The windrush scandal showed me that black people are tolerated in the UK not necessarily liked. It also made me ask myself where do I belong? I’m born and raised in south London yet very aware of my rich West Indian roots. Although I’ve grown up in the UK I don’t feel, identify or see myself as “British”. However Britain is somewhere I call home but I’m a West Indian gal through and through. I know this probably sounds crazy because I’m from here but I’m not really from here. Its astonishing that I’ve lived here my whole life but feel this way.
I’m most certain that I’m not the only black person in Britain that feels this way. Most of us if not all have experienced hostility and racism living in the UK. I’ve been made to feel unwelcome on more than one occasion. and I was born here. Black people in the UK are constantly reminded through the mainstream media, wider society, education and even the workplace that we don’t belong here. We’re sort of made to feel like immigrants in the UK despite being born here. A sense of belonging is a basic human need and for many black people in the UK this need isn’t being fulfilled. If we feel like this those who aren’t born in the UK must feel 10x worse. I wanted to explore this so I reached out to a few people to find out about their experience of moving to the UK.
The Island Girl
Before moving to the UK my aunt warned me that I would be the girl with the thick Jamaican accent. She told me that I would be different and that I should prepare myself. I was 14 and a couple days away from my 15th birthday. The part that she left out was that I would obviously change and adapt and because of that change and adaptation I would now stand out when I return home.
I am from the island of Jamaica and I will never forget where I am from as well as all the lessons that I had been taught growing up. However, I can’t help but feel a little out of place there and here in the uk too. Although Jamaica will always be home, I am foreign and now I am deemed as a foreigner. I live in the UK, my accent immediately tells you that I’m not originally from here. Overtime, almost out of necessity, I have learned to embrace and celebrate my being different but it wasn’t easy.
It’s my selling point to be quite honest. Most people gravitate to me because of my accent and my ‘jamaicaness’. I love it! I have also embraced being a black girl in Britain. It has been a blessing being able to connect with people of different backgrounds. The Caribbean, although very mixed, is predominantly black. You have one culture and if you aren’t careful you can be ignorant to other cultures. You can find yourself being quite biased against other cultures. I embrace my difference because if I don’t it will eat me alive.
How I stay connected to my culture
I also try to attend spaces and events that celebrate my culture. For example Carnival and Crystal Palace family fun day. Another thing that I have started doing is exploring Jamaica whenever I return home. Going to Jamaica can be overwhelming with visiting family especially because I grew up there. I have to see this person and that person. I have therefore taken the time to visit different parishes and see the island.
How can I truly call a place home when I don’t know it. Furthermore, others come to my island to vacation I will too! My cousin and I take a road trip whenever we are together and we make a list of all the places we’d like to see. This has truly kept me in connection with Jamaica. I have learned so much more about my island and have come to truly appreciate its beauty.
So, where do I belong?
I guess we belong everywhere. As a travel blogger, you realise that home can be wherever you want it to be. There are so many places in which you can find peace. So many places that you can go to and you leave a bit of your heart there. So in reality we truly don’t belong anywhere bu
I was born in Kinshasa (D.R of Congo) 2 years before the Great Congo War. In 2005, 2 years after the war had ended, me and my family emigrated to London and settled in Crystal Palace. Living in Queens Hotel, which at the time housed refugees/asylum seekers; we would later be rehoused in Wales. Despite living in the UK, I very much grew up in a Congolese household. However, speaking to relatives back home always made me feel like I was too disconnected and ‘different’.
In the UK, the moment you arrive, you are made aware that you are BLACK; through stares, micro aggressions, racial prejudices and ‘random’ searches. Therefore, for many people the term ‘Black British’ has a foreign dissonance amongst those living in Britain – as we are often reminded of our African or Caribbean origins anytime we fill out applications or important documents.
A constant reminder
Not that there is a problem with being reminded of where you came from. However, when it is the State reminding you, it’s often done with an air of British imperial ownership. Take for example British tabloids and journalists; they will frequently adopt successful Black individuals as their own and label them as ‘Black British’ (Anthony Joshua). However, for Black individuals who fall into a life of crime, whether they are 1st generation or belonging to the Windrush generation, the media always disclaims their Black British identity.
The most recent example of Britain’s selective ownership is Shamima Begum. A British-born citizen that had her citizenship revoked. Arguably ‘justifiable’, however it is a stark reminder that despite being ‘Black British’, you aren’t ever truly ‘British’ if your identity can just be taken away by the government. Personally, my identity is Congolese. If someone asked me where I was from, I’d reply ‘Congo’ then my area, rather than ‘Black British’. I have an ancestral belonging to Congo, but I feel at home in SE19 & NP19. @BMazoya
I moved to Scotland at the age of 2. I can’t really remember how I felt then. All I can recall is a collection of stories that I have been told as I’ve grown older. I went through nursery and started primary before we moved back to Ghana for a four-year period. Upon my return to the UK, I was enrolled back into the same primary school. It was at the end of the school year and everyone knew each other. They had been together for four years and I didn’t fit in. I was one of the few black kids in my school.
My parents endeavored to keep my sister and I connected with our culture by speaking our native language, sharing Ghanaian food with us and telling us stories from our homeland. However, I have always had one conflict. A conflict of belonging. At home we were taught Ghanaian values yet at school everything was very much British, and we were expected to reconcile the two.
Seperation was loud
When we became citizens, I felt a greater separation from my heritage and I only realised this now. I clashed with my parents because they didn’t understand what I was dealing with. I had to manage different cultural expectations. They now have a better understanding, but we still argue at times because of this.
I cannot fully subscribe to the British ideologies and I don’t feel fully accepted in this culture. This does not mean that I don’t love this country. I truly do. But sometimes I feel like a ‘counterfeit’ Ghanaian because I’m not aware of all the cultural norms, expectations and experiences. This can make interactions -especially with very traditional people- quite challenging. I am constantly managing the tension between the expectations outside and at home.
In all honesty I don’t feel like I truly belong to either side, but I will continue to try and bridge the two. God bless our homeland Ghana and God save the Queen! Follow me on IG @loisowusuafriyie or Twitter @Lois_Abena
I’m truly grateful to have these these amazing individuals open up about their transition into the UK on my platform. Living in the UK comes with abundant blessings and obstacles.
Lots of love
Have you read Diaspora wars online must come to an end?