Say Hello, Wave Goodbye-Part 1

As 2014 comes to an end, it’s about the time we all get a little bit reflective about what has passed.  The end of this year has certainly been a roller coaster for me and my family and I’ve been thinking about how to reflect that in what will be my final post for 2014.  The traditional way to review the year is unusually a ‘Top Ten..’ type list so I think I’ll stick with tradition and do the same (except as a ‘Top Five’!).

My Year In Review

Top 5  reasons to be cheerful

  • Our son starting school (and loving it!)

This is the year that our son, D, started school.  Those of you who are parents and have been through it will understand what a big deal this is.  The stress of looking at schools; the loooong wait to find out whether your child have been accepted into the school of your top choice; the anxiety of whether they will fit in and enjoy the new environment of ‘Big School’.  Fortunately D has taken to school like a duck to water and the settle in period passed with very little hiccup.  He was obviously ready for it and it is a joy to watch him run off in the mornings to play with his friends, to hear about the topics he’s learning and loving (space was hugely popular…) and to watch his progress as he reads books to us for his homework.  I am beyond happy that this has been a positive experience for him.

  • Taking my career to the next level

Last year, I took a year out to do some professional and personal development.  This was an amazing opportunity (and here I have to thank my magnificent husband for supporting me, financially AND emotionally on the journey!) which opened me up to a whole new network of people, range of experiences and opportunities.  This year has been about using that experience to create my ideal working life.  This has led to me negotiating a 3 day a week role in an organisation that reflects my values leaving me space to explore other areas on a freelance basis as well as more flexibility for me and my family.

This feels like an important step in my career which I have spent the last 2 years working towards.  Feeling very excited and just a little bit terrified!

  • Letting go of the things (and people) that no longer serve me

During my year out, I had access to a coach.  The ‘letting go of things that no longer serve you’ comes for a conversation I had with him very early into our coaching relationship.  This sentence has stuck with me and it often plays itself in my head when I am struggling wiht something that feels familiar or repetitive.  I have found it useful to challenge old, now defunct habits of mine as well as relationships that are no longer satisfactory or healthy.  Moving forward in this new phase of my life means redefining the terms of engagement.   A certain amount of acceptance is needed to really let go and, I can admit, this has not always come easily.  It’s definitely a work in progress but I find myself with more courage to take those steps and make those decisions.

  • Deepening bonds in new relationships 

Over the past couple of days, so many of my conversations have included

“Can you imagine if we never met?!!”

I love these kind of conversations because they are usually an acknowledgement of new bonds and unexpected alliances. Some of that ‘letting go’ I just mentioned has also allowed me to nurture relationships with others that have been at the heart of how I have experienced 2014. It has been a year of true highs but also some personal lows (of which I am not sure I can share on such a public forum).  These friends have laughed with me, shared in my joys and successes as well as holding me in pain and disappointments.  Many lessons have been learnt in the process and I look forward to the adventures to come with these women.

  • Starting and maintaining this blog!

I like to think of myself as a bit of frustrated writer.  It took some courage and gentle nudging to start the blog.  I was concerned about who would read it; who might be offended; how I might come across; the impact on my professional life.  And actually, none of my original concerns have outweighed the sheer joy of having created a space for me to be creative, reactive, challenging, joyful, sad, angry; whatever.  Here I am, claiming my space.  It has been fun to nurture this blog, see its readership increase and move from having solely UK based readers to blog views from South Africa and Russia.  I have particularity enjoyed hosting a guest blog from my fabulous Ghanaian Friend and we have many more collaborations to come, I’m sure. If you wanna see my blog in numbers, click here.

So, as I Say Hello to 2015 and Wave Goodbye to 2014, I have much to be thankful for and even more to look forward to.  Wishing all my lovely readers, inspirations and conspirators a very happy, healthy and wise 2015.  Catch up with me again in January 2015 for part 2 of this blog…..

See y’all on the other side.

Advertisements

Exasperation, Frustration, Exhaustion. #BlackLivesMatter

I’m supposed to be having a lie in this morning as my husband gets up with our son and gets ready for the school run.  I have had a horrid cold for the best part of November and I’m trying to rest up as we rapidly approach the festive season.

However, I can’t stay silent on this.  Last night as the UK was going to bed, the news that there would be no indictment for the police officer who performed a choke hold that killed Eric Garner. Another Black man killed by the police without consequence.  It has been barely a week since a jury made the same decision in relation to Mike Brown, a young man who was shot 12 times, 12 times, and killed by a policeman in Ferguson Missouri in August this year.  On the 22nd November 12 year old Tamir Rice was fatally shot in Cleveland.  And let us not forget the 2013 jury’s decision on Trayvon Martin’s death.

