The last film I saw at the cinema was Black Panther and before that, it was Girls Trip in July 2017! I am into films, but there just hadn’t been many that resonated enough for me to leave the confines of my house and take a trip to the cinema. Before this I went to the cinema regularly; one of my most memorable cinema experiences was when I saw Titanic, because I cried. My friends still remind of that little fact until this day!
Over time I’ve become more selective about what I watch, because I got tired of the same old faces and narratives. I wanted to see more people who looked like me and stories that I could relate to, such films were not easy to come by.
I hadn’t heard about Block Party Cinema until a few weeks ago and wanted to see their interpretation of the pop up cinematic experience. The 90s RnB chilled out vibes evoked a welcomed nostalgia and was met with contemporary beanbag seating. I was a bit apprehensive about sitting on a beanbag throughout the whole film, but to my surprise, they were comfortable and afforded lots of leg room (well enough for my legs, anyway!)
The film, A Moving Image, was about gentrification in Brixton (a subject I have touched on before). Followed by a panel discussion with Lisa Maffia (of Solid Crew and former Brixton resident), Community Leader Michael Smith and the director of the film, Shola Amoo.
I was a bit conflicted about watching a film about gentrification in Pop Brixton, which some may deem as the epitome of gentrification in the area, but I wanted to see how the film would approach the issue and the setting in POP Brixton was nice, with a bar and free popcorn.
The film touched on some interesting points, including the Reclaim Brixton protest and the protagonist who once lived in Brixton, being conflicted as to whether she was now part of the problem. The film highlighted that gentrification is a class issue and not just about race. This is true, but for a place like Brixton with such a distinctive racial heritage, if the community is depleted of African and Caribbean people regardless of socio-economic status, Brixton as we know it will be no more.
Whether good or bad, which I don’t think the film made a final decision on, gentrification has it merits and drawbacks. Maybe that was the take-home message of the film. By leaving the ending open-ended (in my opinion) provided food for thought on a complex issue affecting many parts of London.
While colourism extends to many cultures, this post will focus on colourism within the black (of African descent) community
That Tweet (and all the others that have come before it) A few days ago, another anti-dark skin black girl tweet from 2012 resurfaced. UK TV personality, Maya Jama (a teenager at the time) girlfriend to Stormzy (a British-Ghanaian), one of the biggest grime artists in the UK, was exposed for tweeting this tweet – a quote from a comedian:
To top it off, Maya had to apologise twice because her initial apology was addressed to ‘all women’ and not specifically to dark skin black women.
Yes, Maya was young when she tweeted this quote from a comedian. However, black women have been brutalised physically and mentally for hundreds of years due to their skin tone, I don’t have sympathy for anyone who encourages this type of abuse (including the comedian who apparently said it initially).
Some were not best please with Maya Jama’s quoted tweet.
What also makes it worse is that, Maya has a black fan base and makes money from black culture (she hosted the UK MOBO awards last year). Now she is not the only celebrity ‘of colour’ (apparently, she is of Somali/Swedish descent) that has allied with the abuse of dark skin black women, that is why this post is not about her, but a more pressing problem.
What’s funny about the Maya Jama tweet from 2012 is that, AFRICAN women have been shaving their heads for decades! So, it’s funny that some believe dark skin black women should not wear a hairstyle that has been passed down the generations!
Colourism The negative connotations that come with having darker skin (especially as a woman) are palpable.
Stemming from slavery and colonisation the roots of colourism run deep, along with the global narrative that lighter skin (especially for women) = beauty, this isn’t a light-hearted issue and like racism ignites similar emotions.
What’s depressing about this whole colourism issue is that it’s perpetuated by US! Yes, black people. If black people abuse dark skin black women, then the flood gates are open for others to do the same, thinking it’s totally acceptable behaviour. The psychological abuse of dark skin black must stop, and this must start within the black community.
Slavery and colonisation were strategic in their psychological carving away of black self-worth. Many black people have internalised and perpetuate this self-hate as a fierce emotional a weapon.
