Comin' from where I'm from.
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not to be questioned. -
Dr Maya Angelou
I feel like there is no better day than today, the anniversary of the 1948 Windrush arrival to start to peel back the layers of how I feel post holiday.
Of course I understood that I would succumb to post holiday blues and although returning to thirty degree weather was a nice ice breaker (or melter rather) I have noticed a shift in me that I have to keep reminding myself not to become overwhelmed with.
Because one of the biggest take aways of my time in Barbados was how kick ass it felt to be a part of the majority.
I never realised how much energy I expend back home in London, really just trying to remember to be a non threatening black woman. Couple that with the fact that I’m BLACK, black not like green eyes, wavy hair black it has become part of my daily routine.
Am I talking too loudly?
Are my gesticulations threatening?
Am I able to say that I don’t like something without being regarded as a bully?
These and various other questions are on replay in my head whenever i’m in a space where I am not the majority. And in London, where I was born and raised that is pretty much all the time.
The minute the plane touched down and I stepped off onto the tarmac at Grantley Adams airport, I physically felt my shoulders relax. A kind man made the honest mistake of telling me I was in the wrong line and that Bajan citizens were to move to the left. I grinned so wide. I had been genuinely mistaken as one of them. Get in! To inflate my new found black girl ego even more the woman stamping my passport let me know that my surname was ‘the most Bajan surname’ she had ever seen. i literally wanted to pull the screen down and kiss her. Lastly, waiting for my cousin to pick me up (he was only ten minutes late so not tardy at all by Caribbean standards) a woman came up to me and told me how beautiful I was and that she loved my lipstick.
In the space of ten minutes I had been responded to more pleasantly than I could ever remember happening in London in the entire of 2017 thus far.
As the holiday continued, it just kept happening. Me realising that I was not under any immediate threat or watchful eye and I could truly be myself. This confidence also spilled out into how I saw my own body when I noticed that no matter your size, in Barbados everyone is gonna get love. Their is no need to conform to the European beauty standards or diet your way out of the body type that you will never change because black, in it’s entirety is absolutely beautiful.
One day I went into Bridgetown by myself purely to window shop (my bank statement tells another story) and found myself overwhelmed at the amount of drug store make up at my disposal. Every single store stocked my shade of foundation. EVERY. SINGLE. STORE. Shit I purchased so much make-up one would think I was a beauty guru but truth be told it was just because I could and I wanted to hold onto that feeling.
Speaking to my cousin who was born and raised there, I felt in awe and admittedly a little jealous. The notion of feeling less than or not belonging was so alien to her that I almost wanted to punch her. Almost. This is not to say that she was uneducated in regards to racism or colourism it’s just that she has been the majority her entire life so she had no need to worry about ever fitting in. And whilst she is only 19 years old, she makes me so proud (we actually filmed a video regarding this and once I pull my finger out my ass, I’ll edit it and share)
We also spoke about family history and wondered aloud about how things came to be. She was born on the day our great grandmother died. I went to the funeral. Being able to share that experience with her as we sat on the rocking chairs that our great grandfather had made, almost gave me an out of body experience. It was a powerful moment. The past and future finally sitting down to have a conversation. I also learned that there were family members I had not known existed. This revelation and trip made me so hungry to find out more about where I truly come from because you see, it is not London.
Yes i was born in London, St Thomas’ Hospital to be exact.
But the question popular with many a racist;
‘Why don't you fuck off back to where you came from?’
Is one that I've been thinking very deeply about.
I can see how the package was sold to my grand parents ‘ooo England, so rich with opportunity and the chance to live life that you never could where you're from.’
What they forgot to leave out of these adverts is that our melanin rich skin would suffer under stark climate change and a bit like the Irish and the dogs, you would not be welcome most anywhere. But many - my grand-parents included - could only afford a one way ticket. Once they reached good old England, they first had to repay so many debts to whomever they beg and borrowed said ticket that retuning was just not an option. So they did what we do best which is get on with it.
And I am grateful, truly I am. They paved the way for me to be able to go to multi-cultural schools and learn that the world is not just about me. But that too is bittersweet as at times I feel it is not for me at all.
So again I’m left to think.
The things I’m learning and re-learning are not a one post or one holiday situation. This will be the first of many posts, conversations, investigations into who I truly am and how best to position myself in the world regardless of where in it I am.
Perhaps I do want to go back to where I came from.
Perhaps I do.