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