Africa is cool.
Rewind back two decades earlier, and I would not boldly write that sentence. As a British-born Nigerian, I would be telling porkies if I wrote that I was always proud to be Nigerian. In fact, during my childhood, I did not even know what it meant to be Yoruba – only that it was a Nigerian ethnic group my parents were part of. Back then, I considered myself to be British first, Nigeran second.
But now, I am proudly Nigerian (or more accurately, a British Nigerian). This reconciliation between my Britishness and my Nigerian heritage became easier when Afrobeats gradually became a mainstream music commodity. It's not that I was ashamed of my Yoruba culture, but I felt it was challenging to express it in the UK – a country where, for a long time, the African identity was ridiculed by both blacks and whites, but the Caribbean culture was accepted.
Around 2013, I noticed a shift in mainstream music tastes. Afrobeats/afroswing began to receive heavy radio play in the UK. Artists such as WizKid, British-born J Hus and many others were singing in Nigerian dialects, and their music videos were washed with an unfiltered African aesthetic. Finally, I felt like I could be loud with my heritage in Britain. Young white people started wearing traditional African lace, singing African songs, and I had white girls telling me they love jollof rice and pounded yam.
Afrobeats music had ushered in an unprecedented interest in African culture that fed into every aspect of western society. Millennial Africans within the diaspora finally felt that the western's perception of the African identity had moved on from the outdated colonist notion that we are savages and jungle people.
In America, the globalisation of Afrobeats music has had an even more profound effect on African Americans.
A bridge back to the motherland
African Americans have a tenuous relationship with Africa. Based purely on my own observations over the years, African Americans tend to fall into two camps.
In one camp, you have the African Americans who openly acknowledge their roots to Africa by wearing dashikis and necklaces in the shape of Africa. Although it's a superficial acknowledgement of where their enslaved ancestors came from, at least they are still demonstrating an understanding of their heritage.
Now in the other camp, you have African Americans who identify little with Africa or barely even recognise the continent as their motherland. Despite the glaringly obvious, these group of African Americans simply do not feel Africa is their heritage. America is their home, their land, their culture, not some dark continent where their ancestors were forcibly taken from and shipped to work as slaves on plantations.
There is a reason why the very term "African American" is used widely among black people in the US and why "Black British" is not a popular term among the black community in the UK. African Americans were disconnected from Africa in a way us black people in Europe are not. For many of us black people in the UK, our parents came to the island by choice, so they still had ties to Africa. In America, African American's and their parents and their grandparents and their grandparents only remember America as their home.
The worldwide success of Afrobeats has finally provided a shiny bridge for all African Americans to connect back to their homeland, and America's biggest stars are crossing that bridge.
It started with Black Panther. The Marvel blockbuster cast America’s biggest black actors, from Chadwick Bosman to Michael B Jordan and with a soundtrack produced by Kendrick Lamar which featured songs from many African music artists. Grossing $700.1 million in the United States and Canada, Black Panther's enormous success was an affirmation by African Americans. They were finally ready to embrace the motherland even if it's given to them in a shiny and nice package.
Following Black Panther, African culture began to permeate through African American entertainment. Beyonce, the black queen of African Americans, recently directed a musical filmed called 'Black is King.' The film, inspired by Lion King, features a host of African talents such as WizKid, Yemi Alade, Tiwa Savage and Moonchild Sanelly, to name a few.
With the world’s biggest music star now using African talent as a vehicle to drive her latest artistic endeavours, Afrobeats music has globalised and, subsequently, commoditised the richness of African culture.
But at what cost?
Is the commercialisation of African culture exploitative?
Rap mogul and Ciroc advocate Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs recently executive produced Burna Boy’s latest album ‘Twice as Tall.’ For many, it was an unexpected pairing. Diddy was brought in when the album was almost finished to provide ‘fresh ears.’
Yet the cynic in me believes there is a lot more to it than that.
Diddy’s involvement in Burna Boy’s album was a calculated business move. With the spotlight on Afrobeats and African culture, Diddy simply saw an opportunity to grab himself a piece of that African pie. And what better way to do that than being an executive producer on Afrobeats' hottest artist right now? Up until now, Diddy never demonstrated any interest in African music.
What slightly concerns me is that many businessmen and brands will follow Diddy's strategy and begin jumping on the African bandwagon dripping with sauce. Sadly, they are only there to greedily consume the sauce and then leave when the bandwagon has been emptied. There is no genuine interest to really deepen and grow Africa's music. Only to make a quick buck.
Many have said that ‘Twice as Tall’ is not nearly as good as Burna Boy's previous albums and I am inclined to agree. It's not a bad album by any standard, but it does feel over-produced and over-commercialised. That Chris Martin feature was just…no.
Afrobeats and the broader African culture is at an exciting crossroads. Many established brands are taking it seriously. In July, BBC announced it was officially launching its own chart dedicated to the genre. John Boyega has partnered with Netflix to produce a slate of African movies. While these announcements are fantastic for Africa and the African diaspora, one aspect must not change:
The content must remain authentic and in control of the creators.
Time and time again, history has shown us that as soon as big corporations get involved in a movement, they immediately dilute it. Make it more mainstream or radio-friendly. That mustn't happen to the Afrobeats genre, or it will perish. History is filled with corpses of dead movements and burgeoning sounds that were murdered by greedy capitalism.
