“Are you part of a multi-cultural family?” – Breaking down barriers and building “Harmony”
In 1972, Carol Kayira, a young white mother of two mixed race children struggled to find resources and information to meet the cultural and identity needs of her children whose father was Black African. Carol’s personal experience was that mixed race children are a bridge between communities and she was determined to speak out. Carol made contact with other mixed race families and couples in London, starting up local meetings in the Lambeth areas within London, and Harmony was born.
In 1973, Carol decided, to write to Johnnie Walker’s Radio 1 programme and the producers invited her onto the show to talk about her idea of developing Harmony with like-minded people across the UK. The response from the public was of overwhelming support and the development of Harmony commenced with local groups being formed across the country during the 70s & 80s . We’ve spoken to members, current and from earlier years, who remembered Carol, and who had been encouraged and inspired by her enthusiasm and dedication in ‘making mixed race matter’ and bringing up children to know they ‘belonged’ and that interracial living was a normal everyday experience.
Eve Manghani is one of many people who met Carol when Harmony was based in London and here she shares memories and thoughts of the earlier years of the work carried out by Carol.
“My Thoughts and Memories of Carol and Harmony”
by Eve Manghani.
I saw a poster on a board in Morley College, London. It said ‘Are you part of a multi-cultural family?’. I was instantly interested as my husband was Indian and we had two Anglo/lndian sons.
I phoned the number given and spoke to a person with a lovely, friendly voice. That person was Carol. After the usual pre-amble we decided to meet and discovered that we lived a few streets away from each other. I knocked on the door and it was opened by a person with the most ‘open, friendly, positive’ smile you could imagine. I knew straight away we would be friends – never mind Harmony. For many years we were close friends and enjoyed lots of happy moments with our children. Over the years I watched Carol build up Harmony. She was such a positive person with a driving force. She had such a loving, giving nature that nobody could refuse her demands or squash her ideas.
Carol started a Harmony centre in Mitcham, a local based centre run by a formidable Cockney lady called Aunty Doll . Carol organised everything that went on there. Many families came to the centre for advice and support, some came just for Carol’s ‘drop scones” or Aunty Doll’s stew. Carol also started ‘Multicultural lunches’. These were really wonderful. Everyone would meet at a different person’s house once a month or each week during school holidays. We all took along our own special food according to our culture. The children all played together (or fought together!) as the parents sat around sharing thoughts and learning about each other’s culture. Also we were able to seek support or friendly advice if we were experiencing difficulties in a mixed race union. My family have learnt tolerance and understanding of other cultures through Harmony. My sons have become proud of their dual heritage after meeting other mixed race children.
Carol set up yet another venue at Brixton at an enormous old church building. It was a great success. Carol had never been afraid to take risks! Carol had the inspiration, drive, commitment and most of all the love that helps conquer barriers. Everyone has benefited from knowing Carol. I feel privileged and grateful to have been her friend.