20 Dec 2019

Episode 6: The Best Street in Birkdale - Conversations With My Immigrant Parents

From Conversations With My Immigrant Parents, 6:00 am on 20 December 2019
  • Content warning: This episode also explores themes around mental health.
Derrick Solomon outside in West Auckland.

Derrick Solomon outside in West Auckland. Photo: Saraid de Silva / Julie Zhu

The Best Street in Birkdale​

The Solomons are South African by birth, and in their own words, South African in their hearts.  Parents Derrick and Lynette moved their three kids to Aotearoa in 2003 in search of more safety, and less entrenched and institutionalised racism.  In this episode they speak with their middle child, 28 year old Tammy.

Lynette Solomon outside in West Auckland.

Lynette Solomon outside in West Auckland. Photo: Saraid de Silva / Julie Zhu

As with several families in the podcast series, Derrick was the first family member to arrive in New Zealand, spending some time making arrangements before bringing the rest of his family over.  He is of Khoisan heritage, an indigenous tribe of South Africa, so he has indigenous whakapapa as well.  This led him to spend a year learning Māori when he first arrived in the country.

The terrorist attack on March 15th changed the family’s view of New Zealand being the safe haven they’d believed.

Tammy describes hearing of the attack for the first time online, “When I found out I felt terrified.  I called you guys and everything, and we were so on edge because this was not meant to happen in New Zealand.  Like, we escaped that hatefulness towards people being different.”

Derrick chimes in, “In the back of my mind, we always knew that something was going to happen.  I always thought that New Zealand was too complacent in certain ways, you know.  They eventually afterward said that they were looking in the wrong area where a threat was probably coming from, but that was a shock for myself.”

However racism and discrimination wasn’t a new experience for the Solomons before the Christchurch attacks.  It’s something they have encountered from both New Zealanders and white South Africans who have immigrated here.

Tammy Lawrence-Solomon outside in West Auckland.

Tammy Lawrence-Solomon outside in West Auckland. Photo: Saraid de Silva / Julie Zhu

Lynette explains, “Just living our normal life day to day here I met a New Zealander and she said to me, ‘Ah so you are a Coloured.’  So I said, ‘Excuse me, where did you get to hear of that term?’ and she says, ‘This white South African said there’s a lot of Coloured people here.’”

Derrick adds, “A lot of the Afrikaner people that moved from South Africa to New Zealand... They still carry their racist views over to this country, and that is very sad.”

This episode also explores gender identity.  Tammy is non-binary, and understanding and articulating their gender has been a journey for Tammy’s parents.  The family has a nuanced discussion about this transition and what it has meant for them.

“At the end of the day, I wanted you to be happy, like I explained to you it was a new thing for me.  I didn't expect you to identify as that.  Because it was a bit of a shock to the system for me, and for your mum I guess as well.  But at the end of the day, we have to, we have to accept that,” says Derrick.

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354 or text HELP to 4357
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7).  This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7) or text 4202
  • Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7), free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz
  • What's Up: Online chat (3pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 helpline (12pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-11pm weekends)
  • Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)
  • Rural Support Trust Helpline: 0800 787 254
  • Healthline: 0800 611 116
  • Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.

Series Classification: G (General Programmes)

[click here for more episodes]

(L-R) Podcast hosts Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu.

(L-R) Podcast hosts Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu. Photo: Saraid de Silva / Julie Zhu

Conversations With My Immigrant Parents is a podcast and video series hosted, produced, and directed by Saraid de Silva and Julie Zhu.

Saraid de Silva is a Sri Lankan/Pākehā actor and writer.  Her work deals with contemporary feminism and the realities of being a first generation South Asian New Zealander.

Born in China, Julie Zhu is a filmmaker, photographer, and storyteller focused on championing the stories and voices of marginalised identities.

| Twitter: @saraiddesilva@juliezhuu | Instagram: @convoswithmy | Facebook: whereareyoufromreally |

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