Citizen Khan creator Adil Ray takes to Grace Hammond
The Huddersfield University graduate, who has recently starred in the Halifax-based school drama Ackley Bridge, is the latest celebrity to take part in the BBC genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are? where as viewers will have found out last night he discovered one side of his family descend from Ugandan chiefs.
“I knew that my grandfather had come from India and gone over to Kenya, like many Asians did at that time; and I knew that his first wife had died and he’d married an African woman, but I wasn’t sure beyond that,” says Ray, who began his career as a radio host on a pirate station in Huddersfield while studying there at the university and in 1997 landed a slot with Galaxy 105, making him one of the first full-time British South Asian presenters to host a mainstream commercial radio show in the UK. He also spent time at radio Aire.
“I never thought there would be an opportunity to find out more; you just think if there was more, you’d already know about it. My mother felt the same, so to find out all of this, to find out that not only is there more history but that the African lineage goes back to more family and more importantly there are members of my family still around in Uganda, was just beautiful.”
Immigration is an important part of Ray’s life.
“My mum is from East Africa and my dad is from rural Pakistan, so my father would have been expected to marry someone who was from Pakistan and probably from his own village; and my mother was probably expected to marry somebody from East Africa, from the same sort of community, but they didn’t. And then I look back and my mum’s mum, my grandmother, was married to an Indian trader and she is from a black African family and then her mother, again, was married to an Indian trader. Imagine doing that in the early 1900s and in the 1800s? It’s quite something.
“I just feel really privileged and honoured to have that level of integration throughout my family.”
But it was the connection to African royalty that surprised Ray most. “[Now] it makes sense why the Queen gave me an OBE last year! But no, it makes me proud and I want to find out more about that [side of the] family.
“I’m British first: I love being British, I am from Birmingham, I am a Brummie, and over the years I have called myself British-Asian, British Pakistani, but I think I probably need to start saying British-African-Asian or British-Asian-African.
“That’s what I am and I want people to know that. It makes me proud of it, so I think it is a permanent change.
“I appreciate that not everyone will get the chance to do what I have done and go on a journey, but I just hope that we all stop and think and realise that we have to all be from different backgrounds. That’s how we’ve evolved. What we see in each other’s face’s and people’s social media profiles isn’t the whole story – there’s an entire back story which has made us who we are that we should all be utterly proud of and proud of ourselves and proud of each other. That kind of compassion and understanding is the very beginnings of humanity – that’s what’s lacking at the moment, and hopefully if we all did that, we might get to that point.”