Singer Mel B has told how she believes “sometimes it takes rage to get justice and rage to make a difference,” on the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death.
The 45-year-old revealed how she was heckled and taunted for being mixed-race when she attended school in Yorkshire, adding that she “grew up knowing we were different”.
George Floyd was murdered in the US by police officer Derek Chauvin, asphyxiated when Chauvin knelt on his neck while arresting him.
Mel B told the Sun: “for anyone whose skin is a different shade to white, the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter movement has had a life-changing impact.
‘Straighten my curly fro’
“It made us angry, it made us reflect, it made us want to take a stance.”
Leeds-born Mel revealed her father, born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, was part of the Windrush generation who immigrated to the UK. It was here that he met her mother, described by Mel “blonde, blue-eyed, Yorkshire-born-and-bred”.
She told how her father was cast out from the local community, unwelcome in the working men’s club and felt so unsafe that he would carry his baby daughter when out in the city, as her mum felt this was his best protection from being attacked.
According to the singer, from a young age she was racially abused by other kids, referring to her as “Redskin” and “P*ki”.
The racial inequalities continued into the early days of her career, when stylists told her they would “straighten my curly fro”, to which she refused, and was supported by her bandmates to model her curls.
She said: “When we made our first Spice Girls video Wannabe, the stylist wanted to straighten my curly fro.
“‘No way,’ I shouted. The girls backed me up.”
‘You gave me someone to be’
She added that Geri, Ginger Spice, told the hairdresser: “We’re all different and we celebrate that.”
Mel said she has since been told by others that she inspired them to be more confident in their skin, regardless of colour.
She said people would approach her and say: “You gave me someone to be when we did dances in the playground,” and “You made me feel having a fro was actually cool.”
The singer believes the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, brought about through Floyd’s death on 25 May 2020, has inspired real change - including in the creative industries.
‘There is still a level of tolkenism’
She said the likes of comedian Alison Hammond on daytime television and Michaela Coel in BBC’s I May Destroy You as representative of a shift in how race is proportionately represented.
However she added: “There is still a level of tokenism.”
Mel made distinct relations between the murder of a black man in the US by a white police officer, and the change which can been apparent in the past year.
“It’s ironic to think much of this came to pass because a white policeman knelt on a black man’s neck and killed him,” she said, adding: “Sometimes it takes rage to get justice and rage to make a difference, but I am pleased the world my three brown girls are growing up in is — admittedly slowly — moving forward.”