Africa has always been cool. It's fantastic that the rest of the world finally recognises that. But as Afrobeats and the broader African culture shifts into the mainstream to become a significant player in western civilisation, I pray to my African ancestors that the African authenticity, that sauce, is not watered down.
After all, Africa is cool because it's African. Nothing else.
Many have tried, but you cannot silence the voice of black culture. It’s just too stubborn.
Not even the coronavirus pandemic could manage it.
During the early days of the lockdown, while we had virtual raves on the House Party app and we all agreed that Carole Baskin did kill her husband, a black online radio station began to capture our ears. Its name: No Signal.
It started with the now infamous NS10V10 show. The idea of one Jojo Sonubi, these radio sound clashes pitted African and Jamaican music artists against each other using songs from their musician's library. First was Burna Boy VS Popcaan, and then Vybz Kartel VS Wizkid and these sound clashes sent a wave across Britain's black youth culture. Reactions from the likes of John Boyega flooded black twitter. Burna Boy was live streaming his response from the comfort of his living room. At its peak, these musical clashes on No Signal's website managed to attract 89K listeners before the entire site crashed.
Sure enough, No Signal went from being an online radio station broadcasted from someone's bedroom to a fully-fledged radio station run by black people and for black people.
The success of No Signal is a reminder that radio has always played a hugely important role in spreading black music and black culture to the masses in Britain.
And it all began with pirate radio.
Pirate radio and the resilience of creative black youth
It must have been in the early 2000s. I was 15 years old and addicted to the sound of grime music. Back then, grime was not mainstream so the established and commercially focused black radio stations like Kiss FM and Choice FM did not play it. The only way you could listen to a grime MCs latest tracks or clashes was tuning into pirate radio stations. During this period, the most famous pirate radio station for grime music was Deja vu. It gave voices to the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Ghetts and Kano – all household names now. I have fond memories listening to Deja vu after school with my cousin and his friends in a park in Stratford.
Deja vu and the many black pirate radio stations that preceded it represented the counterculture – a middle finger to the radio-friendly, mainstream culture. It was all about having an edge and being truly authentic to the street sounds of black music.
90’s prolific British rapper Rodney P’s YouTube documentary ‘The Last Pirates’ brilliantly takes us through the rise, fall and commercialisation of Britain's pirate radio stations which illegally dominated the airwaves throughout the 80s and 90s. By transmitting their signals from tower blocks and high-rise estates across London and other British cities, black pirate radio stations played popular black music at the time, mainly soul and rap, to the growing multicultural population sprouting across the UK's major cities.
As is always the case with anything that is black and garners significant attention, black pirate radio stations were continuously shut down by government enforcers. But, as we say now, we move. And the DJs during that era did that. Literally. They stayed one step ahead of regulators by finding new ways to hide their broadcasting signals or changing the location of their transmitters to avoid detection.
But this cat-and-mouse chase between black pirate stations and government regulators could not continue. Soon, many of these pirate radio stations such as KISS FM were finally granted a license and allowed to operate as official radio stations. However, Trevor Nelson, who was a DJ during KISS FM's pirate days, explains in the documentary that as soon as these black-owned radio stations became commercial, they lost their original flavour and voice. Gradually, these once authentic and boundary-pushing black radio stations began to bow to commercial and stakeholder pressures.
A new era of independent black creative enterprises without the suits
Unlike the era of the 80s and 90s, we now live in a time where black entrepreneurs don't need gatekeepers. We don't need huge corporatIons or white men in suits to control what we create. Black creatives can create content and distribute it to millions with a click of a button.
No Signal represents this new era of black-owned creative enterprises that can remain authentic, attract a vast audience and without the endorsement or backing of big money. We see this play out with the proliferation of black podcasts and black chat shows like '3 Shots Of Tequila,' 'BckChat' and the 'ZeZe Millz show' to name a few.
As we have seen with the recent racial protests, black suffering and black voices cannot be silenced. The same goes for our sound and our culture.
So don’t try and fight it. Just tune in.
Man like Hushpuppi in jail, you nah.
For those of you who have no clue as to what I am on about, let me swiftly bring you up to speed. Hushpuppi, real name Raman Abbas, is a wealthy 37-year-old Nigerian multi-millionaire who has made a career from seriously stunting his lavish lifestyle and wealth on Instagram. The pictures come with corny captions about 'trusting the process.'
For real, check out this brother’s Instagram. Hushpuppi stunting is so outlandish; he makes Floyd Mayweather’s Instagram look like it belongs to a peasant. Gucci top, sports cars, private jets, and expensive watches – Hushpuppi’s Instagram account has it all (noticeably his Instagram has no photos of beautiful women around him, odd considering how much wealth he has. Goes to show money can't buy you game).
Recently, Hushpuppi was arrested in Dubai along with another associate. The FBI have accused the Nigerian of money laundering (no surprise then). He is to go to court later this year in America to fight for his innocence, but it's not looking great for Mr Hushpuppi. He should probably sell some of those diamond-crusted watches to raise enough for bail.
With over 2.5 million followers, many young black people around the world are fans of Hushpuppi. Some of my black male friends from my social circle look to him as inspiration to achieve the lifestyle he has carefully crafted on Instagram. Many black women see Hushpuppi’s account and want a man with that kind of resources to provide them with that lavish style.
Personally, I am not a fan of Hushpuppi. Why? Because he represents the toxic relationship many young black people have with money.
Let me explain.
Growing up black and poor means everyone must know you’re now black and RICH!!