It’s been noted on Twitter that celebrities who get the most attention for speaking out against racial discrimination have a ‘similar look’. Like Beyoncé (who is an amazing singer – #beychella), the perception is they are the ‘acceptable (more palatable) faces of black’.
Actress, Zendaya recently admitted that ‘light skin privilege’ within the black community does exist, when many choose to be coy about the subject. Zendaya frequently speaks about racial disparities and is applauded for doing so. However, If someone of a darker hue, e.g. Serena Williams were to do the same, more often than not would be crowned with the ‘angry black woman’ slur.
It’s about time we have honest conversations, acknowledging the ‘light skin privilege’ many black and mixed-race people posses. Allowing dark skin women to say how they feel, without being dismissed as jealous and angry of their light skin counterparts is important too.
“Unfortunately, I have a bit of a privilege compared to my darker sisters and brothers”.
“Can I honestly say that I’ve had to face the same racism and struggles as a woman with darker skin? No, I cannot.” – Zendaya in a 2016 Cosmopolitan interview
Even in the black entertainment industry the bias towards dark skin black women is evident. This beauty legacy, means that ‘the struggle’ is harder for dark skin black women. Along with everything else that was great about Black Panther, the concept of having a dark skin love interest (one which had a darker complexion than her male protagonist), played by Lupita N’yongo is not something we are used to, even in 2018.
Having powerful gate keepers like Shonda Rhimes, has given us characters like Anaalise Keating in ‘How to get Away with Murder’, played by Viola Davis. Nate Moore who works for Marvel Studios was instrumental in placing the Dora Milage via Black Panther on the big screen, which definitely had a billion-dollar impact! Despite this (and other exposures of dark skin black women) and hundreds of years post slavery, I’m still here in 2018 writing a post about colourism!
Maybe we need more representation in our local communities, professional and creative industries? But I’m not sure if this will shift the negative narrative around dark skin black women either. Are these perceptions actually changing? It’s hard to overcome the battle of the mind and like most psychological illnesses, I guess colourism requires some sort of ‘therapy’. The first step in this process is to admit there is a problem, so maybe we start there?
Any other suggestions on how we can move past colourism? Comment below.
Lagos was the cradle of African fashion a few weeks ago, hosting 2 big fashion shows. Lagos Fashion Week Nigeria (23 – 25th March) Arise Fashion week 2018 (31 March – 2nd April). There was of course, the vibrancy, craftsmanship and distinctive style that has become ubiquitous over recent years in the African fashion industry. Images which only would have been available via fashion outlets are easily accessible anywhere in the world on social media (as you’ll see below).
During Arise Fashion Week 2018, the supermodel legend that is Naomi Campbell said the renowned fashion publication Vogue Magazine should be launched in Africa.
“Africa has never had the opportunity to be out there and their fabrics and their materials and their designs be accepted on the global platform … it shouldn’t be that way.” – Naomi Campbell
We’ve heard the reminder many times that “Africa is not a country”. When we dissect the continent’s textile heritage, we find there are beautiful fashion and style nuances across the continent. While I agree that the evolution and heritage of African fashion should have a dedicated global fashion platform showcasing to the world, it should be born and pushed by Africans – those on the continent and from the diaspora. Just like European fashion is controlled by Europeans.
Any African fashion publication must be sewn together with an integrated narrative identifying the contribution of each African country. It’s about time that African countries develop and control their own narratives without the, filtration and stamp of approval from Western fashion establishments, who have made fashion and style prestige synonymous with Western culture.
The fact that there is no Vogue Africa Magazine is an OPPORTUNITY, let Africa dictate her fashion industry in her own words and realise herself for herself!
Don’t get me wrong I was all here for Edward Enninful and Virgil Abloh rising to coveted gatekeeping positions in Western fashion establishments of British Vogue and Louis Vuitton, but I think it’s time in 2018 that Africans do not wait for the approval of Western fashion establishments to validate their fashion heritage and existence.
