For mum-of-two Khaleda Noon, schooldays were ‘a struggle’, with no role models to look up to.
“My mum is Scottish, and my father – who I didn’t know – was from Kuwait,” said the 47-year-old. “My mum raised me alone and my half-brother and sister were white.
“I grew up in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, during the 1980s when racism was rife. I used to wish I was white and scrub my skin. Thankfully my childhood experiences made me stronger and gave me a real passion to work within the youth sector.”
In January 2019, Khaleda founded Intercultural Youth Scotland. Based in Edinburgh, the charity works with young people across the country aged 13 to 25, from BAME backgrounds.
IYS received a National Lottery grant of £8,500 six months ago to help fund its weekly youth club sessions, and an additional £10,000 has helped pay for transferring its services online during lockdown.
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“We work across several strands – race equality, employability and performing arts,” Khaleda explained.
“We want to give these young people power and ownership to move forward with their lives. Thanks to National Lottery funding, we’re achieving that.”
Freelance photographer David Chukwujekwu (below) is an ambassador for the charity and also experienced racism while growing up. He was born in Nigeria before moving to Glasgow aged 11.
Now 23, he recalled: “Racism used to be blatant. I remember grown men shouting abuse at me in the street.
“I never understood why old ladies would look so uncomfortable when I was simply waiting outside a shop. I felt like a constant outsider. In the end I disconnected from my roots just to fit in.”
David said his long-term goal is to give back to the black community in Scotland through his work with IYS.
He went on: “We want to address racial inequality in education and the jobs market, and this starts with going into schools.
“Our goal is to change the racial narratives that are taught – and National Lottery funding is helping us to deliver this, and all aspects of our services. We’re extremely grateful.”
Fellow IYS ambassador Afrika Priestley (below), believes the global pandemic has helped to spark conversation about real racial change.
“Everyone has had to be responsible for their own actions. People have been reflecting,” the 22-year-old Stirling University student said. “We want to use this to positively invest in the charity’s programmes.”
Afrika was raised by her white mother and grandmother, just outside Edinburgh.
“Being mixed race I experienced both blatant racism and constant daily micro-aggressions growing up,” she told us. “I wanted to blend in, so constantly straightened my hair, and one peer even suggested I use skin bleaching cream.
“My name meant I stood out more, so for years I went by middle name Maya. It’s only since starting work with IYS that I’ve proudly reclaimed my given name.”
As part of IYS’ Ambassador Programme, Afrika is helping train others in antiracial activism, with plans to discuss the charity’s work with MSPs and in schools.
“Scottish BAME young people can speak for ourselves. We just need the space to do it,” she added. “Thanks to The National Lottery this is just the beginning for IYS, and it’s really exciting.”