So far in this mini series leading up to the 1 year anniversary of Afro Glory I’ve covered a range of topics on the blog. I’ve spoken about mental health in my post One Year After Therapy. I’ve spoken about my natural hair journey over the last year in my post A Year of Hair! Feb ’17 – ’18 and I’ve shared a new direction for Afro Glory in my post Pretty. Fat. Girl. I still have loads of really exciting areas to share with you before the big day and it only felt natural to share the significance of moving to the big city in my next post!
This post is all about what it meant for me as a young black women to move to London from a small predominantly white town in the north.
Growing up in West Yorkshire as a black girl was a blessing and a curse. On the plus side I had the clean tap water to nourish my hair but I also experienced very little representation as a black person. I could count my black friends, classmates and teachers on one hand until I reached high school (even then I could probably only count them all using both hands).
It’s not that I was the only “black girl in the village”… actually far from it! My home town was one of the first places that Jamaican migrants settled in the U.K. due to its large textile industry and many factories for work. I didn’t experience much Jamaican culture growing up there but being a ‘first generation non immigrant’ (that’s how I describe it), I reached a point in my life where I really wanted to know more about my mum and dads up-bringing in Jamaica.
I’ve been to Jamaica twice and you know what is really funny, I refer to Jamaica as home. The thing that really blew me away the first time I visited Jamaica was walking into a shop and seeing the magazines. Make-up in my skin tone, tights in my skin tone, Wall-to-wall black cover girls! I hadn’t even realised how underrepresented I had felt in my own country until that moment. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I think I can safely say, with the majority of black children; coming of age includes the beginning of the hair journey! For many of us it’s when we beg our parents for our first perm. For others it’s when our parents sit us down and discuss the beauty and significance of natural hair in out society… either way, we begin one of our many journeys towards self discovery and adulthood.
I was 8 when I began to beg my mum to relax my hair. I would repeat “please mum, please! I just want to fit in and have hair like my friends”. I had to beg for a good few months before she would even entertain the idea but eventually she said yes. I actually remember when she said yes because I was ELATED and she didn’t share my joy. Selfish young me couldn’t quite grasp what she was thinking at the time but I guess now that I’m old enough to imagine being a mother to a young black girl, I totally get it.
Jumping forward 16 years, in 2014 at the age of 24 I told my mum I was going natural and she was super happy for me. I’m really grateful that my mum let me experience relaxing my hair when I needed to. It’s given me such an appreciation for my natural hair in adult life.
I don’t know if it’s worth mentioning but at this point I was living 20 minutes outside my home town in Leeds. In my experience so far, being in a city has always influenced my relationship with my hair. In Leeds I went natural and to be honest I can’t tell you what exactly made me do it… I just remember thinking;and that was it… I began the transition of a lifetime!
In June 2016 I moved back to London. I was born in London and moved away in 1998, which was the same year I started asking for a relaxer. I had the same thought process as most young creatives do about moving to the big smoke. I’ll sort my portfolio out, get a design job and build my career… I didn’t think much beyond that until reality set in. I got a barista job within a week of moving to London and ended up staying in it until December 2016. At this point I realised (partly with the help of therapy) that I had become completely comfortable in my situation and as a result I was no longer pursuing the things I really wanted. I handed my notice in and started the new year with intentions to pursue my design career.
When therapy came to a close in February 2017, I began Afro Glory to help with self management. Starting a blog was like the beginning of a butterfly effect for some of the happiest moments in my life.
A year on and attending events, meeting new people and learning about black culture have become part of my everyday life. I have a whole new understanding of what it means to be me. To be a young, black, British, first generation non immigrant living in one of the fastest moving cities in the world!
London has taught me that there are black spaces where I can exist comfortably and unapologetically. That success in the creative industry is definitely not going to be defined by the colour of my skin and that I love being around other black people.
I guess I could describe my experiences so far like being taken from a fish tank and being thrown into the ocean. The ocean is a big place though and I’m still discovering and learning beautiful ways to exist in it.
Thanks for reading my latest post in the mini series.
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