In each of these cases, the decision was taken that there would be no consequence for the white person who took the life of a black man.  No consequence at all.  In the case of Eric Garner, the whole thing was recorded.  A medical examiner gave a ruling of homicide.  The choke hold used is deemed illegal. Still, this made no difference.  So tell me, what’s it going to take?

As protests take place across the US, as anger and rage finds voice through social media, I am stunned at the lack of understanding of what these deaths truly signify.  For the past week, I have had many conversations on social media with people who seem to think that if you are involved in crime, if you resist arrest, well, this is just what happens.  I have given up on conversation threads where I have been explaining the significance of institutional and structural racism in these cases and I have been aggressively challenged.  The ignorance present in many of these challenges has been astounding.  One commentor pointed out that Mike Brown was a bully and a criminal, based on the footage of him in the store before he was killed. (I have deliberately used the Fox News edit here.  Interesting to listen to how this is reported and the language used).  ‘He was no angel’; another charge at Mike Brown.

“Well I suppose you think Mark Duggan was an upstanding citizen as well??” went another, referring to the fatal shooting of a UK mixed race man, which sparked riots across the country in August 2011.

What??  Are you serious?? How is this even an argument?  Why is it so hard for people to understand that these men were killed NOT because of criminality but because of a pre-existing bias which led to excessive force being used?  Why is so difficult to understand that, in all probability, if Trayvon, Mike, Eric, Tamir and Mark had been white, the outcomes would have been different?  Why is it not concerning that the white men who took these Black lives walk away free, to resume their own lives as if nothing ever happened?

I am almost lost for words.  America, you are lost.  What is it going to take for positive change?

This will not change until White America stand up with African-Americans to make a stand. To say ‘no more’.  I am heartened by a new Twitter campaign currently trending, in the wake of the Eric Garner verdict; #CrimingWhileWhite.

The campaign aims to shine a light on racial profiling.  Check it out and look closely at the people contributing.  They are overwhelmingly white.  That is so important.  For any real change to happen, White and Black America must stand together in solidarity.

However, it’s going to take more than a social media campaign; it’s going to take more than words from America’s 1st Black President, Barrack Obama.

Enough is enough.

#BlackLivesMatter #icantbreathe #ferguson #EricGarner #mikebrown

 

The Black Administration of White Interests

A truly powerful peice on the structural circumstances that have created and perpetuate race relations in the US.

Media Diversified

by Ronald A. Kuykendall

The commodification of black bodies, once big business during the slave trade, and the cruelty and brutality associated with that condition lingers on today in a modified but obvious form. No longer is it the white mob eager to seize a black body, string it up, mutilate it, and drag in through the streets as a token of white supremacy; that job now rests with law enforcement who maintain the prescribed racial boundaries and can shoot, mutilate, and abuse black bodies under the protection of white policemen, white prosecutors, and white juries in spite of the presence of black public officials. The history of law enforcement in the United States has denied African Americans due process and equal protection, and so the agents of law enforcement have little legitimacy among African Americans in general. In fact, there has been a long history, extending back to World…

View original post 2,469 more words

“Africa” a celebrity must have

I’ve been plugged out of the matrix for a few weeks now so haven’t blogged for a while. However, I am fascinated by the current debate around the re-release of Do They Know It’s Christmas?, this time the cause is the Ebola ‘crisis’ by BandAid 30. I remember the original release, I was 9 in 1984. It still evokes strong emotions from me. However, watching the usual collection of political programmes this morning, I was curious to see the debate raging in the public arena about this kind of celeb charity. I have revisited the lyrics of the original song as well as the updated version. And they are shocking. Shocking in the way they feed into the perception of Africa; a land of fly-ridden, potbellied, starving children. An arid land ‘where no rivers flow’. Without differentiation between its 54 states and diverse cultures. And of course, the West’s need to ‘save’ Africa.
So I have been left pondering Geldof’s words; you don’t have to like us; you don’t have to like the song. Just buy it. Help raise awareness and money.
And the original effort raised 8.4 million pounds. That’s not to be sniffed at. But it worries me that 30 years on, with revised lyrics, there is still this tendency to portray Africa as this land of despair, death and disease.
I can feel a blog coming on but in the meantime, I really liked this and thought I’d share it as I’m gathering my thoughts on the topic. I’d really like to know what you think. Will you be buying the track?
Does the end justify the means?

Media Diversified

by Samira Sawlani

In recent weeks Israel – Palestine has probably taken up more column inches worldwide than it has in years. In fact the ‘conflict’ has enjoyed a showbiz makeover, gaining a place in every Hollywood rag and becoming a topic of conversation on daytime talk shows.

