London is a global melting pot bursting with a variety of cultures and communities with over 300 languages spoken.
Growing up and living in such a big multicultural society, kept me cushioned within a love bubble of diversity.
Living with so many different representations of the world who for the most part blend together and live in harmony, London exposed me to ‘difference’ be it, arts, behaviours, religions, sexuality, customs and even cuisine.
Although shielded from direct racism, oppression inequality and social/gender injustices, it also distracted me from learning more about my history and origins.
In London no one seems overly concerned where you originated from much less where your parents or in my case grandparents had emigrated from; by default you’re simply a “Londoner”, regardless of the colouring of your skin, your beliefs or whether or not you can speak a second language in addition to English.
During my time in school, my classmates which comprised of many different backgrounds including English, Irish, Asians and Africans identified ourselves through an interculture; we styled our hair the same; irrespective of texture, type and length Music became our God which we prayed to using the same dialect of London English
We are different yet the same.
When faced with the question ‘Where are you from?’ it is to establish whether you are ‘from’ North, East, South or West London, just as how I imagine the question would be tackled within a monocultural society.
Since spending time within a homogeneous society, ‘where are you from?’ takes on a completely different connotation. No longer am I protected by the comforts of the melting pot, my veil of invisibility…lifted.
When I now respond “Norf London”
I can see the double-takes, puzzled looks and the crinkling of the nose intimating their dissatisfaction to my response.
‘but where are your family from?’ they ask
‘Oh’, I think to myself…‘you mean where am I from, from?’
My grandparents moved to London, England from Jamaica, I reply.
Which is them immediately followed up by further awkward small-talk lines of enquiry such as:
- “I love Bob Marley”
- “I was thinking about Bob Marley today”
AND my personal favourite to date…
- Bob Marley is still alive right?’ (if only)
My whole life, I was simply the girl from North London and honestly didn’t really think much about anything outside of that. Suddenly the simple question:
‘Where are you from?’
highlighted how little I knew about my origins and left me with a hunger for knowledge regarding my history and thinking about Bob Marley who everyone now seems to ask me about!
‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but us ourselves can free our minds’
Bob Marley (1945-1981) – Redemption Song
now you’re thinking about Bob Marley, right?
Me too and decided to learn more about the legend that was Robert ‘Bob’ Nesta Marley!
Born in 1945 in the Parish of St Anns, Jamaica in extreme poverty this great mans story albeit it extremely short, is one to marvel at and draw inspiration from.
Being of mixed heritage Mr Marley felt like an outcast, he grew up with his mother and only saw his father a handful of times before he died when Mr Marley was a young boy.
Mr Marley gained a strong sense of belonging through the Rastafarianism movement (now recognised world-wide as a religion) which promotes black-empowerment, pride and freedom.
Later Mr Marley would become a symbol of Rastafarianism recognisable by his trademark dreadlocks and deliverer of it’s message of peace, love and unity to people all over the world
Despite Marley’s feelings of disillusionment, he persevered with his pursuit into the music industry channelling his feelings of abandonment and rejection in his early songs which is particularly evident in his 1970 song ‘Cornerstone’ where he states:
- ‘the stone that the builder refused will always be the head cornerstone’
Ironically, Mr Marley was heavily inspired and influenced by the teachings of another famous and influential Jamaican – Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) in ‘Redemption Song’ the lyrics ‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds’ is a direct quote cited in a speech delivered by Garvey in October 1937 and published in his ‘Black Man magazine’
Mr Marley made it his life mission to emancipate black people, promote peace, Pan-Africanism and release all people from social injustices and poverty, which major political unrest, oppression and even an assassination attempt didn’t manage to stop.
He was an optimist and a revolutionist driven by his faith and belief system and the love which he emanated everywhere he went. Bob Marley catapulted Rastafarianism, reggae music and Jamaica into the hearts of people all around the world and is the reason why in spite of his untimely death almost 38 years ago, becomes the centre of conversation when I announce my family emigrated from Jamaica.
I am proud to be ‘linked’ to such a remarkable and beautiful human-being.
Learning more about him has not only uplifted and empowered me but filled me with inspiration, pride and armed me with further knowledge about my own history, which I believe is imperative to our inherent emotional need to belong to something bigger than ourselves.
My life has been enriched having been born and brought up in the diverse melting pot which is London, however
A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.
Marcus Garvey (1887-1940)
Where are you from, from?