Racism Still Alive They Just Be Concealing It!

A few days ago, my best friend and I took a trip to Notting Hill Gate to celebrate the release of her debut book ‘Twenty-Four’, which is a collection of poetry about culture and the diaspora (click the link to support please).

As we were in Notting Hill, we therefore decided to venture into the many different boutiques which line Portobello road. We stumbled across a vintage store that my friend was eager to go into, as her eyes were drawn to the visual merchandise. She is very big on aesthetics.

So, there we were two carefree black girls entering a store to peruse its goodies. The boutique like many in Portobello is small and intimate and as it happens we were the only customers in the store at that point in time. The entrance of the store directly faces the cashier desk and as we entered both the cashier and the other store worker glanced up at us and carried on with their conversation. Ok, so far so normal. We’re not too bothered by this as we are Londoners after all.

We walk in and start going through the racks of shirts. Minutes pass and my friend eventually holds up a black shirt with green feather lapels and exclaims that she likes it. In that moment two white guys enter the shop and are immediately greeted with “Hello. How are you?”

We freeze and instantly look at each other.

Micro-aggression strikes again!

So there we were, two black women standing dumfounded in a store that no longer made us feel welcome. Two black paying customers who didn’t even receive a customary greeting. Two black ladies that were clearly made to feel invisible by the cashier and her work colleague.

I was shocked, annoyed and above all so confused.

We decided to exit the building. We firmly understood that our business was not wanted.

I know there is someone out there reading this and screaming:

‘Why you making this about race?’

My answer to this interrogative is simply this:

In this instance, race, was definitely a defining factor.

What else could it be?

Let’s look at the facts:  Two black females walk into a shop and are treated differently from two white males. One pair is treated with open humility and the other ignored. Both pairs are dressed ‘appropriately’ (I put appropriately in inverted commas as your attire or choice of dress should never be a reason as to why you are marginalised), however, one is greeted whilst the other receives no customer service whatsoever.

Micro-aggression is real!

I can hear another question crop up from the naysayers:

‘You said that you wasn’t bothered, so far so normal, what’s changed now?

My answer:

Now i’m bothered because they went out of their way to ‘other’ us. If they had ignored the other customers like they had us, then we would have put this down to  a lack of customer care, given that we would have both received the same treatment. But as you can read, both pairs were given two different experiences to the same situation.

Black people do not make this stuff up for shit and giggles. We live this day in and day out.

Both workers failed to greet us as they did not want to see us.

Do you know how deep this is?!


I’m getting annoyed just writing this and re-living the situation again.

It is also ironic that this micro-aggressive act took place in Notting Hill of all places. A place built on the blood, sweat and tears of Afro-Caribbean migrants. A place that not too long ago was a slum and left to minorities to regenerate. A place, where nowadays people that look like me are no longer welcomed.

I am disgusted.

I really wish we had said something before we left the shop. Let them know that this wasn’t ok, nor was it acceptable and it is certainly not the way you treat people, let alone customers that are willing to spend in your store.

But, as we have seen recently from the media, Black people speaking out against racism and discrimination are met with derision and scepticism.  Look at what happened to Munroe Bergdorf who spoke out against systematic racism and was rewarded by being fired from the L’Oreal diversity and inclusion campaign.

Racism is still alive, they just be concealing it.

My best friend and I will be taking our hard earned coins elsewhere.

My So-Called Life

Ever heard the saying ‘life is what happens to you while your busy making other plans’, well dear readers this is the reason why I have been MIA for the past couple of months. Sorry about that.

Let me catch you up on the goings on in my life , here is a quick low down:

Business Owner – I am proud to announce that I am 1/4 owner of  AfroStar Tours. My girls and I had somewhat of an epiphany and realised that  we have a great passion for  black history. Being of Caribbean and African descent, we found  it highly frustrating that we were not taught about our inspiring history in school and had to learn everything regarding Black History through an American gaze. Black History Month in school consisted of tIMG_5351he same stories about the civil rights movements, watching Roots and a brief history about Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks.  Not to diminish the great legacy of these amazing people but where was the history of black Britions and what we contributed to the nation? and thus AfroStar Tours was born.  AfroStar Tours aims to showcase the history,  beauty and culture of Black Britain. This is a super exciting time for us and we can’t wait to take people on the journey of London Town to learn all about the Black Power Movement,  carnival, African art and so much more. If you are interested in learning further about us then please click here AfroStar Tour.

Down Under – I flew to Australia for my friends wedding in March and as one of the bridesmaids I was given a first class seat on their wave of love. It was such a beautiful lush day and we were surrounded by rows and rows of vineyards which made the whole day feel so zen. Now that I am back home, I can’t help but feel like Katherine Heigl in 27 dresses, my wardrobe is full to the brim with bridesmaid dresses. Always the bridesmaid but never the bride. I may have to charge people for the use of my services.  I digress, apologies. Australia was amazing, the weather as you’d expect did not disappoint. It FullSizeRenderwas hot, hot, hot near enough everyday that we were there and I could slowly feel my iron levels getting back to normal. Living in England certainty does damage to my health.

