son ‘yuck, you’ve got brown skin’ which took his breath away a bit, because it was said with such malice. I cried inside because you want to protect your children.”

Olu says: “In our society, when our son, particularly, gets to his teenage years, black and mixed race boys experience the most racism, so he needs to be prepared for the fact that he won’t always be seeing friendly faces. Our children need to be prepared for that kind of change, because I’ve seen and experienced it myself.”

“Olu has had to teach me to be aware of racism,” says Jo.

“It’s been a learning curve for me. I’m more aware of it now, and more prepared.”

Olu adds: “We’re very confident as a couple. I dare anyone to take us on verbally, because we have such confidence in each other, they wouldn’t stand a chance.

“I know some mixed race couples have been through some hellish times to get to where we are now but our life has been trouble-free, really.”

The Colour of Love was a studio debate filmed in Southampton in 1992 which explored issues of mixed race relationships and examined how this dynamic impacted on peoples’ sense of identity. The new film, The Colour of Love Revisited, also includes a studio debate filmed earlier this year featuring many of the original participants and examines how views and issues have changed over the last 21 years. The films were both produced by Don John, coordinator of Black History Month in Southampton, which includes numerous events.

The film will be screened as part of Southampton Film Week on Sunday at 3pm at the Gallery Lecture Theatre in Southampton Civic Centre. The film will be introduced by Don John and followed by a question and answer session. Admission is free.

For more information about the screening and other Black History Month events, visit events/allevents/black-history-month.asp