Monthly Archives: June 2014

A View from the World Cup- African, Caribbean or other??

I’m watching the France v Nigeria game with my son.  I’m supporting Nigeria just I’ve supported Ivory Coast and Ghana in each of their matches.  At 1-0 to France 86.52 minutes into the game I am losing hope of a win.  By the end of the evening, we’ll know whether any African country goes through to the next round.

For many of us 1st and 2nd generation of Caribbean parentage, this is the norm.  Speaking to my friends of African parentage, they of course support their home team.  But they also support other Africa teams when they play (thank God there was no Nigeria V Ghana.  God knows how we would’ve coped!!).

My Twitter, Facebook and What’s App account use has been more frantic during the African games than anything else (including about Thierry Henry…!).  I have loved being part of that camaraderie.  Don’t get me wrong, I was screaming along with the entire country when England played. I was hurting the day after THE match that saw the England pretty much guarantee crashing out of the tournament.

But it fascinates me how so many of us hold on to our identities as Africans, even through something like a sporting event.  Even in childhood, I remember being aware of issues around culture and identity  tied up with the world’s biggest football tournament.

My Guyanese mother always supporting the South American teams when I was a kid.  She was born in Guyana and in the absence of a Guyanese national team in World Cup, she opted for the South American teams.  I feel the need to point out that Guyana is on the South American mainland. It shares borders with Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname.  It is part of the Caribbean but NOT part of the West Indies (although Guyana plays in the West Indian cricket team!  As you can see from this map, it is sometimes considered as part of the West Indies but generally, the term refers to the Caribbean Islands). It is also not Ghana.

Growing up I always identified with my Guyanese heritage over my Jamaican one.  Our family traditions were very Guyanese; we ate pepper pot on Christmas morning; roti, dhal and dhal puri were and still are some of my favourite foods and my nan taught us songs in Hindi, which she had learnt through mixing with the significant Hindu community in Guyana (and Trinidad; a hop, skip and a jump away).  I felt ‘Guyanese’ more strongly than ‘Caribbean’.  Supporting a South American team felt right because South America is where my mum was from, right?  That was just normal for us.  And when West Germany beat England in 1990?  That’s right, we were supporting West Germany!!

A lot has changed since then, including how I view Guyana, the Caribbean and our shared cultural heritage.  Guyana is of course much closer to the Caribbean in culture, psychology and history than its South American neighbours, in many ways.  However, some of my journey into identity took me to Central and South America for extensive periods of time.  Parts of coastal Mexico & Costa Rica have been influenced by African and Caribbean history which can be seen in the people who live there are well as the food, music and religions present. And don’t get me started on Salvador in Brazil!  If you haven’t been there, put it on your list!  The pride the people have in their African ancestry, their identification with African religions and Gods was truly beautiful and even familiar, in a weird way.

So where I find myself now is in a weird place of supporting African teams as an African; supporting South American teams as a Guyanese and supporting England, as I’m British! That’s pretty much all the teams in the tournament.

I’m ok with that though; I can be all three things as I AM all three things.  It often feels like a fluid identify; all of these things yet none of them.  And I guess this is the nature of identify for many people.  We all occupy different spaces at different times, in one way or another.

 

 

 

 

 

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Minna Salami: An Interview with the Creator of Ms. Afropolitan

Another woman and blog I have found inspiring. This is a great interview, I love how clear and authoritative Minna is in her view of African feminism. For me, this is an important part of my own journey into identity. My Africanness and womanhood and two things intertwined. This also resonated with me:
“And yes, being a feminist is subconscious, in fact being a feminist and being a woman are synonymous to me; I would not know how to be a woman who is not a feminist. ”
Enjoy.

‘That difficult 2nd album….’

musingsfromadiasporan

It’s been an insane week.  Pretty much the norm and if I’m honest, just how I like it.

The week has been heavily influenced by the 1st post of the blog, published in the small hours of Tuesday morning.It’s been in the making for a while so it was a big deal to take action and get it started!  I’ve been thinking of ways to keep writing regularly, how to get into the habit of storing experiences to write about.

I messaged my 4 friends, who inspired the blog, to share it with them and acknowledge their roles in my journey so far.  The feedback and support has been great and I hope they’ll be dropping in to comment and challenge and provoke, hint, hint!

As well as these women, there have been others who have inspired this journey and I want to share a few with you.  Like many women, particularly…

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‘That difficult 2nd album….’

It’s been an insane week.  Pretty much the norm and if I’m honest, just how I like it.

The week has been heavily influenced by the 1st post of the blog, published in the small hours of Tuesday morning.It’s been in the making for a while so it was a big deal to take action and get it started!  I’ve been thinking of ways to keep writing regularly, how to get into the habit of storing experiences to write about.

I messaged my 4 friends, who inspired the blog, to share it with them and acknowledge their roles in my journey so far.  The feedback and support has been great and I hope they’ll be dropping in to comment and challenge and provoke, hint, hint!