However, I think in 2018 African countries should take their fashion destiny into their own hands and be the global gatekeepers of African fashion and heritage. It can be done, yes creating a fashion publication costs money but there are very talented people in Africa and the diaspora that can make this happen and create jobs on the continent.
This is what we should be pushing for (just as is done in Europe) – African fashion controlled and narrated by Africans.
Not just for chocolate lovers, Dark Sugars is a nice spot on the famous stretch of road, know as Brick Lane, East London.
When I saw how Dark Sugars do their hot chocolate on Twitter, I made a point to go out of my way and visit them. I was keen to see if this could rival my usual Starbucks hot chocolate. To be honest, with the infectious spread of gentrification spreading through London’s urban dwellings, I’m all for independent businesses stirring up the coffee shop industry. I went down to Dark Sugars with another willing chocolate-loving accomplice :-), for the hot chocolate but was side tracked by the chocolates and ‘choctails’ (chocolate cocktails)!
This was a prime example of always being ready when you’re a blogger as you never know who you will meet on your little adventures.
After taking my own tour, buying chocolate and having some cocktails, we bumped into Paul aka ‘The Chocolate Man’, who gave us a little history of Dark Sugars – a true (African) chocolate story.
Using cocoa beans sourced from Ghana, Dark Sugars is the perfect place to chill over some quality hot chocolate or turn up the vibes with a delicious range of chocolate treats and cocktails. There are 2 locations both on Brick Lane, Dark Sugars Chocolate Shop opened in 2013 with the Cocoa House opening 2 years later.
For tasty chocolates, cocktails and indulgent hot drinks Dark Sugars is the place!
Women History Month would not be complete without mentioning this Ghanaian heroine. When Queen Mother of Ejusi, Yaa Asantwaa fought against British colonisers she did it in boldness and not fear, with pride and not an inferiority complex. In 1900, a time without ‘womens movements’ and social media, Yaa Asantewaa was determined to fight for her people, for the Asante kingdom (of modern day Ghana) to keep what was rightfully theirs and stop the British from stealing the Golden Stool. Described as embodying the soul of the Asante people, the golden stool is very sacred.
History documents that the War of the Golden Stool aka the Yaa AsantewaaWar took place on 28th March 1900. It was the last war between modern day Ghana and her British colonial oppressors. The British were asserting their control and were determined to capture the Asante kingdom along with all it’s riches. The Asante people had fiercely fought the British in previous wars to maintain their sovereignty (as they should have) but the British were persistent in their oppression.
Photo: source unknown via Google
The Treaty of Formena (1874) paralysed the Asante Kingdom economically. Historical accounts state the British took advantage of and insinuated internal fights among the Asante people. Multiple successions of the Asantehene (King of Asante) weakened the throne, but in 1888 Kwaku Dua III ascended and later became known as ‘Prempeh I’. By 1891 Prempeh I was able to unite the Asante kingdom, something which the British feared as they were wanted to expand their control before the French and Germans encroached on their plans.
Through various means the British weakened the Asante Kingdom, in 1896 they demanded the Asantehene, Prempe I to pay them in large amounts of Gold as stipulated in the Treaty of Formena. Prempe I could not pay and was exiled by the British from his own kingdom with his family and other important royal members, to Sierra Leone and later to the Seychelles.
The British were not done, they wanted to strip the Asante kingdom of any dignity and demanded the Golden Stool. Before being exiled the chiefs hid the golden, but in 1899 British governor Fredrick Hodgson went to Kumasi to get it but failed. After this latest attempt, in a kingdom that was unravelling from various assaults by the British intent on stealing all the wealth of the Asante kingdom, the remaining despondent chiefs met to decide what to do. It was during that sombre meeting where the famous words of Yaa Asantewaawere spoken and why she has to be remembered in history as one of the greatest heroines of all time
“Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our king…in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware, chiefs would not sit down to see their king to be taken away without firing a shot. No European could have dared speak to chiefs of Asante in the way the governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this: if you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.”
Yaa Asentewaa became the leader and mobilising her troops, fought in what was the last war against British colonialism; the war ended in 1901.
