Category Archives: emigration

Sometimes I Want To Write

I see things, hear things, try to make sense of them, and writing helps me understand it all; what I think I witnessed, what emotions coursed through me, my response, and how (if) that reaction changed the situation. Or what the experience just taught me about the world. I love writing.  I didn’t know that before I started movingblack – it was more of a challenge I set myself – but I found I proper love using words to express the myriad of thoughts that I have about the world and my adventures in it.

If you’ve followed this blog for more than a week, you’ll have realised I’m kind of a fraud.  (Though I secretly prefer the term renegade) I’m not a blogger.  At least, not a good one.  I don’t blog frequently anymore, nor with anything resembling a rhythm. I get off topic easily and most posts exceed 1000 words.  I am slow at replying to comments, and my blog doesn’t seem to be a community of its own.  I am not a good blogger.  (So, if you’ve left a comment I’ve taken ‘a while’ to reply to, it’s nothing personal at all.  I only struggle with internet etiquette,  I’m really polite in reality.)  I figure, I’m not a surgeon, nobody’s life depends on being able to read a new blog post from me, so I don’t beat myself up about it too often. Plus I have a day job and plenty of real-world commitments and I’ve had one hell of a writer’s block for months now.  But then I read this piece by Radical Faggot and it all made sense again.

I need to write. Not for you dear reader, nor even for me, but because as Chimamanda once argued, there really is a danger in a single story.  By writing, I contribute to the existence of multiple narratives.  Of every thing, person and place I write about.  To me, this is crucial because multiple narratives sharpen the mind.  When multiple narratives present themselves simultaneously, a choice is necessary because questions arise; who said what?  When?  In what context?  Why?  What are their interests?  Are they reliable?  Consistent?  Revolutionary? Do I agree with their standpoint?  What does that change?  Are the available narratives the only narratives?  The most important? What is missing?  Who is missing?  Where multiple contradictory narratives exist, critical thinking happens.  No statement can be taken at face value; by virtue of a second, third, fourteenth version of the same story, holes appear, through which the truth starts to poke.  Sometimes.

So I guess this is a statement of intent to blog*, inspired by a blog post entitled ‘the political significance of being inconvenienced.’  The politics of rad fag are just On Point.  As committed an armchair activist as I claim to be, the one action I can take relatively frequently is to simply state my Afro-Caribbean/British/Migrant/French-Speaking/Girl truth.

black-woman-writing-pf

I’m currently processing a fabulous Haitian adventure, so watch this space.   And follow Radical Faggot for powerful political commentary of the radical variety.  Plus, they post frequently.

 

 

 

* Disclaimer: in my haphazard, wordy, unrecommended-by-wordpress way

Who in Harlem or Port-of-Spain Remembers Claudia Jones?

I think I might have a country crush on Trinidad and Tobago.  As a country, it simply fascinates me and there’s a startling number of paradigm-shifting black radicals who were born and raised there which may explain why.  Claudia Jones is just the latest to set fire to my imagination.

I’m also a big fan of carnival.  In the part of London where I grew up, I felt like I was the only black girl whose parents didn’t make sure they participated in Notting Hill’s festivities in full costume, even though in the days before the jubilee line extension and the overground line, Notting Hill was FAR.  Some kids participated every single year throughout primary school.  We went as a family every year, but I wasn’t ‘in’ carnival.  My happy hippy school, wider community and black-and-proud family nevertheless ensured that I had it drummed into me that Notting Hill Carnival was an important expression of our Caribbean culture, and was also to be celebrated as an act of remembrance of our place in British history.

I thus grew up knowing the name of Claudia Jones as she was ‘the mother of Carnival’.  What she created sixty-odd years ago as an indoor event designed to demonstrate that Caribbean culture was joyous and valuable, not simply alien and inferior, is now the biggest street party in Europe. Continue reading

Why I Don’t Watch TV in Martinique

I don’t watch TV here.  I used to.  10 years ago I lived on a daily diet of BET and a German cop show I still remember storylines from relatively vividly.  It was called Le Clown in French, and it was awesome.  A standard detective/action hero main character but because it was German the things that people called the police for were different from what I was used to.  The things that a jury would think were important were different.  I found it fascinating to see how another people lived.  That it, like lots of violent cop shows came on at like 8am was also a revelation; we have a ‘watershed’ in the UK, which means that if it’s not suitable viewing for kids it shouldn’t be on TV before 9pm.

