My response to this brilliant article by Joel Leon on Medium
What kind of black am I?
I’m the kind of black who was born in Nigeria, grew up in multicultural London and now lives in Scotland. I’m the kind of black who since starting university is often the only black person in the room. I’m the kind of black who deals everyday with and loves the multi-facets of my Nigerian (Idoma and Igbo, Lagosian) and British (Londoner, Glaswegian) sides of my identity.
I’m the kind of black whose dark complexion and height brings a range of reactions. From the midwife who announced ‘its a shame a girl would look so much like her Dad,’ to the mixed race boy in school who told the class “she would be pretty if she was light skinned”, to growing up and being called beautiful or you look like a (insert African tribe) queen/ warrior, to going back to Nigeria where the majority of women bleach to be lighter and being told “you’re pretty but too dark” and confusion because my tribe isn’t evident in my features, to stop in your track wide-eyed stares in Cambodia where most women use skin lightning products from creams to deodorants, to grown men to literally jumping back or filming me in Austria, to teenagers in China wanting photos because they think I’m american, to Americans to thinking I’m from an Island. To deciding to feel beautiful and proud of my identity regardless of reaction….
I got my scooter a couple of weeks ago and it’s been absolutely brilliant. I’ve been whizzing all around town.
- It’s faster than walking (I’ve cut a 35 min walk to a 20 min scoot)
- It’s a great way to see the city
- You are present the whole journey
- It’s a great workout (lots of lunges)
- It’s fun (I feel like a kid on it, a cautious kid)
I was talking to a friend about the people that made a real difference for me while I was in undergrad. They weren’t the tutors but the support staff;
The security guy Dom, who knew everyones names, a few sentences in their language and would spot when you weren’t feeling great or hadn’t been in the studio for a while.
The technicians Abi and Bim. Abi would give you a tutorial when you wanted to make something but weren’t sure (he saved so many projects). He’d help you design something so beautiful and ingenious, then you’d take it to Bim to look at how you could actually make it. He’d simplify it.
They were the people that gave people hope and put smiles on their faces everyday, and they didn’t need to get recognition to do that.
You can make a difference whatever your role :).
With starting a business or project it takes a while for the momentum to build. At one of the places I work the projects have started to pick up, we are getting some great wins. Thankfully! It feels like we’ve reached the top of the latest climb and it’s flattening a bit.
It’s been a a big lesson for me in letting go. We let go on both projects, were open about our position and vulnerable. Magically it gave people the space to give their input and ideas. To lend a hand.
Five Afro- Caribbean barber shops in Camden Town and Kentish Town, London are working together to help more black men open up about their mental health problems.
Such a fantastic idea! I’ve only recently started to learn about how common mental health issues are in BME communities. Podcasts like Another Round and reading research such as the Royal College of Psychiatrists has really opened my eyes to this. I used to think it was rare in our communities. It’s often not discussed or if it is you’re told to pray about it.
Taking a safe space like a barber shop to encourage people especially men to speak openly without the stigma is brilliant. Find out more here
You have to make mistakes to learn.
I had this realisation during my driving lesson. I’m usually so concerned about getting it right, but it’s when I forget parts of a manoeuvre or hesitate at a roundabout that I learn and remember the most.
Thought provoking words from Akala on everyday racism.
“Everyday racism is the normalised experiences we encounter daily based on our difference from the white norm…..
Fighting prejudice both within our society and within ourselves.”
If this affects us so much as adults it’s even sadder when we see the effects of everyday racism on young children, as this experiment the “doll test” shows.
I have seen both of these on facebook in recent days.They really made me think about how subconscious and normalised everyday racism is. We all live the idea of the white experience as the norm.
Like in Akala’s example, I myself have to consciously fight the stereotypes even though I am black and I know they are wrong.
I tested my automatic instincts in a few months ago with the brilliant Harvard research project, Project Implicit. I wasn’t surprised to find that I like a lot of respondents, I had an automatic preference for white people compared to black people.
…. But it did make me think deeply my automatic reactions and question more the messages I consume. I’ve have to make a decision to move away from the “Single Story” as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says. To make sure I read, listen and watch stories from a range of people.