Monthly Archives: July 2014

Embracing my Inner Nerd

I’m on my way back from visiting a good friend of mine. One of the 4 who inspired this blog, actually. It’s been a fabulous weekend. Although we became firm friends some time ago, this is the 1st time either of us have visited the other’s home; we live in different parts of the country. Our kids met for the 1st time and got on famously (a huge relief!) and we spent time catching up and getting to know each other.  An interesting dynamic in making new friends at this age is that short-hand or fast-tracking of the essential information about ourselves which tell people who we are and how we arrived at this point. In sharing these intimate stores, we often see a different self reflected in the other person’s eyes; or a tale that you have told many times takes on a different perspective.

Anyway, despite knowing each other for some time, we have not done this level of revelation.  Previous partners, disastrous relationships, childhood humiliations (I’m thinking of a short back and sides mto a 13 year old girl!).   These are the tales we share to form a bond.  In telling these stories over the weekend, we both discovered we were both Awkward Black Girl’s (if you have not discovered this hilarious on-line show by Issa Rae then you are in for a treat!).  As we swapped storied about our teen crushes (Andrew McCarthy, Keither Sutherland) and fav Brat Pack movies (St Elmo’s Fire), we understood that we shared similar experiences of being slightly odd, teenage girls in the 80s. I’ve just sent her this link and she has sent me a message back ;

Loved that guy!! That’s the moment I was 100% convinced we should have been nerdy black teen buddies!!

Having both grown up in large urban cities (although at opposite ends of the country), we were Odd Bods in a sea of Black kids who were like ‘WTF?!’

I will never forget one of the girls in my class asking to listen to my Walkman (remember those??) on a school trip when I was about 12.  I was listening to Led Zepplin and had a studded bracelets on my wrist.  She put the headphones on and almost threw them back at me.  That sealed my fate as the weird not very black, black girl at my school.  I didn’t mind that, I’ve never minded being different or standing out.   It was a difficult journey for me though.  During my teen years, I had little, if any of the external culturally acceptable indicators that said I ‘belonged’ and this was in some ways hard to accept.  It has meant that there has been a forging of my own path and a strong sense that ‘being Black’ was more than food you ate, people you like, men you fancy and music you listen to.

Now as an adult, I’m far more comfortable in my skin.   But I often think back to my 12 year old self who in many ways felt she had to ‘learn to be Black’.  The 12 year old girl didn’t realise that all her experiences would be shaped by her Blackness, whether consciously or subconsciously.  She didn’t realise that one day she would come to a deeper understanding on what her Blackness meant to her and the journey it would take her on.

Most of all, she didn’t know that other Black, nerdy kids existed!  So me and my Nerdy Nigerian Friend are left wondering what might have been had we met in our teens when we were struggling to get a grip of ourselves.  We’re convinced we would’ve been great friends and co-conspirators, as we are now.

We have a date with St Elmo’s Fire with our names written all over it!  Embrace the nerdiness!

Fighting to Reclaim My Space

Once again, I’m in the midst of a busy week. I’m pretty sure I can start all my blogs with that sentence! I’ve been meaning to blog for days but just haven’t found the time. I’ve been prompted by an article I read yesterday which I sent to Ghanainan Friend (thanks for the blog title, btw!).  I knew it would be right up her street, being a pro-Black, pro-women no-nonsense kinda gal. She sent me a squealy email message this morning IN CAPITALS, (such was her excitement and identification with the words in the piece) saying;

“Surely this is blog material??’

So I’ll share it with you. The piece was written by Kim Foster who is the Founder and Editor of For Harriet, a on-line magazine with the tagline ‘celebrating the fullness of black womanhood’.  

Note that the italics in that sentence are directly from the tagline and not myself.

The piece is called On the Politics of Inclusion and Protecting the Sanctity of Black Women’s Spaces; already a provocative title.    I have been enjoying For Harriet.  Although it is written from the  African-American perspective, many of the articles resonate, as a woman and as a Black woman.  I love the humour that I find in some of the articles and they are frequently a discussion piece with one friend of the other.

So.  A couple of things sprang to mind when I read and reread this article.  Firstly, in starting this blog, I am in my own way fighting to reclaim my space.  A space that is sometimes unfamiliar and partially obscured due to the  history of my ancestors.  It resonated because I took a while to start this blog even though my journey started a while ago.  The reasons for the procrastination are many but probably the most significant one was the concern with how others (and by others I mean non-Black friends and colleagues) will perceive what I write and what I say.  I could say more but this extract says it all;

When we create movements, sites or spaces or choose to have these discussions, we’re pursuing a project to throw off centuries of baggage that have been heaped on our shoulders. We are reclaiming and refashioning our identities in our own terms. We have to do this work because we are living in a society that tells us we are not enough. That we should be silent and ashamed. It’s just not in our best interest of black women to pat the well-intentioned on the back and pretend like all of our issues are the same.

My interpretation is that Kim is responding to those who feel that the issues represented in For Harriet are not exclusive to Black women and therefore minimise that experience by claiming that is it universal.   And then there are those who feel that they can relate because they understand the issues, often taking a ‘seat at the table’ when one hasn’t even been offered.

Our experiences are not the same.  And whilst I welcome robust and vigorous debate, I also reserve the right to speak out on issues that are exclusive to me without having to justify or appease others.  And no matter how ‘down’ you are, please do not equate that with first-hand experience.  Not only is that offensive, it also becomes part of a system that seeks to silence or minimise more relevant voices.

So the decision I made was to write firstly and foremost for myself, as this is about my personal journey.  Along the way, I may cause offence and will cross that bridge when I come to it.

Which brings me neatly on to the other thing that sprang to mind.  The politics of inclusion are also the politics of exclusion.  And this is a tricky area.  When you are claiming exclusive rights to your experience as……(fill in the blank), what happens when YOU are the person being excluded??

Well, I think that depends of the context and the reasons for that exclusion.  And that is so much of what this is (some of which comes under the banner of intersectionality) is about context. 

More on this in my next blog.

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

musingsfromadiasporan

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…

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