It’s probably why I like languages in theory.  I say in theory cos in practice I become more reluctantly bilingual by the day I swear.  When I’m feeling stressed out, suddenly I’m all ‘argh, as if my day wasn’t shitty enough, I have to explain my vex face in french! ARGH!!’  But that happens when you’re a bit homesick.

I used to love French.  When I was in secondary school, I used to translate my favourite RnB tunes into French – for fun!  In my spare time!  And then I’d do my regular French homework!  When I did A levels, I would listen to French radio every morning.  And not the music stations, like news programmes.  I was a proper francophile. Continue reading

Travel and Adventures of a Victorian Troublemaker: Henry Sylvester Williams

Henry who you say?  His name may have slipped through the annals of history but Henry Sylvestre/Sylvester* Williams was a man whose work back in the day is still echoing over a hundred years after his death.  Hence his life and work merit the number two spot in this series of Five Great, British and Black Moments which is movingblack’s contribution to black history season.

Well, that and it’s in chronological order (number one is here)

The Short Version:

hsw

Henry Sylvester Williams

1)  Henry Sylvester Williams  coined the term ‘Pan-African’.

2) When considering the biographies of Sylvestre Williams, WEB DuBois, Marcus Garvey and Edward Wilmott Blyden, a group of final-year students at l’Université des Antilles et de la Guyane voted him the Father of Pan-Africanism last year, so it’s official.

3) He organised the First Pan-African Conference in London in 1900, sowing seeds which would yield extraordinary fruit half a century later, long after he’d been forgotten.  Assembled to organise for an end to colonial exploitation and racism, and for self-determination, their warm, formal reception by the British establishment – including a tea with prominent MPs on the terrace of the Houses of Parliament – is basically unthinkable to those agitating for such things today.  The conference was attended by eminent black activists from all over the world, as well as a number of the British political bigwigs of the day – Liberal Party people, Fabian Society folk, the Cobden girls – who believed social justice was for everybody. Continue reading

Great, British and Black: Five Key Moments

There are lots of black people ‘of African descent’ in the UK.  Perhaps the Kreyol expression ‘nou bel e nou la!’ / ‘we are here and we are beautiful!’ reflects the centuries-long battle to have our presence merely acknowledged.

Despite 500 years of debate and denial of our presence in more and less creative ways, we’re still standing. If this is news to you, please check out the National Archives’ web exhibition.  It’s rather appropriately titled ‘Black Presence’ and covers the period 1500-1850.

If it’s not news, then you may also know it would be remiss of me to pretend the UK’s not celebrating black history month this month, and that all sorts of weird and wonderful events and occasions are not happening as a result.

I LOVE black history month – or ‘season’ really considering things start kicking off towards the end of September and slow around mid-November.  As October approaches, traditionally my girls and I would keep the social calendar clear, stock up on What’s On brochures and debate what looked ‘actually unmissable’, and what looked like a rehash of something already done.  In London we were always spoilt for choice as councils, museums, theatres and arts venues seemingly competed for the most innovative and interesting ways to bring history that is black and yet British to life. Continue reading

Ayiti cheri…merci

Another Citadel view

View from Citadelle Henri, Cap Haitien, Haiti

I don’t want to write about Haiti right now.  Not least cos I still haven’t worked out how to put ‘it all’ in one concise post.  However I also have not been able to stop writing about Haiti.

Since I first got proper confirmation that I was going (i.e. after I’d looked at my bank balance after buying the plane ticket) all I’ve been able to talk about is going to Haiti.  When I was in Haiti, I jumped up and down in my seat on numerous buses, as excited as a little girl about the place I’d been to, and in anticipation of the next town.  High on the experience of travelling through Haiti.  Since I’ve been back, I’ve been in part low that I’m not still there, catching jokes and exploring, part femme comblé because I made it.  I went to Haiti.

And it was f*cking amazing.

