Anthology Incoming...An Identity Spree

Like a true recording artist - which I am not, my latest project is always my favourite. Really pleased with the way my Anthology is coming along. Keen to say, it may well be my best work yet. I'm swamped in cliches, but they ring true. 

So why deflect from the unfinished project (working title: A Anthology Don't It) to write my blog? I'm in full deferment mode when I should be elbow deep in read throughs by now. What I do know about myself is that once it's completed, I will be stuck for what to say about it. Working methodically, try as I might, does not suit me. If I want a winter coat I have to buy it when I see it even during a searing heatwave because come winter, I end up scouring shop rails in vain. I have to make impetuosity work harder for me. This applies to my extra curricular interests. It isn't enough to write without running social feeds and blogs anymore.   

Third paragraph in, I will start by saying it is an anthology of short stories, flash fiction, poetry, prose, auto-fiction and spoken word performance pieces. Quite the body of work. But when you make notes day to day. I am always shocked looking back at the amount of words accrued. The material and tone has changed dramatically. Gone are the love poems. Identity had barged its way to the fore. Divisive politics and identity politics, the leading agenda, had to some extent prompted me where Twitter rants failed to hit the spot. It's like 2016 gloves had come off in terms of tolerance. I seem to have been tossed into a new world of illegal bigotry boxing rings, no holds colour barred. The referee has been nobbled by the Brexiteer Bookies and Team Common Decency apprehensively waved the ever so white, white towel. The imperfect world I had known had descended into a free for all. Every man for himself, literally. Soon you'll be able to read all about it. I never intended to write on this topic. There is a new mood in the camp. I was happy as an emerging, maverick chick lit writer. Smashing up the genre, middle aged women and the club scene. I have a backlog of similar stories and flights of fantasy, but permission to land those tales has been temporarily, halted.

In my new work, I will be exploring the impact of a world and destiny I had no control of. Does anybody?  The what, the where, the who I came to be. I am one grain of the Empire Windrush experiment. The generation born to immigrant parents in the UK. The well-worn story, told many times over when the Europeans who emigrated c/o Ellis Island to the United States, their legacy, which has influenced popular culture worldwide is a given. However, there are other stories. In every country, they have a generation of immigrant settlers, whose stories get a reveal once in a while. But this great experiment in the United Kingdom regarding West Indians integrating, I use the term loosely, into British society is only just beginning to see the light of day finally. We are oldies now, hurtling towards ever moving pension goal posts.

Social Media has globally escalated the communication between family and friends 'home and away'. The upshot is that the pan-african diaspora is but a click away. In a word we have galvanised. The black experience is a multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-languaged and a multi-class conglomerate. Being black is a many splendour thing, persistently devalued as one bush stroke colour, one size fits all. The world whirled wide of the mark in the advent of social media and it is still in transition. When I look around, I see stalwarts out of step in this digital revolution. I see those too, who were ahead of the game. 

The mainstream media trying to figure it out. How to manipulate the spin that has spun out of ideas. The masses are waking up and questioning the status quo, they've grown restless with mainstream populist, toothless, truthless, soundbites. Their focus on non-thinkers may yet blow up in their faces. These consumers cum pension investors, born into the one-sided history in their favour. I digress. 

The pandemic is a moment in a history of extremities. The shock waves of the Nu-Middle Ages befell us in a blindsided swoop that will forever be the year 2020. An easy date to remember in a general knowledge quizzes going forward. We have had a moment to reflect. To reconsider how we lived before. To question what our lives are all about. Like it or not we are mostly smartphone tapping, armchair philosophers now. Politics for those that despised it became the must-have info, whether fake or real. The rest of us who relied upon it was flustered by the desecration of trust before our eyes. 

Fun times, jah? I wrote about these things many times. Many times without the gravitas of the full command of geo-political English it deserved. But I made my point. I hated the facelessness of it all. As an emerging author, I deeply acknowledge that there has never been a more defining time to write my story. One voice from the integration experiment within the UK. The likeness of my person I am certain every non-black person in the country, has met at some point. In a club, a bar, a hospital, the workplace, on public transport, the dentist, in a shopping mall, in a car park, at the nursery, on the way to football, cricket or rugby, a concert, a festival. 

I am certain no one can say they saw 'all' the black stereotypes presented to them from various media source culprits. Television, Film, News, Magazines, Advertising. 

I never saw me. 

But I saw me and my peers everyday. Not just in the cities. I used to question, how so? Why so? Never giving it more than 30 seconds. Filed under dormant in the recesses of my mind. I had a life to live. The people I integrated with and visa versa didn't seem to notice. It was simply ever thus. Why would a non-West Indian question the status quo. This was the UK. It was going to pretend we were not here. Ignore our presence, in funnily enough, stereotypical stiff upper lip fashion. 

Identity the Black And Minority Ethnic (BAME) has made headlines and twisted negatively during the pandemic. The press still determined to write-off whole swathes of people by gene pool while we look on. 'See it's those pesky blacks spreading the disease. If it wasn't for them we'd be alright. Covid affects old people and BAME, they said so on the news so the rules don't apply to us as much'. That is how the news is delivered and perceived. Listen to talk radio to get a sense of how the deliberate distortion is swallowed up wholesale by a beguiled right wing electorate. Steady...steady.