I did not experience any racism like I had been warned about, instead I found Australians to be kind and very welcoming or maybe the bride just has awesome friends. However, there was a glaring omission of people of colour and I failed to see any Aboriginal people during my whole 10 day trip. When I did come across a black person in the city, the man in question proceeded to pull  my hair and stared me in face and said ‘don’t you know when you see another African you must say hello?’ No, I did not know this! Is this a thing? I was perplexed. I also got called a ‘fucking idiot’ by a drunk white man that very same day so needless to say that was the only downer that I experienced in Oz. Apart from these two incidents the holiday went off without a hitch, that is until it was time to come home. Let’s just say that our flight was cancelled and we ended up staying overnight in China, an experience I do not wish to repeat again. I felt like a zoo exhibit. I have never been gawked at so much in my life, it was truly unsettling. But hey that is a story for another day.

Work, Work ,Work – The world of work has been stealing my joy lately. It has been draining me of all of my energy and as AfroStar Tour has not made me a millionaire just yet, I still have to wake up everyday and go to my 9-5. The joy 😦

F.R.I.E.N.D.S – I have tried to make a real effort these past few months to catch up with all my girlfriends and check in on them. A lot has happened in the past few weeks, we have  had new baby arrivals, marriage proposal, new jobs, new relationships and a heck of a lot of gossip to catch-up on. My friends truly amaze me. It is so easy to get carried away with our own lives that we forget to give our friends a look in now and again. Have you checked in on your friends today? if not, do it now you never know who needs to hear your voice.  To my girls – I love you guys so much and I miss you. Let’s make a concerted effort to see each other more.

Anyways, I hope you have enjoyed reading this mish mash blog post. My life at the moment has been very hectic and sometimes I absolutely have no clue what I am doing. The blinding lights of London is seriously making me super dizzy. I need another holiday.

 

Say my name, Say my name

This is a Public Service Announcement. Fellow citizens of the World, it is with the utmost pride and sincerity  that I present this dialogue, as a living testament and recollection of history in the making as today is the day when you finally learn to say my name.

Allow me to reintroduce myself my name is HOV  Jacyra. You may know me as Jay Bee.  Simply put:

Keep my name out of your mouth if you cannot handle its greatness!

woosah

Honestly, I’m sick and tired of people out here dissecting, interpreting, mispronouncing, remixing and putting a spin on my name. It really is not that hard to pronounce once you try. If you can’t get your head around 6 tiny letters on a page, please feel free to just ask me how to say it, I am more than happy to educate. But no, some of you do the most and would rather just take it upon yourself to try it out for size and see if it fits your narrow tongue. I mean, God loves a trier but sometimes just know when you’re defeated and ask for help.

My name is my name; you better start putting some respect on my name.

This post was triggered by an event that happened at work earlier this week.

Story Time: Once upon a time a delivery man walks into the work premises of Jay Bee to deliver some stationery. Delivery man scans the room looking for the intended recipient. He stands firm and proud and boldly declares in front of the entire office ‘Delivery for George Baptist’. Goodness child, who in the hell is that? wondered Jay Bee. She had placed a stationary order the day before but Delivery man must have the wrong office as no one in the office had that name. Unknowingly she continues to type away,the report is due at 5pm after all and she wants to leave on time. A couple of seconds later, Jay Bee’s feels a slight tap on her left shoulder. She looks up and it is one of her colleagues inquiring ‘Jacyra did you order some stationery?

How does the inventory say Jacyra Baptista but yet you fixed your mouth out loud to say ‘George Baptist’.

How Sway? I need answers.

giphy

Delivery man clearly should’ve gone to Specsavers. Not only that, but how did you clean miss the ‘a’ at the end of Baptista to call me Baptist. The ‘a’ is not there for decoration.

Now… this is not the first time and certainly won’t be the last time that my name will be mangled beyond recognition, I mean I’ve been called:

Jasra, Jackra, Jazeera, Jerkeira, Jaycherie, Sarah

You name it!

But George really does take the biscuit. He honestly looked at the paper, saw my name and checked out of life.

I realise that my name is very unique and that not many people may have come across it before. However, if you only just take your time to break it down, you’d realise it that it is actually quite  an easy name to pronounce. I mean it’s only three syllables.

Let’s try it together:

JA.CY.RA

say-my-name
Say my name, say my name
I mean this is already the anglicised pronunciation of my name, I have helped you guys out enough.

To quote Warsan Shire:

“Give your daughters difficult names. Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”

My name is my identity; I wear it like a badge of honour. I’m proud of it and it’s origin. So, if I can fix my mouth to say Meredith, Dipesh, Earl etc. Then you can say Jacyra.

And my biggest pet peeve is this – after I correct people not once but normally twice on the pronunciation (because some of you are hard of hearing) they then want to turn around and tell me what a beautiful and unique name I have. I know this. But you didn’t think this two seconds ago so stop trying to placate me. You have  offended me enough already.

