Tag Archives: black family trauma

Caribbean woman from London? Or Londoner from the Caribbean? How the identity/location shuffle made my head spin

The Early Years

I am a South London girl born and raised and proud of it. Forest Hill, Brockley, Crofton Park, Catford and Lewisham made me the woman I am today.   I had a relatively happy childhood there, and made lifelong friends in those schools and on those streets.  Growing up as young black girl there, it was fairly normal to be asked ‘where you’re from’ as my thick South London accent and use of Multicultural London English quickly gave me away as a local. I therefore grew up describing myself as ‘from Barbados and St Lucia’ and had loads of friends who were Chinese, Ghanaian, Turkish, Jamaican, Trinidadian, also Bajan or St Lucian, Dominican, Montserratians, Greek Cypriot, Sri Lankan, Indian, Pakistani, Vietnamese, from the Indian diaspora (you know, East African, South African, Trinidadian/Guyanese Indians rather than Indian Indians) when you asked, but sounded as English as I did, and were also born in the local hospital.

We were all Londoners, but we were from somewhere else too and the only time there was any tension was during the cricket (well there wasn’t any really, no one except our parents really followed cricket, although all the black kids learned to chant 375 and 501 at appropriate and inappropriate occasions).  And again, no one considered it disloyal to back whichever black team made it to the World Cup, be it the Reggae Boyz, Soca Warriors or more recently, the Black Stars. And Brazil cos they had Pele from back in the day.   It was expected.  Football was where the last vestiges of Pan-Africanism could be found when I was growing up.  This was before the 2002 World Cup, when black players en masse got picked for the English national squad; before that it was Paul Ince, Ian Wright and Sol Campbell only*.  We repped them, but not the team.  But I digress, I was from Barbados and St Lucia growing up, until A-Level Sociology.  There, a friend and I decided to embrace our full identities as Non-Practising Afro-Caribbeans and Black Marxist Feminists. I kid you not.  It was a bit of a mouthful, but we finally had a title which reflected our Caribbean roots, and London-based lives.  And then I moved to Thailand. 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

Starting as I mean to go on: Telling my grandmother’s (50 year old) story

Suburbs of Bridgetown with Harbour in the back...

Suburbs of Bridgetown with Harbour in the background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My sister doesn’t get my blog.  She reckons there’s a big difference between ‘my new life in the sun’ as she calls it and our granny’s graduation to the cold 55 years ago.  I beg to differ.  In the spirit of the new year, I thought I’d better get onto explaining the similarities, so this post is all about my granny’s experiences of moving when black.

After having conducted an impromptu interview with my grandmother about her experiences of moving to England in the late 1950s I confess to being wracked with doubt about the wisdom of it. I thought interspersing my thoughts and feelings with hers would be a bit more interesting than just another here’s-me-doing-cool-stuff type travel blog (though you can see a bit of that here).  And I kinda wanted it to be an homage to those who’ve done much tougher stuff before me as I take comfort in knowing that if my granny could move continents 55 years earlier without a laptop, smartphone, emails and skype, then I can definitely emigrate with so many 21st century communication modcons to keep me in touch with my loved ones.

Now, however, I’m not so sure about that idea. I’ve badgered my grandmother for years about ‘telling her story’. She has never shown the slightest bit of interest in sharing it, but every time I see her (which is not that often because I’m usually located in London and she’s lived in Barbados since I was 5), I find a way to bring it up. Continue reading

In Praise of Sunsets

Sunset Koh Chang, Thailand

Sunset Koh Chang, Thailand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re a romantic who grew up in a Euro-centric culture, you’ve probably heard the expression ‘into the sunset’ on more than one occasion.  To walk, run, ride or drive into the sunset denotes a closing, a happy ending, and hope for the future.  More than one film has closed on a sunset, and many more fairy stories.  But personally, I never really ‘got’ them.  Apart from that iconic moment in Grease 2 when he finally gets the girl and they ride off into the sunset of course…that was classic.  I changed somewhat, when at the end of a week spent slaving away at a national park’s snake exhibit in Phuket, Thailand back in the day, a kindly lady offered to take me to Sunset Point.  She thought it would be a travesty for me to leave Phuket without seeing it.  I was more tempted by the possibility of finally getting out of the park.

What I saw however, blew my mind.  There’s a reason why they call it Sunset Point.  It’s no doubt the place Jay-Z refers to in ‘Can I get a…’  A decade later I can still see in my mind’s eye the panoramic view of the horizon, the endless sky and the most colourful sunset I’ve ever seen. Continue reading