The Black Lives Matter, leaderless movement, the biggest civil rights trauma group therapy ever, encapsulated the desperation of masses to speak. All at once. Every story same, same but different. The smartphone represents the torch of freedom. The world is really listening now because seeing is believing.   The klaxon cry to speak up grew louder. Every little story adds up to the cumulative message. I sensed shift of discomfort ever since the protest marches began. I never marched before, but suddenly the last few years, many turned up at once. I marched for Grenfell, Extinction Rebellion, anti-Trump visit and BLM. I for one am thankful, that BLM gave us permission to speak without recrimination. But then, I'm not working for an organisation that forbids activism or political alignments. Had I been younger, not sure what or how I'd react, if I am honest.

There are genuine concerns that losing inequality will mean someone un-black will miss out. Somehow these concerns apply one way. I raise my eyebrows that such idealisms still exist. Isn't it a tad old fashioned? The anti-black rhetoric is so last century. Racism is like banned pre-dated 1947 ivory. As unsavoury as sending children to work houses. It was acceptable once. The hate is man-made. We cherry pick Dickensian and war time tropes and dismiss the rest to fulfil a narrative of 'other' or 'less than'. There is a shocking colonial hangover, of convenient double standards, while the underlying sclerosis of the liver ignored until it is too late. The tiresome 'lessons learned' enquiries should focus on the knock-on effects that come to hurt every one in the end. 

I will forever be fascinated by racism and why it isn't treated as a mental illness. A phobia. You confront the object of your fears and fear dissipates with a phobia, right? Perhaps the fear is learned behaviour. This is nothing new. But for the educated establishment to carry this notion forward, the gate keepers, the economists, politicians who have studied capitalism, is something I will never understand. Nor will I accept. I expect it of the ignorant. That is why racism has to viewed as a self worth issue, a hyper inflated sense of superiority deflecting inner inferiority. Psychologists know this. 

While these debates are on the table, see how easily I get drawn in, I must share my views and story to demonstrate what happened with one person, adopting the each one teach one. There are others like me. The Jamaicans I must state have had it particularly bad. The reputation for a country men from an oppressed tiny island that has influenced cultures throughout the world is an extraordinary feat. Any success has certainly been  under duress on the journey. Guarantee it. Always singled out, I get this eery feeling that I and no one I know got the memo 'the Jamaicans are trouble'. But don't try to convince me that it is not out there. Bank managers, landlords, business lettings, manufacturing, anything involving investments or loans rejected, they will never admit this out loud. We only have to look around to see that they haven't. The heavy handed diversity measures being set up to counter this is well away, but Jamaican-heritaged folks' turn of fortune is where I would like to see a difference made. 

I repeat. 

I am a product in spite of this 'memo'. I rode against the tide of it for many decades. Even black gatekeepers I have met were of 'other Caribbean' or African heritage. The diversity sub-divisions may yet play on. But on my watch in 2020, I hope to put my lived experience on blast. I will encourage my peers to do the same. The stories of the hybrid Black Brit is factual. We have heard everybody else's. The Greek-Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots, the Sikhs, the European Jewish, Ghanians Vietnamese, Bangladesh, the Irish and many other communities have been left alone to build their lives in Britain without much in the way of vilification. The Eastern Europeans have had a time of it, admittedly. The inflaming, inciting Pathé newsreel of these other immigrants perversely missing. Missing. Well, where are they? Were the West Indians the only boat passengers? Documentaries start with the Windrush ship, but the other races interviewed as contributors. Those damn Jamaicans singled out, bug the media and the establishment. I did not get the memo. Rumour has it, that there is one such note buried in parliamentary archives.

My book due out in January 2021 is not all hearts and rose tinted gardens, in the way it might have been previously. The light and shade is ever present. It doesn't represent everybody. It should speak as a snapshot of time. I coined a phrase to title my anthology, I won't reveal it here until it is registered for pre-order, which I truly hope goes on to typify the generation Windrush, the story they tried to airbrush from British history. The Pathé news reels, bores me now.

With that, for the next generation after me, in the name of mid-century history (lets see if it is possible to lose my documents) let the record state that I was here. A daughter of hard working West Indian immigrants. I am not a prostitute, a criminal, a spliff smoking puff-head, a hot-tempered, suspiciously fitting your description black. It is possible for two cultures to co-exist in one being. I am it. I like a curry patty with my chips. I like hot sauce on my cod. I dance to Elvis, Michael Jackson and Bob Marley, Blondie, Duran Duran to Five Star. Some times with a beer or sometimes Prosecco. I live next door to black and white neighbours in peace. The best, the very best of both worlds has been mine to fashion a life from. Which does not include blacksplaining. I am not alone. There're loads of us. Rob us of this chunk of social history, tolerate this narrative from our media, then you rob yourselves and your children's children of a future on an earth on borrowed time. 

The 'Anthology Don't It' (WT) will include short stories, auto-fiction, alongside spokenword, prose and poetry under the theme of identity covering Windrush, Grenfell and the Pandemic. Available in Ebook/Kindle & Paperback. Sign up to the newsletter or Facebook for latest on the release. 


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