Tag Archives: history

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

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Five Reasons to be Ridiculously Excited about Going to Ghana

Personally, I think travel is supposed to be fun.  I therefore also don’t think you have to have a ‘sensible’ reason to go anywhere.  Surely what you choose do in your free time should simply be, as you choose it to be?  For example, I’ve always wanted to go to Sri Lanka cos there’s a city called Kandy.  I found it spinning a globe for fun as a kid and it caught my attention and imagination.  Spelled with a K admittedly, but a city that sounds like a sweet shop sounds like my kinda place!  I haven’t gotten there yet but it’s totes on my list.  I pick places to visit for the randomest of reasons as my DC to DC road trip notes will confirm for you.  As will my unrestrainable excitement ahead of visiting Haiti.  So with no further ado, here’s a list of reasons why I think Ghana in West Africa would make for a fabulous holiday destination! Continue reading

ROFL!! : When Teaching History Meets Colonialism in Martinique

I love Martinique.  Love it!  Why?  Because I catch the most jokes here.  I write this with a silly grin, teary eyes and chuckling.  This place is nuts.  It’s like Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted.  Beautiful but incomprehensibly crazy.  Though it might be a crap analogy because I remember feeling like I didn’t ‘get it’.  Although it’s possible that it is therefore the perfect analogy.

But I digress.

What had me laughing so hard I felt compelled to blog about it?  Slavery – history versus the discourse here? The state of education in contemporary Martinique?  Or perhaps both?  I’ll let you decide.

First off, I was not alone.  The group of crying splutterers included me, two Martinican dudes, and two girls, one Martinican and one Guadeloupean.  We had convened at 8am and were reviewing the contribution of our comrade in educational struggle, who was also a Martinican, at around midday.  His task was to translate the fruits typically found in a jaden kréyol Matinitje (literal translation: traditional Martinican creole garden) into kréyol – as in the language so that creole-speaking students learning to read and write their language could have a written reference point aka a dictionary while they learned a bit of Martinican cultural history.  There’s a real and problematic lack of learning materials in creole – the first language of many if decreasing numbers of Martinicans (and St Lucians, Dominicans, Guadeloupeans, Trinidadians and Haitians…Mauritians, and Seychellois…but that’s another story).  Bref, this was an important task. Continue reading

6 Simple Reasons To Be Ridiculously Excited About Going to Haiti

Français : Le général Toussaint Louverture.

Français : Le général Toussaint Louverture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not really into blogging on the road.  I know lots of people write about their experiences as they go along and it gives a real sense of immediacy to their travel writing, but it’s just not me.  I like to take the whole trip in and reflect on it before I write it up.  Everyone’s different, it’s just my way.

Part of it is probably that I like to do one thing at a time; if I’m exploring and discovering someplace new, I’m really not trying to interrupt the magic with a trip to the internet cafe, or worse, a hunt for one.

I’m also one of those black people that despite the advent of modernity, deep down still won’t celebrate my birthday before it’s actually happened.  The travel version of this superstition about jinxing the future by acknowledging it, is not writing/blogging about a place before I go.

But boy.

Life is short.

Anything could happen before I go, when I reach, or before I get back.  Given that I seem to tell every passer-by that says hello that I’m going to Haiti, with a grin that suggests that I’ve won the lottery, I figure I should outline why exactly I’m on a Serious Hype Ting as one might say in South London. Continue reading

Ooh la la! One crazy month in Martinique!

It’s not a huge secret that I love Martinique.  I try and play it cool like it’s a place like any other, with its good and bad, people and places.  Just another Caribbean island but with a French twist, but that’s a lie.  The truth is that I love this complicated place despite myself.  And several seemingly unconnected innocuous events will help me explain why.

First, there was the night I debated and discussed until I fell asleep.  Exhausted, we all crashed out on our sofa.  Me, and the husband and wife creative team I’ve been calling housemates this past summer.  The subject?  The private view had of Hélène Raffestin‘s art exhibition ‘Sois belle et plais toi’ which I’ll translate as ‘be beautiful and make yourself happy’ (‘please yourself’ has distinctly sexual connotations in English).  The title had intrigued my housie who noticed the play on the play of words on the charming French expression ‘Sois belle et tais toi’ aka ‘be beautiful and shut up’.  Who says the French aren’t romantic?  We were both looking forward to seeing how her desire to look at ‘the role of women in our contemporary society’ would manifest itself in her art.

She did a good job.  Art is supposed to provoke debate and emotions and she certainly did that.  According to the flyer, Raffestin lives and works in Martinique, did her first art school here, and we infer was born here.  The picture of her is shadowy, so although she looks ‘kinda white’ she could also be mixed.  Why is that important?  Because this is Martinique.  The personal, the impersonal, the private, the public, it’s all political!  Martinique, an ‘overseas region of France’ exists as a complete anachronism.  A colony in the classic Age of Empire sense of the world in the age of 21st century necolonialism.  And it retains many of the features of a colony, such as skin colour as an arbiter of social class.

Raffestin’s critique of women in ‘our contemporary society’ threw up immediately the question of ‘which society?’  Continue reading

Silver Linings: An Unanticipated Stop in Barbados

2013-08-16 18.37.28I am living my dream.  I love my job and my colleagues.  I love my location, I love the life I am building and I’m happy with what I’ve built thus far.

But I’m also slightly under the weather and have been for a while.  En plus, I’ve been on the road a lot in the past few months which has only compounded it/dragged it out.  My own denial in the hope that it would go away so that I could get on with enjoying my life has undoubtedly Not Helped.  Alas, I is but a mere mortal.

Please note, under the weather, really means just that.  I’m not playing down a terminal illness.  It’s just that when you are leading a high-energy lifestyle, a bit poorly can feel like a death sentence. Continue reading

Girls Gone Wild!!! : The DC to DC Roadtrip

I was watching TV one Saturday night when I was 14 and had just changed schools as a result of my parents separating less than 18 months earlier.  My amazing Dad had just moved from our house in London to St Lucia i.e. 4000 miles away, and I had just fallen in love for the first time.  I was basically at the peak of my teenaged angst when I came across a programme featuring a random group of smartarses  friends my age exactly Continue reading