I’ll never forget, almost a decade ago now, when I finally got my first graduate job. I was a young marketing executive on a basic salary of 22k. But to me, it was like I was earning a six-figure salary. Guess what was the first item I purchased when I received my first paycheque? A £300 Armani watch (which I’ve since lost).
Deep it properly. I was a black graduate on a 22k basic, and I went to purchase a £300 Armani watch. Looking back at it now as a 30-year-old, it’s insane that I did that. But when I was 21, I felt the strong need to let everyone know that I had “made it out of the ends.” I was playing with the big boys now (on 22k, I wasn’t get paid that much more than a full-time cashier at ASDA, but a graduate job had me thinking I was just one step down from CEO).
I did not grow up as poor compared to other black people around me in East London. Both my parents worked decent jobs. However, I did not live the type of middle-class lifestyle that is common among many white Britons. I did not go skiing at any point, growing up, and my parents did not have a holiday villa in Marbella.
Like nearly every black person in East London, I grew up surrounded mainly by poverty. My road was not lined with Mercedes and BMWs. It was mostly run-down Ford Fiestas. As a teenager, I had a weekly allowance of around £10 for the whole week, and many of my black friends had far less to spend.
For many young black people in London, growing up in such harsh conditions gave us a sort of complex which fed into a desperate need for us to get money. While some of us went down the route of selling drugs or committing fraud, others strived for academic success.
Young black people wanted to reach a position financially where they could buy all the beautiful, disposable things like expensive watches and the latest trainers that our parents were unable to provide for us because they were too busy putting a roof over our heads. When I was very young, there was hardly any middle-class black families in Britain. There still aren't many today.
But the point is poverty is the common thread among many black Londoners. But that's only part of the story. It takes a much darker turn.
Hip hop and R’N’B culture - The Black Fantasy
What's the most significant black mainstream culture? Hip Hop and R'N'B, of course. Apart from the semi-naked women, the dance-heavy beats and the smart wordplay, Hip Hop and R'N'B culture is all about the flash and lavish lifestyle. Fast cars, dollar notes raining from the ceiling while black men with diamond-crusted teeth strutting around with massive chains around their necks.
And impressionable young black people soaked this shit up. I remember when I was 15, I dreamed that one day I would be surrounded by sexy women and riding in a Cadillac like Jay Z. But as I got older, the more I realised that the over the top displays of wealth in all these hip hop and rap videos is manufactured entertainment. It wasn't real.
But for many young black men, those Rick Ross videos were not entertainment. It was real to them. And many black boys felt they needed to aspire to that. From around the mid-80s to the present day, millions of young black men have strived for the fairy-tale lifestyle portrayed in these hip-hop videos. Our obsession with German cars like BMW, our need to buy expensive bottles of champagne in clubs, gold chains around our necks and the latest designer clothing – it all stems from this black fantasy that hip hop culture created.
Unfortunately, it’s a dark fantasy that has led to many black people developing a toxic relationship with money.
The culture and mentality of greed is a disease that mainly affects young black people’s mindsets
I have seen some black people I know get into spiralling levels of debt trying to maintain a flashy lifestyle beyond their salary. Honestly, I have heard of stories of black men suffering severe mental health trying to strive for the type of life they see in hip hop videos even though their only 25.
This mindset of lavish living has also negatively impacted black relationships. We’ve reached a point where many black girls living in London wouldn’t even give a black man the time of day if he isn’t driving a BMW or Mercedes or who couldn’t take her to expensive restaurants regularly. With some black women placing unrealistic expectations on black men, I have seen black men do whatever it takes to show our sisters that they are "balling" when they are not. It has lead to many black men, some I know personally, to make foolish financial decisions or commit fraud or crime with disastrous consequences for their future.
The truth is many black boys “trapping” right now are not doing it to help their mother pay her rent and clear her debts. They want fast money to buy Dior, Gucci, and Armani.
There was a time when black people worked hard to obtain more money so they could feed their families and provide them with a better life. But for many young black people in this generation, getting massive amounts of wealth has become a toxic mission to live a fantasy of lavish living so they can show this to the world on Instagram. For many black men, they want to display on social media that “other niggers ain’t got it like me.”
Maybe the fall of Hushpuppi will be a wakeup call to some of us black men and even black women that we need to become less materialistic in our culture.
But I wouldn't bet any money on it. Even if I was balling like Hushpuppi.
Previously, I wrote a blog post about the 5 types of black British men in the U.K. under the age of 35, and it received a lot of attention. Both positive and negative. Either way, it started a conversation around the different identities of black British men in the U.K.
So, since I believe in equality, I have written an article examining the 5 types of black British women under the age of 35.
Disclaimers (in case someone says I must be cancelled now):
With all that out of the way, let’s get to it.
1. Hood black women (also known as ratchet girls)
The ratchet or hood black woman are admittedly not excellent terms to describe these types of black women in Britain. But I can’t really think of any other word. The ratchet or hood black woman is almost the equivalent of the roadman but not quite. She may date a roadman, do favours for them or simply have them in her social circle. Still, she isn't usually stabbing people or selling drugs, although they are exceptions.
While stereotypically associated with South London, although they can be found in any part of London, the ratchet or hood black woman love going to very hood clubs (often these parties have a very heavy Caribbean influence) and usually smoke weed. They can sometimes be overly aggressive with their I-don’t-take-any-shit attitude. They’re unapologetically sexual but also very tough and resourceful women since they often come from working-class backgrounds. Most of these types of black women wear very colourful weaves, long fingernails, tight outfits, and fluffy sliders from boohoo.com. They are bold, loud and proud.
