Hi all. I hope that you are well 🙂 So as I mentioned in my previous post, I want to mix it up a it and include some different content on this platform.
I am keen to learn more about those in my community who have interesting perspectives. So I hope to interview them and learn from the way that they walk through life. To start this off, I couldn’t think of anyone more inspirational and wise in my life than my Mother. I’m really interested in what it was like to be a 21 year old young Black Woman in the 80’s. I hope to reveal the similarities and differences between what she experienced and what I am experiencing now.
My Mother has been a social activist in Luton for the majority of my life. As well as being a Labour Councillor, she has also been a Governor for various schools for the past 16 years. She is also one of the leaders of a charity called the ‘African Caribbean Community Development Forum’ that works to educate the local community about Afro-Caribbean heritage, to organise events that celebrate black history and to organise award ceremonies for Black students who have high academic achievements. The list goes on but it’s needless to say that I am very proud daughter.
Thank you Mum for sharing your experiences and your insight. I ask all who choose to read further to be kind with their comments and constructive with any criticism. (Remember that this is my Mumma !)
Hi Mumma, how are you ?
So could you tell me a bit about where you were raised? I know that you are a Londoner and that you were born in Hackney. But whereabouts in Hackney ?
Right. So when it come to your heritage, my heritage, our heritage can you say a bit about our family and where your parents came from ?
And they move to England in the 60’s ? Just before you were born ?
So they were invited.
What jobs did they do ?
Take a second to reflect on your 21 year old self; on your personality at the time and your outlook on life. What similarities and differences do you find between the way you were and the way I am now ?
Is that a similarity or a difference?
I’ve often told you that I worry that by taking a creative route, I won’t be able to further the goal that many children and grandchildren of immigrants have – to build and to create a better life than the generation who travelled here.
But I think that now is a better time to unleash your creative side than it used to be. I think there are more opportunities now. There are still some people who are a bit snobbish about it. “Oh, I wouldn’t let my child go into the arts”. But I have learnt through seeing the pain children go through to live their parents’ dream if it isn’t their own. The mental health challenges. I know of people who have had nervous breakdowns because their parent had pushed them down the academic route.
As the children of immigrants, we couldn’t ask for certain things because our parents didn’t have the disposable income. So I could dream, but how was it going to happen? What I’m thankful for is that through being focused and achieving what I did, I gained resilience. I gained a bit of knowledge of the system and the disposable income to navigate it, unlike my parents’ generation. I’ve been able to reprioritise to give guidance.
When I think about that it makes me so grateful for the sacrifices that you made.
So Mum, what was Hackney like in the 80’s ?
How do you think it has changed ?
In Hackney ?
In Tottenham. But that’s not that far from Hackney. Hackney at the time was seen as working class and people from other sides of the city looked down on the area. Which was sad.
It was a very diverse community because there was a significant African and Caribbean Community but there was also a significant White community. And as the years went on into the 70’s there was a growing Turkish community in certain parts of Hackney. But we all got on.
*I look confused*
All of the communities got on ? White and Black ?
So when it comes to gaining knowledge about our heritage, how does my experience differ from yours ?
So you couldn’t speak to your parents about it ? They didn’t understand the need ?
They didn’t know ?
What they had to counteract that was aural story telling which was passed down through generations. For example, the Jamaicans knew about the Maroon community. So they knew some things. But they mainly knew about what happened on the Island, not what happened before because that wasn’t shared.
That’s interesting. Because often I feel like you are more connected to our heritage because you have a Mother who is Jamaican. As a part of the second generation of descendants, I may know more about my heritage than my Grandparents but sometimes it can seem inauthentic because … I don’t speak Jamaican Patois, I’m not amazing at cooking all types of Jamaican food, I struggled to deal with the heat when I visited Jamaica ….
It feels weird. You know ?
You were part of the first generation of children born to the Caribbeans who were invited to England after the 2nd World War. You were raised amongst Caribbean culture and British Culture. What hardships did this create ? And how did you overcome them ?
I’ve noticed that the children of immigrants, Caribbean or otherwise, have parents who want them to speak English. For example, I have a friend who is of Nigerian decent. She has said that her grandparents speak fluent Yoruba but never encouraged her to learn because they wanted her to focus on speaking perfect English in order to succeed in British society.
I can understand that my Grandparents’ generation didn’t realise that they were creating a disconnect in the culture but …
Well I think it’s common for people who migrate to put the country that they move to on a pedestal and undervalue what they came with. I am saddened when our people don’t hold onto their mother tongue and pass it on to the next generation.
When I was your age, I just talked differently around different people. When I was around my parents, I spoke a certain way. And when I was with my mates I would speak with the slang of the time.
The aim was to feel at ease in all the different worlds that you existed in.
To be a chameleon.
Yes ! As if they’re surprised, right ?!
Smile at them ..
In the 80’s there was a high level of political unrest and economic instability in the UK. And I think it’s fair to say that at present, due to events including ‘Brexit’, there is a lot of confusion and fear about the political and economic future of the UK. In the 80’s (the Thatcher era), how did the issues of the time affect your outlook on our future ? Did you remain optimistic about achieving your goals ?
Yes. I knew it was going to be hard but I didn’t give up hope. If you give up hope, you have no energy to move forward. So I always kept hoping and I always keep hoping. But I don’t hope in vain. I put work behind it.
Do you think that the issues for young adults in the 80’s are similar to the issues of today ?
What are your concerns when thinking about the attitudes of those in their 20’s today ?
I’m not sure. Maybe the expectation that the bank of ‘Mum and Dad’ should and must be there for them.
Ye. Well, I can’t represent my entire generation but I get that a lot of us feel like we have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow. And ‘YOLO’ – you only live once; that you have the money now and it would be good to use it to enjoy yourself and invest in your happiness instead making sacrifices for the sake of tomorrow that leave you unhappy with your life.
I know that there is a balance to be struck. And that it’s important to keep questioning what makes you happy. For example sacrificing financial stability to buy an expensive watch might not be the wisest decision. But I can understand the frustration of continuously making sacrifices while being unsure of whether they will bare fruit in the future.
One last question Mum ! If you could go back and have a conversation with your 20 year old self, what advice would you give yourself ?
Ye, my favourite saying is ‘Stay in your own lane’ .
And what advice do you have for me as I go through the rest of my 20’s ?
Haha, okay. And any thoughts for people like me in my generation ?
Value your Parents and your Grandparents generations. I think sometimes in the Caribbean community we can undervalue our elders because they didn’t gain as much wealth and prestige as the migrants of other Cultures & Communities. They have wisdom. And wisdom is not only in those with the gold and cars and the big houses.
Value the Windrush generation while you still have them around you. Because if you feel like life is hard at times for you as a young adult, it was waaaayyyy harder for them.
Your generation are a product of their dreams.
**Mum, I have immense gratitude for your honesty and willingness to participate in this interview. Thank you :)**