Did Yaa Asentewaa’s army win the war?
No. But she stood and fought, in a time when there were no women liberation movements etc. Yaa Asentewaa didn’t just let things happen to her she boldly fought for the freedom of her people in their own land. After defeat she too was also exiled to the Seychelles, where she died in 1921.
Ghana remained under British rule until March 1957 when she became (as commonly documented) the first sub-Saharan African country to gain independence from European rule
Because of her bravery, the Yaa Asantewaa legacy lives on, documented in history books and critically acclaimed fictional novels. This Women’s History Month let’s remember women who fought for something greater than themselves and even in ‘defeat’ were still Queens.
“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.”
Yes…let it sink in again.
I was in Ghana when Black Panther was released but my brother (a massive Marvel fan who had so many of the comics) booked tickets for when I returned to the UK. I hadn’t been to Ghanain 5 years! I know, shame on me, why wait so long for 30 degrees heat, fresh coconuts, pineapples and REAL fufu(pounded cassava and plantain – not the powdered substitute we have in the UK)?! I never think of London when in Accra, but this time I was a bit distracted while in the Motherland, not completely, just a little. Black Panther was coming out.
BTW I am not a Marvel fan and don’t know much about the ‘Marvel universe’, apart from a bit of X-men. I saw Captain America: Civil War by chance and that was my introduction to T’Challa aka Black Panther. I was eager to see how an unconquered African nation would be visualised. It’s a thought I’ve had many times before; but now it was dancing at the front of my mind in the advent of the Black Panther premiere. The thirst to see African people living, thriving and loving their heritage because they don’t know how NOT to love themselves, was evident globally.
With the multitude of natural resources and food in Africa, but seeing how the continent stands currently, I’ve asked myself many times….
What if there was no trans-Atlantic slave trade?
What if Africa was never colonised?
I’m not saying the state of Africa is solely down to slavery and colonisation. There are internal problems and we know there was a small section of Africans complicit in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which of course is painful to digest (whether they were aware of the real fate of their fellow Africans or not). However, this does doesn’t negate the extensive role of Europeans in slavery. These two periods of history have probably had a heinous irreversible impact on Africa. That’s what I believed for a long time…and then came Black Panther.
I know Wakanda is not real and some say, ‘it’s just a film’. But it’s not ‘just a film’. Many themes trickle throughout Black Panther, but the ‘African elephant’in the room was the potentially heated discourse between Africans and the diaspora (African-Americans, African Latinos, African-Caribbean people etc.). This ‘African elephant’in the room has been discussed before in pockets of the community. I’ve had conversations with people about it, but seeing it manifested globally on the big screen forces us to acknowledge that this specific discourse needs to be extended.
For the children of African immigrants growing up in the UK / US / elsewhere, it wasn’t always ‘cool’ to be Africanuntil, maybe the last 8-10 years with the rise of Afrobeats. Some of the ‘African jokes’ immigrants / their children were subjected to were from African-Americans and African-Caribbean people. So there has been a long-standing tension and disconnect between us birthed from the psychological effects of slavery and colonisation.
I have never been to see a film twice and I probably never would have admitted it lol! When I did admit it on social media, I was so surprised that a lot of people also PAID MONEY AGAIN to see the film. The excitement of the possibility of what this film can incite among Africans and the diaspora is still palpable…
Seeing the possibilities of an African nation that hasn’t been physically, financially and mentally brutalised but allowed to maintain and advance its heritage with technical innovation, left me speechless with a big gap-toothed smile on my face! It was too empowering. I felt proud, that this image was being shown to the world and most importantly to those who need to see it most – us!
No film is ‘perfect’ and I’ve already and Instagram exchanges with strangers who say the Wakanda ideology is the same as Donald Trump’s right-wing stance and even liking Wakanda to North Korea. Of course I want all nations to have democratically elected governments, but for me Black Panther was about making us proud of our heritage, seeing how valued women are in African society in all their different talents and believing what is possible.
