Unity through Diversity

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“I feel as proud to be Jewish as I feel to be Black”

Born in London, England, Sophie Okonedo, is a successful British actress who has starred in British and American productions. She was raised by her mother who is an Ashkenazi Jew born in the East End to Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Poland and Russia. Her father was Nigerian and left the family when she was 5 years old.

She is probably most recognized for her role in Hotel Rowanda where she received an Academy Award nomination. However, for her role in the film, Skin, Sophie felt a personal connection. Skin is based on the true story of Sandra Laing, a biracial girl born to white parents - unaware of a black ancestor in their family tree - in 1950’s South Africa.“I could relate to being black and brought up in a white family,” Sophie said. “Of course being raised in North London in the 1970’s was much kinder than South Africa in the ’50s. But it was helpful to understand what it is like to have a family that is a different color than you — and to question your heritage when people say, ‘That can’t possibly be your mum.’”

Sophie is now a parent herself. She has a daughter from her previous relationship with Irish film editor Eoin Martin. On her heritage she says, “I feel as proud to be Jewish as I feel to be Black” and calls her daughter an “Irish, Nigerian Jew.”