Examples: Some of the black girls on bkchat London, Stefflon Don (her brand anyway)
2. Urban black women
The urban black woman is like a middle-class black woman. But what separates them is that the urban black woman is still very connected to black urban or hood culture. However, she is too academically accomplished and financially well-off to be considered a ratchet or hood black woman.
Urban black women are incredibly aspirational, so often excel in corporate jobs and have degrees. And these traits are the only similarities they share with middle-class black women.
Outside of their jobs, an urban black woman will predominately have black friends (even close friends who are hood girls or roadmen). She only really listens to black urban music (afrobeats, drill, R'n'B, etc.) and will often attend classier black parties. Although, sometimes you could find her at a hood party as well.
Despite earning an impressive salary in some cases or having an education that would technically make them middle-class, urban black women often have similar tastes to black hood women but they wouldn’t necessarily date a roadman although they exclusively date black men, but these black men have a certain calibre or status.
Urban black women are a lot more refined and classier in the way they talk and present themselves than black hood women.
Examples: ZeZe Millz, Maya Jama
3. Middle-class black women or black women with middle-class interests
Sometimes, the only way to distinguish the difference between an urban black woman and a middle-class black woman is to look at their interests outside of work. Both of them appear remarkably similar at first: aspirational, financially well-off and educated.
Whereas the urban black woman predominantly consumes typical black culture entertainment and most of her social circle are other black people, a middle-class black woman is more fluid in terms of her interests. This particular type of black women probably attends art museums, jazz cafes, listens to alternative music genres and has a diverse range of friends. From my experience, middle-class black women will often have many middle-class white friends.
In terms of their dating preferences, again speaking anecdotally, I tend to find middle-class black women often date outside their own race. Urban black women will exclusively date black men, but a middle-class black woman is a lot more open in her dating preferences.
Lastly, you most likely won't find a middle-class black woman at an urban or hood party although she may attend occasionally. They don't tend to be party girls, and if they do go out to shake a leg, it's often at bars playing a diverse range of music. Their fashion sense is a lot more reserved and elegant than that of a hood black woman and less overly sexual than what an urban black woman might wear.
Examples: Candice Carty-Williams (author of Queenie)
4. Super creative and liberal black women
The super creative and liberal black woman is like the middle-class black women in that her tastes aren’t exclusively black, and neither is her social circle.
But where she differs from the middle-class black woman is that she is exceptionally creative. Very rebellious, creative and liberal black women often engage in pursuits and hobbies that would be considered too extreme or ‘out there’ for the hood, urban and even middle-class black women.
Often these black women's fashion sense is very eccentric and influenced by other styles outside of black culture. These types of black women might really be into gaming, anime, or hobbies that are associated with different subcultures. Even their choice of occupation is often highly creative such as being actors, writers, or painters.
Examples: Michaela Coel
5. Highly religious black women
The highly religious black woman can be working class or middle class and can either be academically brilliant or not. Often a strict Christian, a highly religious black woman is God-fearing, and many of the decisions they make are guided by their religious beliefs.
They are quite conservative in nature, and so it's doubtful you will find them at a club or twerking at any party. Usually, these women often strive for a stable and traditional life. Their social group is based around people with similar values to themselves, so they do not always exclusively socialise with black people. However, many choose to have predominately black friends because they share a similar experience and understanding of Christianity.
Examples: Couldn’t think of any well-known examples but you’ll find many of these young black women at any predominately black church
Everyone is obviously an individual, and the above groups are just my own personal broad categories based on my 30 years of growing up in London around many black women. As I mentioned earlier, if you have an opinion, then feel free to leave your comments below and let’s engage in a conversation.
The thing about black women is... [insert insult or criticism about how black woman behave]
As someone who has said the above line on numerous occasions, this was always going to be a difficult post to write. I was going to have to be brutally candid and honest with myself. So here goes…
For most of my twenties, I put down black women. I’ve got nothing to hide, and I don’t want anyone who might wish bad on me to think they have something against me. Now that I have reached my 30s, I am committed to uplifting black women and creating both platonic and romantic relationships with them. But, for a long time, I only ever criticised black women. That’s right; I was that guy. Below are just some of the statements criticising black women that I used to spout from my big mouth:
“Black women are too stubborn."
“Black women are too demanding.
“Black women always have a resting bitch face."
“Black women are too materialistic."
“Black women don’t show enough emotion.
“Black women make you wait for sex for too long."
“Black women don’t support black men."
The above is not even the complete list. So what changed in me? Well, last year, I travelled to Portugal for Afronation, where I saw and interacted with so many beautiful black women from around the world. Immediately after Afronation, I spent a week solo travelling in Lisbon, where I had a sustained period of deep self-reflection. Like I had to question a lot of my thought processes and deconstruct who I even was as a black man.
How could I proclaim that I love my black people if I were always so quick to put down black women? It goes beyond the fact that my mother was black. I had to examine not only why I had developed these thoughts but also understand the dangers of perpetuating such negativity about black women as a black man.
The purpose of this blog post then is to examine what I feel are the main reasons some black men put down black women
. But also, to look at why black men who are critical of black women are doing themselves a disservice.
