My family fusion: cultural collaboration

March 20, 2020

Photograph of Hannah with images from Pixabay

Hannah Gordon explores and celebrates her heritage and identity

Black British is a fairly recent term in my lifetime. When I was younger, I didn’t identify as Black British, but rather plainly Black or Caribbean. In surveys and forms, when it came to filling out the ethnicity box, ‘prefer not to say’, was my favourite category.

My younger sister on the other hand has become more vocal about her disgust that there is rarely a ‘Black British’ option. Instead you are either one, or the other. As big sisters usually do, I just thought she was ranting about nothing particularly important.

Then when my mum turned to me and queried, “Do you see yourself as Caribbean or British?” quickly and confidently I said I was Caribbean of course, and the only affiliation I had with England was that I was born here.

Later that day, Mum’s question found me contemplating the complexity of my identity, and actually how British did I feel?

First and foremost, I am immensely proud of my Caribbean heritage. My trio of Caribbean islands Dominica, Grenada and Jamaica have formed a massive part of my life.

There is very little I find more enjoyable than dancing around the house with my mum and little sister, blasting the latest and greatest of Caribbean Soca.

Notting Hill Carnival, celebrating Caribbean culture and traditions in London, is one of my yearly highlights, and my mum’s curry goat and rice and peas has definitely got magical powers.

It was a trip to Dominica in 2011 that consolidated my connection to the Caribbean. Running across warm idyllic beaches, eating sweet, tangy kenips and seeing chickens squawk and scuttle down the road, are some of my fondest memories.

I am immensely proud of my Caribbean heritage. My mum’s curry goat and rice and peas has definitely got magical powers.

Family is central to Caribbeans. Getting together with all my cousins, aunties and uncles united through our rich heritage, our love of food, music and laughter is a true blessing. I would never want that to change.

However, I am also British. Besides the stereotypical traits of being great at queuing and enjoying bargains, I love classic British literature. Writers such as Jane Austen and my all-time favourite William Shakespeare, is testament to my sense of closeness with my British identity.

When I was younger, Children’s BBC (CBBC) was one of the best parts of my life. My guilty pleasure was binge watching Horrible Histories, pitched perfectly for my eight-year-old self to comprehend.

I have cousins who are part Japanese, Indian and English and so I have always been around people with different cultural backgrounds from my own.

My cousins came over to London from Japan one Christmas. They brought us beautiful gifts. I received some elegant Japanese “washi” paper, which is traditionally used in the making of screens and lamps. I incorporated the colourful paper in my mini art projects.

My family enjoyed the presents I gave them too. Experiencing and sharing small parts of each other’s cultures and traditions was exciting and enriching for us all. It made me realise the diversity within my own family.

To share small parts of each other’s cultures and traditions is exciting and enriching

London’s diversity has been the greatest influence in my understanding and experiencing of what a cultural collaboration really looks and feels like.

Within minutes of leaving my house in Harlesden, Brent, I pass a Caribbean takeaway, walk a little further and I see the Asian corner shops, the Irish pubs, and Brazilian coffee shops. It is no exaggeration to say my street contains heritage and influences from all over the globe.

There seems to be an unmistakable strength in an area which is rooted in diversity. With people from all walks of life, Brent was awarded the title, London Borough of Culture 2020, which encourages unity; something I believe needs to be promoted more across the world.

Growing up in a place so culturally rich, with my own family fusion, has given me a deeper understanding of people who may not look the same as me or have the same interests.

The colourful canvas of cultures, which is the backdrop to my life, has enabled my appreciation and interest in new ways of being. I’m proud and eager to share my cultural heritage with others too.

For all of this I am extremely grateful.

Hannah is studying English Literature, History and Spanish. She’d like to be a journalist or an author. She enjoys dancing and writing.

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