This piece will focus on finding unity in seemingly conflicting identities. As conversations about identity, equality and diversity continue to seep into the mainstream, it is vital we recognise that these are not nascent buzzwords but calls to action that impact all our lives in various ways.
Black American culture was my lifeline growing up. Nowadays, I have a phone, laptop, social media and the deft ability to latch onto the Black British content that can edify, horrify and electrify my being. But when I was growing up with the little access my parents rightfully granted me, I felt divorced from the homogenous British narrative shoved down my throat.
When I saw my beautiful siblings on screen, we were portrayed as anything but, sending me into the comforting arms of Moesha, That’s So Raven, Fresh Prince of Bel–Air, The Parkers, Girlfriends and most recently, Grown–ish, Insecure, Abbott Elementary and P–Valley.
The disconnect was infuriating, perplexing and isolating. It contributed to me eschewing every aspect of being British, even if this country will continue to have an indelible impact on my burgeoning identity. I made the association that to be British was to be white, and to be pro-black meant I had to dedicate myself to the total disagreement, disavowal and disablement of anything I deemed too close to white. Perhaps this fixation was my way of exerting a sense of control in a world where so much of who I was/am was/is out of my control?
What it really means to be pro-black
I constructed this pseudo-progressive black identity around being a vocal antagonist to whiteness. Now I know that to be truly pro-black isn’t to be anti-white. It is to be anti-racist.
Thanks to beautiful artists and genius creators like Michaela Coel, shows like Chewing Gum, I May Destroy You, Meet the Adebanjos, Desmond’s, books like Trumpet by Jackie Kay and poems a part of Benjamin Zephaniah’s Too Black, Too Strong, I gradually teetered into being proud of the fact I am Black, and I am British.
They mended my fractured mirror. Their authentic tones and the effortless familiarity of their movements refined my reflection. Slowly and steadily, I stepped in, the disconnect fading away. I invested my time listening to our music, learning our various slangs, and finally began tending to the unique Black British person I was becoming.
Coexistence of identities
My Britishness and Blackness don’t contradict or conflict. They never did. They coexist inside the beautiful complexity that is my burgeoning sense of self.
I am British. This title made possible through colonisation, global oppression and my parents’ undeniable tenacity and hard work doesn’t divorce me from or disqualify my blackness; it only provides context to it and helps me find my way in this diaspora.
I am black. I love it. And I will never be ashamed to proclaim that with the joy of a hummingbird on a Sunday morning. I am Nigerian. If you know, you know. Without the innovation and labour of blackness and black people, there is no Britain as we know it.
To you, the pinnacle of British culture may be the Royal Family, Elton John, Queen and The Beatles or something completely different.
To me, Little Mix, The Spice Girls, Cleopatra, FLO, Tesco Meal Deals and the African Shop owned by a friendly Indian family twenty minutes from my house take the cake.
Neither of us is wrong because there doesn’t need to be a right, because there is no monolithic British identity!
To be a Black Brit is to be who I am.
What does it mean to you?