Don’t attack black women to justify why you date outside your race
I have dated more women outside of my race than I have dated black women. To keep it real, I can count the number of black women I’ve had an intimate relationship with on one half of my hand. My ex/baby mother is a white Italian woman and my exes and lovers before my ex had all been different types of ethnic white.
The reasons why I have dated outside of my race are complex, and not the focus of this blog. Also, I am far from the only black man who dates women who are not black, so this is not necessarily much of a talking point. Instead, what is important is addressing the fact that some black men put down black women to justify why they date outside their race.
50 Cent and Lil Wayne recently came under fire for their disparaging comments about black women. During his interview with the Young Money CEO, 50 Cent talked about his love for ‘exotic’ women while dismissing black women as ‘angry’ and who get ‘mad’ at his dating preferences. Lil Wayne chuckled at 50 Cent’s comments. It was disappointing to see both of these prominent black men disrespect black women, but I couldn’t judge as I had done the same in the past.
To black men who do find other race of women attractive and exclusively date outside of our face, more power to you. A black man has the right to be attracted to whoever he wants, and as a black man, we don’t owe black women our love or our bodies. However, black men should not criticise black women to justify their choice to date outside their race. By doing this, black men are covering up their insecurities and self-hate that has been subconsciously instilled within them by mainstream rhetoric.
If any black man criticises black women when speaking to his white girlfriend, then he needs to ask himself why that is. A black man came from a black mother; he might have a black sister or black female cousins. Black men disrespect themselves when they disrespect black women.
The dangers of buying into stereotypes of black women
There has always been an agenda against black people within society. For example, if a black man commits a violent crime, then suddenly it is representative of most black men. Or if a black woman is portrayed as overly aggressive on television, then this is how a majority of black women behave.
As a result, some black men have bought into the mainstream narrative that all black women are angry, rude, and greedy. Firstly, this is not all black women, and secondly, these traits are not exclusive to black women. I have met aggressive white women, rude Indian woman, and materialistic Asian women. Let us stop immortalising this myth that black women have the worse attitude in the world.
Are black women more challenging to date compared to say, white women? An argument could be made that they can be. But, as I’ve explained in one of my earlier blog posts, many black women have grown up in a particular environment that makes many of them very tough. Often, it is our black women who are the backbone not only of black families but of the entire black community. Many of the strongest single mothers and wives I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting have been black.
Black men should be celebrating the resilience and toughness black women have rather than condemning it.
The dangers of only respecting light-skinned black women
For such a long time, to the point that it's tiring now, there has been an ongoing debate within the black community, mainly in western society but also in Africa and the Caribbean, about the perceived superiority of light-skinned black women. Many black men, and sometimes even black women themselves, have placed women with a lighter shade of skin on a pedestal. And this is reflected in black popular culture such as in black movies and films where the central black female lead is usually light skinned. And many black men have announced their preference for lighter-skinned black women over dark-skinned women.
For me, a black woman is a black woman, irrespective of the pigmentation levels of her melanin. Black men must be uplifting all black women; not only the ones whose skin is the colour of caramel. Black women with skin as dark as coca-beans are just as beautiful and rich.
The importance of cherishing our black women as black men
I want to end this article by imploring our black men to cherish our black women. It does not matter if you’re currently dating a woman who is not black, still love and honour our black women.
Many times over, black women have held it down for black men. No matter how tough we may feel they can be (and all women can be challenging anyway), we must uplift and encourage all black women.
So, I apologise for every time I ever put down a black woman. As I grow into a more mature black man, you will never hear me put down a black woman again. The world can be a cruel place for black women; they don’t need their black men to be cruel to them as well.
Saturday 27th June was a historic day for the black British community.
When I saw #BlackPounDay trending on twitter on that Saturday afternoon, I felt elevated. It was as if my whole body felt immense joy, and I had the biggest smile since my daughter was born.
For years, going back to even my late teens, I have talked with other brethren about the importance of supporting black businesses and creating a black economy in the UK, the same way the Jewish and Asian community have. Most of the time, this conversation would fall on deaf ears and we continued talking about football, music and girls.
Many of us black people in the UK generally tend to be more focused on bettering our own individual lives and the lives of our immediate family and friends. For a very long time, especially in my younger years, the black British community never really saw itself as an actual community. Instead, we were a disparate group of people, African or Caribbean, who just happened to live in the UK at the same time. That was it.
But the viral sensation of #BlackPoundDay, a movement started by ex-So Solid Crew member Swiss, has shown that there has been a massive shift within the collective psychology of the black British community. It's taken decades to reach this point, but finally, the black British community is a functioning community of black people in Britain who finally see themselves as one group regardless of their heritage. Last Saturday, we came together all in the name of the black pound.
The black British identity has fully come into its own
It is too simplistic to attribute the success of #BlackPoundDay to the #blacklivesmatter movement and the death of George Floyd, which rocketed the whole #blacklivesmatter movement to the global stage. Of course, both have certainly given more urgency and relevancy to #BlackPoundDay, but it would have eventually existed even if racism had not become the current cultural zeitgeist.
Put simply, #BlackPoundDay was inevitable. As a black Londoner, born and bred, I had witnessed the divisions among the black community, both culturally and geographically (e.g. postcode wars). Then, as is always the case with black people, I started to see black people come together in the form of music. We started to hear a black British sound which started with garage, then grime, followed by UK funky house (RIP), bashment, drill and afrobeat.