It’s entry and new found status is not however because the gossip pages have become conflict conscious or felt the humanitarian need  to report on the everyday life of Palestinians under occupation. It’s because Palestine has caused much trauma in the life of one celebrity starlet.

Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, like any ‘star’ worth their weight in gold added to her repertoire of bombshell, beauty queen and leading lady, the must have title of Oxfam Ambassador.

Global ambassador Global ambassador

Since 2007 Ms Johansson has been seen talking to refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp, spent time at an Oxfam funded girls school…

View original post 2,039 more words

My African City-The Ghanaian Friend

I have been looking forward to my Ghanaian Friend returning from her trip to her homeland.  We have been discussing a guest blog for months and her trip home seemed like the perfect opportunity to put this to the test.  And she did not disappoint!  I hope you enjoy her blog.  It is a rich and vibrant offering, highlighting some of the issues from my previous blog posts; mainly identity as a African born in the diaspora and the impact when one returns home.  I’d like to thank Ghanaian Friend and say that she will definitely be invited to come back!

I was actually introduced to the YouTube show ‘An African City’ by the ‘Diasporan Newbie’ herself some months back.  I knew instantly after my first viewing of the 15 minute first episode, that I would have a field day discussing this with her as soon as we next met.  Cue the excitable chinwag that followed: “But is this REALLY Africa?”, “Are these ‘bougie’ girls meant to represent today’s African woman?”, “Seriously? An episode that centers on retrieving a vibrator from customs?”  And of course: “Oooh the fashion is outta this world!  Carrie Bradshaw – eat your heart out!!”

Yet for all my conflicted and indecisive opinion on Nicole Amarteifio’s

YouTube hit, when I finally touched down in Accra, Ghana a few weeks ago, this is strangely what I had in the back of mind.  In my defense, I hadn’t been back to Ghana since 1995 when I performed the Krobo tradition of dipo in respect of my mother’s tribe.  Hence my vision of the county now as a 29 year old woman had been moderately shaped by friends and colleagues who were born there but now lived in the UK, and travelled back frequently, or family members who had disturbingly polarized views on the former ‘Gold Coast’ – ranging from charming Utopia where one might find the sweetest pineapple and mangoes to enjoy all day, to a deep societal inertia that continued to be glossed over by the Wests’ obsession with labeling Ghana’s relatively stable economic and political governance as West Africa’s ‘beacon of hope’.

I wouldn’t exactly say that I was on a mission to penetrate these opinions or theories.  I was, lest not I forget there to unwind, further discover my roots and heritage, and enjoy myself!  Incidentally, I had the time of my life, seeing parts of the country I had never experienced before and adopting ‘YO-LO’ (‘you only live once’ for those who haven’t watch enough episodes of  KUWTK!) as the official holiday mantra – an indication it’s going to be a crazy one!

But I’m not writing to give a blow-by-blow account of my phenomenal experiences (which by the way included riding horseback across the sandy white beaches of Labadi, climbing 40 metres high to cross less than sturdy planks in the rainforest (YO-LO!!), and surviving two marriage proposals in 2 weeks!).  I’m writing because I want to salute the Ghana I met for teaching me an important lesson about identity.  There were a million and one observations that I made about Ghana (or more accurately the snapshot that I saw), but Ill keep to identity for now (and maybe chip in on another blog about other stimulating and provocative topics).

Identity is was and is extremely real for me in Ghana, particularly as I was conscious that I might be received as a foreigner or that they would call me ‘obroni’ meaning white person.  Surprisingly, that never happened.  Perhaps it was my insistence on speaking ‘Twi’ as much as possible and being quite clear that I was a Ghanaian who just happened to be born and raised in the UK.  Instead I was accepted and ushered in a way that I have never felt in my 29 years in good ole’ Great Britain.  Instead what I heard was;

“Sister/Maame, you must come back soon, this is your home”.

I couldn’t help but compare, but what I noted was, from the Ghanaians that I met (some “bougies” that could have stepped right out of an episode of ‘An African City’, some extremely wealthy, and others leading a very humble lifestyle indeed)

Nobody merely exists in the way that I see Brits bitterly do.  Ghanaians are so proud of their cultures, they love their country (many still acknowledging deep social, economic, and political blockages) and as one Ghanaian friend said: “we don’t envy the white man!”

I couldn’t help but feel that I and my fellow inspired Ghanaians, with our strong (and in my case renewed) sense of identity could be part of the solution to shaking up the inertia I mentioned.  So what started out with an interest in ‘An African City’ and its ability to ‘keep it real’ ended with a truly amazing experience of my own African City.  On both fronts, I have no doubt there is plenty more to come.