Continue reading

Dominoes à trois, unbridled generosity, and digérer: 10 Things What I Have Learned After a Year in Martinique, Innit

A map of Martinique

A map of Martinique (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Approximately a year ago today, I left London in a hurry.  Not out of choice, that’s just the way things go sometimes.  There was an exciting new job waiting for me and a 4 week notice period in the old one.  Compared with previous international departures of months (as in 4 or 12!) of advance notice, just under four weeks was kinda fast.  There were a lot of goodbyes.  No shortage of tears.  Sometimes the result of lovely things said.  There were no regrets.  This adventure called Life had spoken quite definitively, it was time to rock and roll onto pastures new.  My longstanding undimmed passionate love affair with the Caribbean had yielded a new fruit:  emigration. Continue reading

Accent Anxiety

It seems so long ago now that I was a woman of leisure blogging about how my 9-5 was how I funded my travel adventures. 9-5 has recently become all-consuming so time to write seems to have disappeared with time to think! Fortunately I have found a blogger who has articulated one of my major sources of emigration neurosis so perfectly I think a reblog is in order. A fellow South Londoner who also recently moved elsewhere (to Denmark), dude coined the term ‘Accent Anxiety’ when detailing some of the concerns a person living in a language which isn’t their own might have. As good as my French is these days, I have had to accept I can’t go to a dinner party like a normal person. Large groups + new people + alcohol = communication issues. I felt like he heard me. Hopefully you will too…

Musings of a Serial Procrastinator

It’s late and I can’t sleep. My insomnia’s gorging on late night Discovery Channel. The crowd pleasing programming has retired for the night, leaving me with their less talented cousins. Tonight it’s “Moonshiners”, which as the name would suggest follows the ups and mostly downs of down-n-out hillbillies trying to make money through the production of illicit alcohol.

It isn’t entertaining, but I watch anyway, hoping the fumes from its dullness will carry me away like anti-smelling salts.

I watch in a near vegetive state, wondering which had the strongest influence on their current career choice: Their lack of employment opportunities, or their accents. I half doze and imagine a fully qualified ‘Jim Bob’ going for an interview in the corporate hospitality sector – cursing his decision to conclude his Powerpoint presentation with the line “…and y’all be shurda come back again, ya hear!”

Back in the UK I befriended…

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Loving London

English: Roundel on Goodge Street tube station...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, a world lives in you.”

– Frederick Buechner (cited in The Shack)

I carry my friends and family everywhere. Although sometimes it seems like my laptap is my best friend and closest confidante, actually, it’s just the main way that I keep in touch with those I call my heart. My heart is the people who love me. It’s the place that nourished my spirit, birthed my dreams, and inspired my adventures. It’s the kindness and acceptance and piss-taking by people who have made my life better in ways they do and do not know. That make me feel human.

Like Sam, who I always call my brave friend. She is also the white person who makes me feel better about being the black late one all the time as she’s usually later. When we were 15 and studying Latin, we had an evening school trip to see Lysistrata at a central London theatre. We were both late, and the group waited as long as they feasibly could (or so they said), before getting on the train without us. Continue reading

Cold weather or Cold people? When Granny Moved to England II

English: Little Malvern snowman Near the begin...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the name of truly interspersing our tales of traversing the Atlantic in the opposite direction as British Caribbean black women in 1958 and 2012 respectively, I thought I’d share some of my adventures before revisiting her experiences.  But I think it’s about time for Granny P (aka my maternal grandmother) part 2.  If you missed part one, head to it here.

So how did she even end up in England is one of my favourite questions. When she emigrated from Barbados to start afresh on the other side of the Atlantic she was the first person in the family to emigrate by choice for a while as far as we know.  Both her mother and grandmother (my great- and great-great grandmothers respectively) had been born and died in the same parish that we believe the family had lived in since we arrived in bondage from Africa.

Granny’s mum (my great-granny, known simply as ‘Mama’) had a corner shop and her mum, Elvira Clarke, had been a cane cutter (back when job descriptions were self-explanatory).  Granny told me once that all she remembers of her own grandmother was a red headscarf she always wore, and the cutlass slung over her shoulder as she walked to and from the cane field daily.  One of those times I harrassed her for info which she didn’t mind sharing, taking her back to her memories of her own childhood. Continue reading