From my research, back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, African and Caribbean kids did not go clubbing together. African and Caribbean music was not played in the same clubs in London as it is today. But by the 90s, African and Caribbean kids had all grown up together in the UK, so we now shared a Black British identity that overshadowed our Caribbean or African heritage, even if we did not admit it to ourselves.
Today, millennial black people listen to the same black British music, speak the same black slang (wagwan fam) and share the same black British jokes regardless of our heritage. We now have a recognisable black British identity.
So, with this fully realised albeit quietly acknowledged black British identity, the idea of a #BlackPoundDay was able to garner the serious traction and galvanise an entire group of people to spend on black businesses. We we’re supporting our own.
More work to be done
#BlackPoundDay will undoubtedly become a cultural fixture the same way Black History Month is. The economic empowerment of black people in the UK is what will create a visible and large black middle class, facilitate social mobility within the black community and thereby lift most of us out of poverty.
The next #BlackPoundDay is set for August 1st. Like I did last Saturday, I will spend my money on black businesses and will do my best to do this as often as I can – not just on a specific day.
But to create an actual black economy in the UK, we will need to do more than support a few black businesses. We need to diversify the types of black-owned services we provide, and we need to ensure the current and next generation of black boys and girls have the right skills to thrive in the economy.
There are many black hairdressers, black cake shops, black nail shops, black fashion retail shops, black barbers and black event services. Trust me; I will continue to support these businesses in any way I can and as consistently as I can.
But we cannot limit our burgeoning black economy to only these types of services. We need to start creating black companies which offer services and products that are in high demand.
For example, a franchise of black supermarket retailers like ASDA which sells African and Caribbean products from all over the world. Or a B2B software service where most shareholders and employees are black British people. Or imagine a chain of properties purchased by a collective of black people, akin to a housing association, which are lent exclusively to other black British people.
All of that is a pipe dream right now. We are probably another 30 years away before we reach that. However, there is no reason we cannot start building the foundations now.
We can mentor and encourage our black children to equip themselves with skills that the economy needs such as IT and healthcare skills. We can even launch a national black trust fund which requires black people in the UK to contribute a small percentage of their salary into it. Black entrepreneurs in the UK could access this trust fund to obtain capital to fund their business, or black parents could access it to send their most gifted children to the most prestigious schools.
Now is the time for the black British community to capitalise on the powerful #blacklivesmatter movement happening across the globe and rally together to grow our wealth collectively.
Let #BlackPoundDay be only the start of a revolution that will not only be televised but economised as well.
Visit the #BlackPoundDay website and find a large directory of black-owned businesses: https://blackpoundday.uk/
Britain’s hands are soaking in the blood of black slaves.
As much as past Prime Ministers and cabinet politicians have apologised for the U.K.'s role in slavery, to wash its hands of this blood, it will never be enough. The blood of black slaves dripping from the U.K.'s fingers is as thick and permanent as ink. No apology can simply cleanse Britain’s hands.
The recent death of George Floyd in America has also shaken the British establishment, unearthing the role Britain has played in the facilitation and expansion of the black slave trade. The British establishment loves to proclaim how it abolished the slave trade in 1807. However, what they like to conveniently remain silent about is how many of Britain's most prominent establishments were built on the backs of black slave ownership.
According to the University College London’s project into the legacy of black slave ownership, around 20% of Britain’s wealthy families have had a role in the slave trade. Shockingly, the British government was still subsiding some of these families with repayments due to the loss of earnings they would have endured when the black slave trade was abolished. The government only finished their repayments in 2015.
Nearly all the biggest banks in the U.K. had eaten a piece of the black slave trade pie. Many of the banks the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) acquired to become as huge as it is today had given considerable loans to plantation owners. Its past predecessors had owned slaves. Barclays (a bank I've been with all my life) has had directors in its past who acquired slaves and later received slave compensation. Both Lloyds and HSBC also have a legacy that is tied closely to the slave trade.
As you can see, the British cannot try to pretend its only role in the slave trade was abolishing it. They also helped expand it. Now the bill is due for their sins. As Jay Z once rapped in ‘Izzo’“We can talk, but money talks, so talk mo’ bulks.”
So enough with the apologies. It’s time Britain paid for using many unpaid black bodies to build its empire. This brings us to the topic of reparations.
Could reparations actually work?
Reparations is not a new concept. Those who support reparations believe that descendants of slaves should be given compensation in the form of monetary payments. Essentially, countries like the U.K. and U.S. would be paying the wages these slaves would have received to their descendants instead. Think of it as a sort of 'payment in lieu' but on a grand scale.
On paper and in principle, I am in favour of reparations. However, the more I think about it from a logical and logistical perspective, I don’t quite see how it would work.
Those black slaves who are owed payments for the free labour they carried out for their white masters are now dead. This complicates things because now it is difficult to determine which black person, in the present day, should receive reparations. Not every black person is a descendant of slaves because the entire population of Africa was not forced into slavery. From the research I've carried out into my own heritage, I am sure none of my ancestors were enslaved (Yoruba people are too stubborn). Therefore, I wouldn't qualify. It would be a complicated and time-consuming process trying to determine if every black person who applies for reparations is linked to a black slave.
Another problem is calculating how much should be paid and for how long. Let us say, for argument's sake, that I am in fact a descendant from a slave, how much sum would I receive and based on what? What my slave ancestor earned in the 1800s would not be the same for the same type of work today. Would we need to take inflation into consideration? These are critical economic questions, and it would take years to draft legislation that would adequately address them.