Lauryn Hill, a Night Bus and a Feminist Struggle

Last Thursday, I went to see Lauryn Hill at the Manchester Apollo with my Nerdy Friend. By the way, we have discovered so many other similarities between us, I’m starting to think we are the same person living in a different time space/time continuum. We both cite Salavdor, Bahia as our favourite places on Earth, we found out that we were both in the hair dressers, on the same day, at the same time, having red kinky twists put in(!) and last week I sent her an email while on a journey to Preston and she sent me this picture!

IMG_0922-0

Spooky.

Anyway,  we went to see Ms Lauryn Hill. The last time I saw her was at a Brixton Academy, in the 90s as Fugee mania was just about to peak. It was a great concert.  Obviously since then, life has happened to Ms Hill. And it’s not necessarily been kind.

tumblr_n3l3fsvJ5x1qbh3s0o1_500

Many column inches has been written about her incarceration for non payment of taxes, her relationship with Stephen Marley and her (alleged) subsequent drug use and mental breakdown. Not to mention her racist comments a few years back.

I’m not here to talk about that.

The concert was a shocker but also amazing. She was over an hour late coming on stage. I thought at one point that there was going to be an announcement that Ms Hill would not be performing at all.  We were prepared for this because the reviews for this tour so far have been awful, quite frankly. By the time she did actually arrive on stage, the goodwill and atmosphere that her warm up DJ had managed to create had all but disappeared (he’d been playing for 45 mins, hyping the crowd for Ms Hill to come on but each time she seemed to miss her cue). The boos had started when she eventually walked on stage.

Her voice was amazing. She looked amazing. But she had chosen to perform drastically rearranged versions of her most loved songs and the crowd was NOT happy. To be fair, as an artist she is totally entitled to do what she wants with her material BUT, given she has a tiny back catoulouge, given she was over an hour late on stage (with no apology), given that the reviews have been bad, you would think that she would’ve worked harder to get the audience on side. She might have made more effort to understand her audience and give them just a little but more of what they wanted after waiting so long for her.

042313-music-lauryn-hill-performs_t750x550

She turned things around after singing Black Rage, though. Haunting lyrics. The second half was pretty much phenomenal and it seemed that she was all but forgiven for her tardiness, her lack of empathy with her audience and a very ill judged ‘Q&A’ where she asked the audience why they were booing her.

In many ways, me and Nerdy Friend felt let down by Lauryn last night, even though we danced our arses off to Doo Woop (That Thing).

But I’m not even here to talk about THAT!

On the night bus home, we had an interesting conversation about Lauryn and Beyoncé. I have a bug bear about Beyoncé. I admit it. Mostly, this is because it would seem the media seem to believe that she invented feminism and we should now be following her lead. A byline in the Huffington  Post recently made me seethe with anger, as they took Chimimanda’s definition, which Bey sampled, and basically said ‘ Bey has given us a definition of feminism, now go forth and practice it”!

feminist

WHAT?! Please let us not forget that she only sampled this. It is borrowed from Chimamanda!

Anyway, my friend said if Bey’s spike heels and leotards have got 13 year old girls talking about feminism then that can’t be a bad thing. And I do agree with this. To an extent. The balance between a woman owning her sexuality and doing what she pleases with it, which might be using it as a feminist platform VS the fact that more often that not our voices are not heard unless it’s wrapped up in a hyper sexual package….I’m not comfortable with a lot of how Beyoncé chooses to present herself as seriously talented woman. But I will fight to the death for her right…..

So we started talking about this some more and in my head I saw Ms Hill and Bey side by side. And as disappointed as I felt by how Lauryn had behaved, I would still see her any day of the week over Beyoncé, who I consider to be so talented, so professional and in many ways a role model. She works hard for what she has. And she will also give the fans what they want and then some.

lauryn_hill_1383073909239       BeyonceKnowles

However. In these 2 women I see a stark representation of feminism and black womanhood.

Beyoncé is a mega star. She has worked hard, played the game, married another mega star and become a celebrity juganaut. All the while, there’s been a lot of flesh, a lot of swishy weaves and crowd pleasing. She is the acceptable face of African American womanhood, living the ‘American Dream’.  Her moniker ‘Queen Bey’ says it all.

Lauryn refused to play the game. Dark skinned, dreadlocked Lauryn, full of attitude and consciousness. Lauryn, who looked amazing with barely an inch of flesh on show. Lauryn, who consciously fought against playing the game, having her image manipulated in order to be more ‘ consumer-friendly’.  A woman who fought the law and the law won.