The fact that Wakanda has taken over social media, re-named emojis (see my Insta story above) in its honour and made $700M worldwide and counting, speaks volumes.
It’s not possible to erase the impact of slavery but I hope the discourse between Africa and her diaspora finally mobilises us to create an Africa that is sustainably great. When I say I want ‘a Wakanda’, I’m not talking about flying spaceships or a single party right-wing government, but an Africa (yes, I mean across the continent and not just in one country) with good healthcare, a diversified transport system, advanced technology, where every child has the opportunity to go to school. I’m talking about the promises of a ‘better life’ that pushed parents out and lured them to the West in the first place. Is that too much of a fantasy?
For this to come to fruition Africa and her diaspora must decide to work together. I think we can…but we can’t ‘watch this space’, we must create and be active within ‘this space’. Wakanda (albeit fictional) is an embodiment of what can be achieved when we work together. I loved the fact the main cast represents the continent and the diaspora (Lupita – Kenya, Danai – Zimbabwe, Leticia Wright – UK/Guyana, Winston Duke – Trinidad & Tobago, Daniel Kaluuya UK/Uganda, Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan – USA).
Within the much lived up to hype, we can’t forget about the director Ryan Coogler, his interview about connecting with Africa was the most moving one I’ve heard so far out of all the snippets I’ve watched. Growing up in the diaspora with admittedly a colonised mentality at times, makes me feel like I’ve missed out on some of the richness of African heritage. But like many, Black Panther made me feel proud and tempted my faith in something that I didn’t think was possible in its entirety. #WakandaForEver.
Should I be embarrassed to say I hadn’t heard of Veganuary until I saw the advertisement on the London Underground (subway) at the end of December 2017? Well I’ve admitted it now and just glad that I came across this social movement. It’s opened my eyes to so many things about food, health and animal welfare.
I ate relatively healthy, but after my mum’s cancer diagnosis (she is in the clear now, praise God), my family decided to walk with her on a healthier lifestyle journey. I follow a few vegans on Instagram but didn’t think it was something I could do myself. I only have one vegan friend and it (going vegan) seemed to be something other people did. After watching the Netflix documentary ‘What the Health?’ (I know, I’m probably late to the party on this one too!), I had all the fuel I needed to try veganism.
I signed up to Veganuary and received all the helpful daily emails and recipes. I can’t say it’s been easy, I probably should have gone vegetarian first, but I thought it’s only for a month so I’m just going to do it! I had to be organised and think about what my vegan meals would be for each week, so it did feel like a bit more effort than before.
I was keen to find good vegan food places that were not high street chains, for the days I just couldn’t be bothered to make something myself. On my quest, I came across a new Caribbean vegan eatery in South London. I don’t know why I was a bit apprehensive before my first vegan takeaway, but I was. Anyway, I walked into the intimate Eat of Eden setting and went through the menu with the waiter.
I ordered a platter because I wanted to try a bit of everything; that way if I didn’t like something I would find out then rather than later. I can honestly say I enjoyed everything, but if I had to pick two things I would definitely recommend the pumpkin curry and seaweed fritters – they were just yum!
I know a lot of people associate Caribbean food with heat / pepper / spice, however, the food was savoury but still had the signature Caribbean flavours. The spice level is fine for any palate and there were people from a range of ethnicities there. I make that point because sometimes I feel ‘people’ think Caribbean (or African) food is just for black people. I want to dispel that myth as I think food is food and for everyone. We don’t think Chinese food is just for Chinese people – If you live in the Western world I’m sure you’ve had a Chinese takeaway more than once! While I’m happy to see more independent Caribbean and African food establishments become a permanent feature on the UK food scene, I also want to see people from other ethnicities embracing Caribbean and African food because it’s amazing!
Eat of Eden is a small spot with al fresco dining (only 5 tables inside), which isn’t ideal during winter but after tasting the food I understand why it’s popular. The staff were helpful, the service was timely and now I’ve found this little gem I’ll be going back and taking some friends with me to! If you are in South London and feel like trying some wholesome Caribbean plant-based food, Eat of Eden is your spot.