Yes…. I know some people are being genuine when they say this. But whatever let me rant.

Nevertheless, morale of the story:

  1. If you don’t know how to pronounce someone’s name, then please just ask them
  2. If you still insist on pronouncing it without help, please apologies when you get it wrong
  3. Just ask for the pronunciation!!

Thank you for listening.

Black British African

 

When I fill in the census I always tick the box marked: Black British African.

This has always proved a conundrum to me.

I was born in Angola and moved to the UK at the tender age of 5. Leaving Angola at such a young age meant that I did not have much time to form an African identity; instead I was thrown into an unknown country where people labelled me as African before I could even grasp what that meant.

At home my parents encouraged us to speak English so that we could assimilate easily into our new land. However, this just sparked off the beginning of my identity crisis. I was an African who spoke Portuguese (thanks to our colonisers) but who no longer used this tongue at home, instead quickly replacing it with another oppressor’s tongue.

I am a Black British African. What a contradiction.

I am whole, yet made up of so many different cultures and diasporas and cannot claim to fully be one over the other.

I am a binary opposition, consisting of two conflicting ideals both fighting for supremacy.

I am an African who eats traditional Angolan food with the same gusto and fervour of that of my ancestors. I am an African who dances to Kizomba but who lives a very western experience. I am British who spouts tales of Harry Potter and sings ‘God Saves the Queen’ whilst pining for a home far, far away that I have never fully embraced.

However, Home has been the UK for the past 20 odd years of my life. Home has been the UK which has informed my decisions and shaped my reality. Home has been the UK which has shaped this internal conflict inside of me as I battle to decide which country I pledge allegiance to.

I feel robbed of my African experience, whatever that may be. I feel robbed for not having grown up with my extended family and feeling the rush of love and warmth whenever friend’s speak of ‘popping down to Nan’s house’. I have never had that experience.

I don’t know how it feels to play ‘garrafinha’ or playing in the sand getting my white school robes dirty. I don’t know how it feels to fetch water or eat ‘gelado de mucua’ feeling the rich taste drip down my face. All this, I have learnt through my parents and older siblings.

I have missed out on family weddings, births of new blood and deaths of the old.

My identity as an Angolan has been shaped through Western ideals and rhetoric and also through stories told by my parents.

I have come to realise that I am a proud product of both and don’t have to fit into one neat box. I am between two different worlds. Nevertheless, I do wish to reclaim and learn more about my heritage. I long to know more about Angolan history and folklore and let it spout out of my mouth just as easily as I do tales of Henry the Eighth and Guy Fawkes.

I am unapologetically a Black British African, a conundrum that I have now reconciled.

 Ghana

Gold Coast, Ashanti kingdom, Oh Ghana – Akwaaba

From Tema, to Accra to Kumasi is where I find my feet.

My best friend a vision in white, gliding down the aisle to meet her king.

Rewind to a couple of days before, all the girls, all obronis, trying to navigate the hustle and bustle of Kotoka international.

We step out into the sweltering heat, we taste the sun and we know we have arrived.

A flock of people surround us to lend a helping hand. But nothing is ever for free. 10 cedis later and we are on our way, it’s just the African way.

But no time to dwell, we have a wedding to prepare.

Spintex road is where we call home for a few days. A sprawling complex greets us with a gym and a pool. T.I.N.A! , we exclaim, Africans have come a long way.

Not even Dumsor can put out the light inside of us. Our excitement is igniting. We are finally here.

Months of planning and the Black Star is finally within our grasp.

We meet so many beautiful souls on our journey to the altar. It really does take a village to raise a child.

The calming nature and soft spoken tone of the Ghanaian people, contrasts vastly with our brisk English mettle.

The resilience of the market traders, trudging up and down in the unforgiving sun selling Bo fruit to Fanmilk feels me with awe.

One cedi later and Fanmilk in hand, I can’t help but feel guilty at the disparity of life. But on our way we go.

Sakumono is where the traditional wedding takes place.

Sakumono is where my friend becomes one.

Sakumono is where a part of me is lost.

Our Navy blue dresses surround her White – a bunch of Morning Glory’s protecting our seed.

1 wedding down and another one to go.

Our adventures take us to Kumasi, the climax of the whole affair, a metropolis seeped in rich history and wealth.

A quick trip to Manhiya palace and neighbouring markets quench our western desire to be immersed in culture.  Buy a dashiki here and there, buy a kente print bag here and there and now we are authentic Africans.

Now we are ready.

The big day finally arrives.

The hotel is a cacophony of sounds and shapes,

Makeup here and there, dresses everywhere.

We are late – no surprises there.

Wedding bells are ringing, to the altar we must go.

I take my place in line.

Nerves frayed. Deep breath. Smile, it’s her big day.

She is happy. They both are. This is meant to be.

Home.

She is home.

But where is home for me?