Investment into black lives in Britain is what we need
Unfortunately, it is too late for reparations to be a viable option, in my opinion. As amazing as reparations sound, it should have been paid to slaves as soon as slavery was officially abolished. Of course, it was not because even though black people were made free, they were not about to be given equal treatment to white people. That was never on the table and, 200 years later, it is still not on the table.
Instead of reparations, I want both the U.K. and U.S. governments to contribute a yearly sum of money into black communities. U.K. Organisations committed to improving the lives of black boys and girls should be funded by the British government. Companies should be given grants so they can employ black staff. Businesses should be incentivised to have more black men and black women in director-level positions. For example, these businesses are given bonus payments from the government as a reward for achieving a set target of having black directors.
If the U.K. is sincerely apologetic for its terrible history of exploiting black slaves, then it will consider some of these suggestions. As they say, talk is cheap, and apologies are empty. It is only actions that matter. If Britain really wants to redeem itself of its sin, it needs to pay the price to its black communities. With black men twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than white people in the U.K., the U.K. is not paying up.
Better start opening that purse, Boris.
This post is the third part in my five-part series of blogs educating white people and all non-black races about the injustices, prejudices and conspiracies designed to oppress and encourage discrimination against black people. You can read the first two lessons here (1,2).
In this lesson, I am going to explain the often debated and very heated concept of white privilege. I am going to look at what it is, how it manifests and if anything can be done about it.
With the preamble over, let's start the third lesson.
White privilege – Once you understand it, you start seeing it a lot
For a long time, I ignored the conversation around white privilege. I did not want to be one of those black people who blame all their misfortunes on the advantages of white people and the disadvantages of their skin colour. Some within the black community do play the race card to deflect from their shortcomings, and I did not want to have that mindset.
But my perspective changed in 2015.
I remember watching the news about the Charleston church shooting in that year. A 26-year old, white male named Dylan Roff had entered an African-American church in South Carolina. He then massacred nine black church members in cold blood. The brutality of the act angered me in such a way that for two days, I was not the nicest person to have a conversation with.
It's what happened to Dylan Roff immediately after his killing spree that made me realise that I needed to take white privilege seriously. After he had been apprehended following a short manhunt, the police had given Dylan Roff a Burger King meal when he complained that he was hungry. It was then that I understood what white privilege was.
Imagine if a black male walked into a church with a predominantly white congregation and slaughtered nine white people with a machine gun. Do you think he would be given a Burger King meal afterwards? If you're struggling for an answer then let me help you: he would have probably been killed by the police immediately after they caught him.
How white privilege affects the black community in the UK
As I've said many times, the UK is a far more tolerant and sophisticated society than the US. The British judicial system is impartial, and those who commit a crime receive the most appropriate punishment, irrespective of their ethnic background. Of course, it is not always the case, but it's more often the case than it is not.
But white privilege does exist in the UK, and I am going to give two examples of it; one mainstream and one personal.
Let's start with the mainstream example. Last year, Blue Story, a film about young black men involved inner-city gang warfare, was released in cinemas across the UK. Unfortunately, a small group of teenagers incited small-scale fights during the film’s screening in Birmingham.
Following this incident, cinema chains across the UK temporarily stopped screening the film. Some of the mainstream media started attacking the violent nature of the film and how it encourages bad behaviour among young people. Now during this period, The Irishman, Martin Scorsese's violent film about a murderous hitman who worked for a white crime syndicate was also playing in cinemas. Also, on British television, we had Peaky Blinders, a TV series about a violent, white youth gang terrorising Birmingham’s street shortly after the First World War.
Both The Irishman and Peaky Blinders are far more violent than Blue Story. Still, both received critical praise from media outlets. There were no calls to ban The Irishman from cinemas or cancel Peaky Blinders from British television screens because of their depiction of violence. Conversely, Blue Story was criticised for its supposedly excessive brutality (it's not as bloody as Peaky Blinders, trust me) and its depiction of gang culture by several media outlets.
Content about white people committing crime and violence is seen as just entertainment. But any content about black people committing the same acts is encouraging bad behaviour in our society. That is one manifestation of white privilege within mainstream culture.
Now let me give you a more personal and very recent example. Boris Johnson had announced, during his now-infamous daily updates on the COVID-19 national quarantine, that British citizens could exercise once a day. Following the Prime Minister's words, I left my house in the afternoon. I took a stroll to Cassiobury Park in Watford, which is about a 40-min walk from where I live.
Watford's town centre was teeming with people. Three police officers in the middle of the town watched as dozens of people, all white and Asian as I remember, walked through the high street. As soon as these police officers saw me, the only black person on the high street at this time, they confronted me.
Not one to antagonise police officers, I remained calm and exercised patience, as they began questioning where I was going and what my reasoning was for venturing outside. After I had calmly answered their stupid questions, they left me alone to continue my afternoon.
These police officers racially profiled me because I was a young black man. That afternoon, I saw young white men walk past them, but they did not confront them. It was me, the black man, that they had to stop for questioning. When you're white, the police are rarely suspicious of you. When you're black, for many police officers, you're suspect purely on the basis that you're a young, black male. I do not have the white privilege to protect me from their assumptions.
Can we do anything about white privilege?
White privilege gives white people an advantage over other ethnic groups, particularly black people. Being white enables white people to have access to certain benefits, to excel much quicker in their chosen fields and be protected from specific criticisms and punishments. Black people do not have these same benefits.
