Being Black in Britain is Easier than Ever
The evolution of Black British culture has been very visible in recent years, one of the first things I noticed when I began secondary school in 2007 was that transnational African immigrants fell into two
The evolution of Black British culture has been very visible in recent years, one of the first things I noticed when I began secondary school in 2007 was that transnational African immigrants fell into two categories; too African and not African enough. Your category could change at any point in time; if you were previously ‘too African’ and one day made the terrible mistake of misspelling ‘jollof’ on Facebook, you would automatically be demoted by your peers to ‘not African enough’.
African kids were finding a way to bridge the gap between tradition and the Western world. Fashion students would suddenly start whole projects on merging Ankara with Chanel, writers were creating politically charged pieces on the disparity of identity and drama students were performing with soundtracks composed of India Arie, Lagbaja and Fela.
The politics of identity can be confusing, fish and chips just doesn’t mesh with pounded yam. And in this struggle that many people were in subconsciously, some resorted to being strictly African, slipping into the accent at will; others distanced themselves, mocking the journey made by their parents so they would have the freedom to do so. Others just coasted. How did people with multiple places to call home, find themselves so displaced?
However, a change has come about in the form of the arts. Such artists as Don’t Jealous Me and Tommy Expensive are imitating the all too familiar African parent and have audiences all over the world getting in on the joke, wanting to understand and be part of this new African pride phenomenon. Africans are suddenly becoming the ‘it kids’ of London. With that comes a full-blown invasion of African music, fashion, food, dance, and everything that makes our cultures great is suddenly finding its way into the exclusive world of young London.
“Black British…is not the same as Black American culture, and that’s ok.”
What most people don’t know is that Black British people are very connected to their roots, being first or second generation immigrants, the African community in the UK, particularly London is large and thriving. Afrobeats, which is becoming a popular genre in the US is a staple in the life of Black British kids. Therefore, the problem for us was not reconnecting with our roots but striking a balance between traditional and urban culture, a lot of us had more in common with the Caucasian kids we grew up with than other Africans in the diaspora. Somehow, we were able to create a new culture altogether where being Black British isn’t a restrictive identity, it is not the same as Black American culture, and that’s ok.
Black British culture is very unique, it’ s something you have to be within to understand, but now more than ever you can see our mark in the creative scene globally. The USA is only just becoming aware of this long standing culture in the UK, especially when it comes to music, artists like Drake and Kanye West are featuring Black British artists such as Skepta and Srormzy on their music, Drake commonly uses slang from the UK and the basis for his song One Dance is a song by Funky House artist known as Kayla.
And what is this doing for the African Continent? It is an image overhaul far from the needy images and backwards ideals that many people once felt Africans hold. More people are coming to the late realisation that the African continent is exciting, vibrant and culturally rich, a reality that young people are making more visible all around the Diaspora.