As well as these women, there have been others who have inspired this journey and I want to share a few with you.  Like many women, particularly Black women, the emergence of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has been incredible.  I have been following her work for many years and was really excited when Half of a Yellow Sun premièred earlier this year, on my birthday (!) in Croydon.  I managed to get tickets and went along with a gaggle of girls who helped me chase down Chimamanda at the end for a fan photo (for which I am forever grateful, ladies!).

I admit to being a bit starstruck.  She is absolutely my idol at the moment.  A talented, forthright, intelligent, articulate, compassionate woman who is just getting into her stride.  Every time I read an article, interview or see her on in discussion, I am struck by how poised and humble she is yet fiercely African, a feminist and stunning, all on her own terms.  Check her out in action here with Zadie Smith.

Chimamanda

We need more role models like her for our daughters, sisters, mothers, sons and fathers.

I recently finished Americanah and loved it (obviously!).  I particularly loved Ifemelu’s character, as stubborn, left-field young woman who writes.  I loved her blog about race identity and politics as a ‘non-American’ Black.  Honest and funny, challenging and unapologetic.  I have to say, this is what I will model my own blog on.  Some of the topics raised in that blog I’m sure will find a way into my own posts as so many resonated with me.

Other sources of inspiration are maybe obvious; Michelle Obama.  Now I know she causes much upset amongst American feminists because of her seemingly passive ‘mom-in-chief’ role.  I don’t know about that.  I think this is a woman who is managing to walk a very difficult path as the 1st Black First Lady.  The American right have tried to discredit her, calling her unpatriotic; accusing her of cosying up to celebrity;  being an ‘angry Black woman (I’ll talk about this perception at some point, I guarantee it!).

Hers is a complex path with numerous pitfalls to avoid.  She does it with poise and grace, keeping her family grounded in what must be a cyclone of madness.  When she is on a stage, people listen.  When someone tries to do her down, she calls out that rudeness.  Infuriatingly, if you put her name into a Google search ‘Michelle Obama is a man’ is the 3rd most searched for category!

Michelle

Let’s take a minute to remember just how powerful this women is, in her own right.  Whilst the fictional character of Claire Huxable is the African American ‘Mom’ everyone wanted to have, let’s show some appreciation for Mrs Obama who REAL and will continue to inspire generations of women, of all hues.

I have a saying with a couple of good friends of mine ‘WWMD?’ which means, What Would Michelle Do?’  I have this pinned on my fridge, by the way.

Last but not least, Lupita.  What can I say?  Well actually lots but I’m not going to because again, the Lupita effect will be the topic of another blog.    These woman are helping to redefine how we are perceived and how we perceive ourselves.  I love the fact that Lupita has just landed her 1st Vogue cover and that her short natural hair, dark skinned African features are part of the fashion and beauty landscape.

Lupita

I can look at these women and see a reflection of myself that I do not see in other high profile Black women .  Not because they are not role models (I’m not here to do anyone a disservice) but they’re not my role models.  So this blog in part, also celebrates these women and the joy they have brought to many lives including my own!

Are you on a similar journey? What or who inspires you?

 

This Life

I’m wide awake at stupid o’clock and rather than lie in bed thinking vague thoughts and counting down the time I may as well write something, right?  So I’ve started a new blog exploring my experience as a 1st generation, UK born, half afro-Guyanese and half Jamaican, black woman.  I hope y’all will get involved, leave your comments and posts as I go through this journey.

I am a busy, working mum trying to run a household, have a meaningful career, play an active role in my community and have fun while I’m doing it (I have always liked to party and that has not stopped since becoming a ‘responsible adult’!).

Life is pretty interesting at the moment, with lots of things on the go and lots of exciting new spaces in which I find myself, particularly professionally. However, the thing that is most interesting for me at the moment is identity and the nature of identity.

Many things have changed in my life over the past 18 months, all of which have been positive.  I have found myself suddenly close to a small group of women who were not in my life 18 months ago.  I have been surprised at how these new connections have grown and I now count some of these women as close friends.  Several of these women are African.  This has had a deep impact on me.  I am like many Black British women of my generation; I lay claim to my Britishness in one sense but in another, have always felt ‘other’.  My experience of becoming close with a number of fiercely proud African women has been life-affirming.  The closet thing to ‘sisterhood’ I can recall experiencing.

This is certainly a reflection of the personal development journey I have been on in the past 18 months.  In a deep conversation with a friend earlier in the year, I began to realise that for the 1st time in my life, I identify as an African more than anything else.  Of course my cultural upbringing is important to me and certainly a critical part of who I am.  But I also have connected with something that feels deeply fundamental and such an obvious part of me that I am slightly amazed that it has taken the best part of 40 years to find it!

This 1st blog is a commitment to charting this experience and period of exploration and growth.

http://www.culturaldiplomacy.org/experienceafrica/index.php?en_the-african-diaspora

I do need to go back to bed now!