#BlackInTheUnionJack – My Story
I stumbled across the BSWN Black in the Union Jack launch event on Eventbrite my favourite go to place for what to do in Bristol. It occurred to me that I regularly talk about my own experiences of being Black, Black-British, African, Caribbean, African-Caribbean and more recently Black Other, depending on which form I am filling out, but I have not considered how others feel about being part of the experience of being Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in Britain. I was keen to attend the event just to ‘touch base’ with my people and other peoples and hear their perspectives.
I confess my ignorance of Black history in Britain, I went to primary school in Jamaica even though I was born in England, I returned here in time for secondary school, I could probably recall some loose facts about Jamaican history but virtually nothing about English history, the date 1066 comes to mind, the only thing I recall from 5 years of sitting in a history class room in Nottingham. That probably says a lot about whether this is indeed my history and my heritage.
The workshop touched the surface on lots of topics, taking us on a journey through history via the local archives, accompanied by excellent talks from our hosts, we then visited issues like heritage, belonging, racism and exclusion and participation. The workshop also included filming and research skills again a good foundation to set us off in the right direction. I wouldn’t call myself an expert, I realise there is so much more to learn but now I some meaningful direction.
If you were to ask me is there is Black in the Union Jack, I’d say there is, but definitely in the seams, perhaps just the thread that holds it all together. We are tolerated rather than accepted, welcomed in but no one realised we were going to stay. This is contradicted by the strong connections we have with the indigenous population, they are friends, they are part of the family, they have mostly embraced our culture and we have mostly embraced theirs. But the tension remains as the flag is pulled in several directions and the thread, us, the Blacks, is stretched, distorted, misconstrued and misrepresented. Things do change, sometimes for the better, sometimes the worse – one noticeable change is no one asks me “where are you really from?” anymore, so maybe I do belong.