Tell us about yourself? What is your heritage/race?
My heritage is African-Caribbean; two different islands in the Caribbean. I am second-generation Black British, and I identify as both.
What are you most proud of about your heritage?
It's tricky to pick one thing I am most proud about. I do love the sense of community – despite the fact that we are hundreds of miles away from the islands, and some of us have never seen them, we still feel a sense of 'bond' and togetherness. Identity is important.
Let’s talk a bit about your family. Have they been the ones to teach you about your histories? Are you comfortable talking about any hardships they have faced over the years?
Absolutely. I come from a family of academics; well-read people who understood how important it was for the children of the family to know who they are, where they come from, who they come from and what that means as a black person born and raised in the UK. From a young age: we've been given books to read, tv programmes to watch, lectures to attend, classes to take, vacations to go on. My immediate family are first-generation British, growing up across the country in the 60s – they have faced much of the same hardship as their peers.
Tell us a bit about your childhood. What was your school/university experience like? How was it overall?
I have been very fortunate to grow up in a city that had an abundance of people of who look like me, but also a city that has a wide variety of people who don't. I've always been an advocate of my city – sure, it has had its issues along racial lines, but its had its fair share of issue that have made the people band together and stand as one (including now, June 2020). I'm sure I won't be the only person who has had to rebuff comments of a stereotypical nature: Do you sell weed? Can I touch your hair? Are you related to Bob Marley? Why are you playing the Race Card?
My schools and my university were great reflections of my city and, as a result, my experiences were largely fantastic. I loved to learn and I loved to play sport, so it meant that I was popular with teachers and with friends based on my character rather than my appearance.
I had disagreements with teachers and with other students, but I can't say that they were ever based on the way either of us looked.
Do you feel like your race and culture was a topic covered in school?
Not particularly. History and RE were two of my favourite subjects in school, and I think that was likely down to the years of history and religious education I had done outside (and prior) to school within my family and my community.
History in school was certainly geared towards the British. I don't think we ever covered Black History until year 11. RE, by its nature, was much better and broader.
Have you ever encountered any difficulties in your working career?
Again, I've been quite fortunate. I've been self-employed in an online service role for a while, so it has meant that I am judged on the service that I provide more than the person that I am. I grew up working in my city's Youth Service so I have always had to support people from a variety of backgrounds. If you treat people correctly, they tend to extend you the same courtesy.
When it comes to relationships, do you find there any challenges that you face?
Of course. One thing that I have noticed recently is that a lot of people were completely oblivious to some of the experiences Black people have. They weren't being ignorant; they just hadn't noticed. A lot of people get into a relationship and never have the tough conversations.
As a Black person, you have to know whether the person likes/loves you for you, or if they like/love the idea of you – specifically your skin colour, specifically your wide hips, specifically your big behind, specifically your how your genitals look, specifically your big lips, specifically your curly hair or – in the cases where one person isn't Black – the opportunity to simply have a mixed race baby, “because they're cute”. These babies grow up to be Black men and women (despite how they may self-identify) and your partner should have an understanding of where society automatically places them upon birth. It's important to make sure you are being selected with the purest of intentions, and not just as a fetish.
Do you feel you have been denied any opportunities in your life?
I've always been a believer that anything can be obtained by working hard enough. This isn't always true, but I work like this regardless in the hope that opportunities will eventually present themselves. I was always told that we have to work twice as hard, to get just as much – so I'm not afraid to work.
Some things, though, are simply denied regardless. There have been countless times where I have been denied entry to nightclubs solely on appearance. I can be dressed the same, or better, than my counterparts and still be denied access to venues – venues that are playing music created by people who look like me. As you leave the queue, you will see other people who have made no effort in their appearance greeted with open arms and large smiles – despite our money holding the same value. We can travel as a group and, before we reach a venue, we are already in formation: split into smaller groups, make sure your smartest looking person is at the front, make sure your smaller groups have an equally distributed amount of non-Black people to increase your chances. It's become an inside joke amongst friends at this point – it's how we cope. Even if we are the sole person in our group, we still try to make ourselves less visible so that we are not separated from our friends at the door.
This is just one example.
Have you ever experienced a time where you felt someone of a different race has stood up for you and actively shown solidarity?