Her fight to be herself in all her Black womanhood, with all her flaws, without the industry (society) manipulating that; she lost that fight. They out her in jail. Essentially, they showed her that if you ain’t gonna play the game, we’re gonna squash you.  This is not to say that Lauryn is a complete innocent.  She carries her share of responsibility.

There is a tension between assimilation and disruption.  The message is if you assimilate, you can be a winner, you can be one of us, you can be a Queen if you want. But on the terms we set.
But if you try to disrupt those terms, we will shut you down. We will make it hard for you to even be heard. We don’t want your kind of black womanhood here.

Despite still feeling disappointed with Lauryn’s apparent disregard for her fans, I see her her defiance and fight to represent her authentic self as a political act.  As a feminist act.  And I admire her for that.  Beyonce ‘s doing her part; don’t get me wrong.  She has the right to self identify however she pleases.  And Nerdy Friend is right; there are girls growing up out there who will feel empowered by Bey’s brand of feminism.  I’m not the feminism police, neither do I want to be.

For me, these two women represent an interesting narrative about Black womanhood, feminism and the struggle to be our authentic selves.

A couple of interesting reads for you.  Different perspectives but both are interesting commentary on Ms Hill, her fans and what creative licence means.  Enjoy!

http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2014/10/hurts-bad-cost-lauryn-hill-fan/https://medium.com/cuepoint/in-defense-of-ms-hill-6fa84ba81d63

 

Together We Stand

Today I was moved by this image that I came across on Ms Afropolitan’s Facebook page.

PA08-017_Three_Wise_Men_Greeting_Entry_Into_Lagos-1024x793

It is stunningly beautiful.  Arresting. I was so taken with this piece that I decided to check the artist out.  His name is Kehinde Wiley, a New York-Based visual artist.

His World Stage series depicts ‘urban, black and brown men’.  Here is the brief description on his Facebook page describing his work;

Kehinde Wiley creates highly realistic paintings of people of the African diaspora which reference the Western European portrait tradition.

As I looked through his work, seeing images of Black men faces from Haiti, Lagos, Dakar, Jamaica, Israel and France, I connected with his description of his work and more importantly, his subjects.  The Africanness of his subjects, no matter where they are, is what made my heart rejoice.  At this point in my journey, this is still very important to me.  Not only is it vital for me to identify with my African heritage, there is something about how that is acknowledged by others.  Kehinde’s work ( I love this name; it is the name of a character in Ghana Must Go) seems to break down the barriers between people of African descent. Through the lens of his work, we are all African, wherever we are in the diaspora.

Now, not everyone identifies in this way.  And that’s OK.  This thing of identity is multi-faceted.  And Caribbean culture is the one that is most familiar to me as this is the culture I was born into and grew up in.  Still, I find that the more time I spend with friends with African parentage, the more similarities I feel in how move through the world, our experiences of being Black British and Black Other, how we were parented, our values.  So many similarities yet still so many differences.

One of the things I want to explore in this blog is the perception of difference.  Growing up, I was always aware of was the unspoken understanding that ‘us Caribbeans’ were different from ‘those Africans’. Those Caribbean do not know who they are.  They have no true heritage. I don’t really know what us Caribbean had to say about our African brothers an sisters.  As a child,  it manifested in things like laughing at unpronounceable African names at school; grown ups turning their noses up at the smell of African food; how they dressed.  Why the laughter?  Why were these things chosen to highlight out differences?

This journey is about not about difference but about sameness.

I have not broached this topic with my friends as yet but know that is a conversation that I will have soon.  It will be a difficult one.  Because in there somewhere I do wonder whether it is true; many of us Caribbean’s do not know who we are.  That privilege was taken away from us many generations back.  This blog is proof of that in many ways.  I am envious of my friends who are firmly rooted to their heritage, with knowledge of their home, their people, their language, their ancestors.  Is there truly a snobbery about this?

In any case, those conversations will definitely be the stuff of future blogs!  Ghanaian Friend is in Ghana right now and I have asked her to guest on Musings From a Diasporan Newbie.  I think she will have something to say on this subject so watch this space!

On Sunday, I’m off to Africa Utopia at the Southbank Centre.  Some of the themes for Sunday are around Africa and the Caribbean as well as the wider diaspora.  I’m really excited and I’m sure inspiration for blogging will be everywhere.

In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Are you of Caribbean descent and disagree with me?  Are you of African parentage and want to weigh in with your perspective? Or maybe you are neither but would like to share your thoughts.  I’m happy to explore different perspectives so feel free to comment!

Final words; check out Kehinde’s work.  It really is incredible.

 

 

 

 

 

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…

View original post 531 more words