Figuring out what it meant to be Black British while growing up in London was a process. I feel like only now at my 20 years of age, am I finally understanding what that means – in the wider context and to me personally.
For a little bit of background, I’m a West African Hybrid.
I grew up surrounded by Sierra-Leonean and Ghanaian culture and my home was a hub for all things non-British. Looking back, my culture is a great part of my life and has absolutely contributed to who I am as a person now. I don’t think I appreciated the way I grew up near enough as much I should have, but I’m glad I had that opportunity to learn and grow with it around me.
However, my culture was definitely different to the British standard so it did make adjusting to British life hard at times. Too often did I have to answer questions about the cornrows on my head or my little beaded accessories on my braids. Too often was I embarrassed when my mum was cooking some traditional soup and the smell would fly out the window and fill out the whole 1st floor. I remember I had a fight with my white friend once when I was younger, and she called me a “stinky African”. That’s my earliest memory of being made aware of how different I was to White Brits and how my culture was something abnormal to them.
I still see her around sometimes…I say hi.
That young period of life was a learning curve because once I hit secondary school, black kids in my age bracket had hit the era of embracing our background and I was here for it. Unlike in my primary school, it was cool to be Black and everyone lived in that truth. Black girls rocked up with their box braids and afros to school, edges laid and absolutely no cares about what anyone had to say about it. Africans and Caribbeans were sitting together doing the stupid “plantain” or “plantin” argument but all with the mutual understanding that regardless of how different we made ourselves seem, we were all in the same struggle.
“We had to make our own little niche that represented both sides of our Black British story”
Not completely from our parent’s home country but also not completely British because the experience would never be the same to our White counterparts. As a result, we had to make our own little niche that represented both sides of our Black British story. We came up with our own terms, music, style and our own spaces where we could be ourselves unapologetically. It was great and we were all flourishing with the knowledge that we were not alone.
However, a different problem soon developed for me.
I felt I wasn’t Black enough.
I had this perception of what a Black girl my age should be doing and how they should act and in my head? I just wasn’t meeting the criteria. I was awkward and self-conscious, both traits that I had never associated with being a young Black queen. For some reason, I felt like I had to be this confident, sophisticated person to be classed as Black and I just wasn’t. I had hit this weird little identity crisis and I was stuck in it. Eventually, I realised there is no Black Brit mould.
Being a Black British person is so much more than a stereotype of ideals that you think you should meet.
That’s something I wish I knew growing up.
Not only can we give out the wickedest whine at one uni rave, we’ve also mastered the Queens English to secure any placement or job we want…tell me that isn’t excellence!
You as a Black British individual are unique in the fact that you can flip between worlds effortlessly, you take the best parts of each culture and you merge them. Not only can you vibe to the culture and appreciate your Black roots, you can also vibe to the Black British culture we’ve created and give out the wickedest whine at one Uni rave in the Midlands. We’ve also all mastered the art of mimicking the way of a White Brit and putting on the Queen’s English type accent to secure whatever placement or job we want.
Tell me that isn’t excellence.
We made a place for ourselves when we didn’t have one, and not a day goes by that I’m not proud to be both Black and British, so happy Black History Month ya’ll.
With all my love,
Twitter & Instagram: @quitefranklyxo