All the time. As I've said previously; I am very fortunate to come from such an inclusive city, and to have grown up in schools and teams and groups that are diverse. Racism is learned behaviour, and exposure to different people helps form a person's character. I have friends who do not align with me, politically, at all – but I know that if I were ever in need, they would be right by my side calling out bullshit.
Using the previous example of the nightclub; I've had friends demand to see team leaders, head doormen, even managers to correct injustice – I'm thankful for those kind of people.
What do you think is the most difficult part about living in Britain for yourself?
The most difficult part of living in Britain is that a large amount of people of Britain do not think we have a problem. They are quick to call out racists in Serbia and Italy when they abuse British footballers representing their country, but will turn a blind eye when their friend abuses a minority in their immediate vicinity.
They see the protests happening in the US, and wonder why it resonates here. “George Floyd wasn't killed here by our Police?!” No, but there are several names you've never heard of, that we empathise and mourn continuously, who have been mishandled by the Police. There are several names, including - most recently - Belly Mujinga, who do not see justice in our system despite giving their all to this country.
While it is important to point out that some people are simply 'racist', some people are also misinformed. The current government has been pushing an agenda of division and separatism for years – and they play on fears people didn't even know they had, in order to get the results they want. What people of Britain are yet to realise that it will always be “Big Money vs Little Money” and that those we elect to make Britain great for all, are using vehicles of prejudice to keep themselves in power and serve their own agenda. It suits them to have us divided, because it means there is always a group of people they can always appeal to.
How do you think we can better educate ourselves in the UK about race and equality?
Exposure. It's as simple as that.
We learn from experience, but if you never have discussions or see media related to a particular subject – how can you ever learn or understand it? Nobody is born a racist – Children who grow up and mix with people who look different to them go on to experience things outside their immediate family.
It is important for anyone who is Anti-Racism to give your children books that include people who don't look like them (who aren't the villain), watch programmes that have people in who don't look like them (there's a reason Nickelodeon is held in such high regard even to this day), play with toys that look different to them (Black Panther was impressive to kids regardless of how he looked). Early exposure shapes character.
Our schools need reformation – there isn't enough taught about Black people. At most, you will get isolated discussions on slavery. They will always be from an American perspective, as the UK is yet to deal with it's own role in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Britain was the one of the first Old Powers to abolish slavery – and they don't even teach that in schools. White Britains are not blamed for what their ancestors did. Refusing to acknowledge it is entirely with them if they choose to do so.
Adults are not exempt. Facebook has been weaponised right under our noses. A meme travels much faster than a news article. Say, for example, you love dogs. You see a meme that says 'Dogs are great' – you agree with that, and you join the page. After a couple of weeks, the memes switch from 'Dogs are great' to 'YOUR DOG IS UNDER THREAT! VOTE FOR “X” NOW' – That meme relies on the person seeing it not leaving Facebook to go on Google and do their own research. The person running the page (often paid large sums of money to generate narrative-driven content) knows that if they continue to post memes – and you click Like before you do your due diligence – they can begin to mould your opinion and expose you to whatever message they choose. This strategy isn't specific to a particular political wing, and is a method that has been used by various newspapers for decades.
The Sun newspaper made sure they had a fresh Page 3 model every day to keep readers coming back for the narrative they were driving.
Adults need to be critical of everything they are seeing. Don't take it on face value. If you think something is correct, see how many other sources you can find that agree. See if you can find any that disagree. Balance both sides of an argument, and formulate your own opinion. Allow yourself to be exposed to ideas that you may not necessarily agree with; you may find that the opinion you held no longer makes sense.
Anything else that you want to address? This is all about you and your story. We want you to feel free and safe to tell us what you feel is necessary.
While some people want to see change, some do not.
The system that is currently in place, benefits ethnic minorities less than it does White people. It benefits those who have the most money more so, and minorities do not sit high in these lists. The system that was created has allowed wealth - built on the back of human ownership - to pass through generations, and those people have no intention of parting with that money. Some people do good with that money, some people look to keep themselves at the top (sometimes both) but to distribute that money fairly would be to move themselves towards the bottom of the system. Maintaining the system is the most important thing to them.
They will create fear where there was none before. They will appeal to baser instinct. They will tell you that if 'they' get more, 'you' will get less – when all 'they' are looking for is the same. Be smarter than that.
Take care, and look after each other.