But here's the caveat, this is not necessarily the collective fault of all white people. History has made it this way.
The British Empire was the largest in the history of mankind. At one point it had control of over 23% of the world's population. The English had successfully conquered the world. Even though they are no long the uber power they once were, the English still dominate the world. Britain's colonisation efforts destabilised a lot of African and Caribbean countries. Therefore black people, many of whom were part of the British's Common Wealth territories, had to scatter around the world for a better quality of life. So now, many black people find themselves as a minority in many Western countries, especially in the UK.
The fact is there is a much larger white population in the UK than there is a black population. By that admission alone, white people will always have more representation and more advantage over the black community as we are rather small by comparison. We are called an ethnic minority for a reason.
However, what is essential is that the white population, particularly those in positions of power, recognise their advantage and influence, and then use this to create more opportunities for ethnic minorities. Asking the white establishment in the UK to give up their advantage is never going to happen and why would they give it up. But, they can provide a fair chance for others to be able to climb the social ladder and make the UK more of a meritocracy rather than one based on nepotism.
We can't expect the powers that be in western society to eradicate white privilege. Still, they can ensure that it does not stop ethnic minorities from fulfilling their potential.
But most importantly, those with white privilege must use it to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and justly, regardless of their skin colour.
Next lesson: Why saying ‘All Lives Matter’ is incredibly racist
Disclaimer: I have made some edits to this post as I realised I got an important date wrong.
This post is the second part in my series of blogs educating white people and all non-black races about the injustices, prejudices and conspiracies designed to oppress and encourage discrimination against black people. You can read the first lesson here.
The second lesson is about why white people and anyone who is not black for that matter cannot use the 'N-word'. To avoid putting those reading this article into a moral problem, I am not going to spell out the complete word but instead, refer to it as the 'N-word'.
So let’s begin the second lesson.
If you can say the ‘N-word', then why can’t we?
I must have been around the age of 24 when a young white male called me the N-Word to my face for the second time in my life.
It was late 2014. The Black Lives Matter movement was still in its infancy, having only been formed a year ago following the police killing of African-American teenager Treyvon Martin in 2012. It was a time when black racial injustice was still occurring, but it did not make headline news a lot. Bear in mind that social media was not yet the global beast it is today. The establishment could still control the message.
During this time, I was working at a marketing agency based in the heart of Soho. I worked closely with this white male colleague who was around the same age as me. Surprise, surprise he was from America. Now, this colleague, let's call him Dickhead, was not close to me. Still, we went out for lunch occasionally to discuss football and girls as young men in their early 20s often do.
One day, after work, myself, Dickhead and a few other colleagues were staying at the office late one evening. We had been having a serious drinking session and playing a very dodgy game called ‘Cards Against Humanity’ (look it up) in one of the meeting rooms. For some reason, and I can't remember why, but we had started discussing race.
During this group conversation, Dickhead decided to stand up and tell everyone in the meeting room “But why can’t white people say the N-word?” Even as he said this, Dickhead glanced at me. Then he fully turned to me and said “If I call you the N-word, why should it piss you off? Black people say it to other black people. It doesn't mean the same thing anymore. So why can't everyone say it?"
I am not making this up by the way. At the time, I did not confront Dickhead about this and just shrugged my shoulders and continued drinking. It was a period of my life where I wasn't very political, being more focused on making money and having a good time. But now, in hindsight, I realise I had experienced not only racism but a form of white privilege.
Ownership of the ‘N-word' and white privilege
The usage of the N-Word is still debated among the black community. A lot of black people, myself included, have reclaimed the word. We use it as either a friendly term to address another black person or in a sarcastic or snarky way depending on the context. Others in the black community feel the word carries too many negative connotations and dark history. For them, the N-word must never be spoken by any human being, black or white.
But the black community have the right to debate the use of the word. A white person or any other non-black person cannot say that word whenever they please. The use of the N-word is one thing black people have total ownership on. Can we at least have that?
When Dickhead was arguing that he has the right to use it because black people do, he was saying that from a place of white privilege. He felt, as a white male, that he is entitled to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants and to whoever he wants. After all, he's used to a world which allows him to live as he pleases without any judgement. Black people cannot relate.
I would be extremely offended if anyone who is not black called me the N-word. It's a racial slur and a hate crime.
However, merely uttering the N-word is not automatically offensive if you're white. It's the context in which the word is used. In 2018, Kendrick Lamar got into a heated exchange with a white female fan who uttered the ‘N’ word. He had asked her to sing the lyrics to ‘M.A.A.D City’ from his critically acclaimed album ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.’
Personally, and this a controversial opinion among the black community, I felt Kendrick Lamar was wrong to scold the fan for using the N-word. If the word is part of a lyric of a song which he has written then is a non-black person supposed to censor themselves when the N-word pops up during the song? Or if a non-black person is reading a book aloud and the N-word appears, are they supposed to not say it?
It can become a bit too overbearing if black writers and rappers are demanding that non-black people never say the N-word but then frequently use it in their art.
Using the N-word to address a black person if you're white or any other race that is not black is wrong, and that is non-negotiable. However, saying the word if it's in the context of a lyric or in a book is acceptable. But this is my opinion on the matter. I do not speak for all black people.
Remember, not every black person feels the same way as I do. Black people are individuals. We are not a bunch of ants with a hive mentality.
Next lesson: White privilege and can white people do anything about it?
Although it's cringe that I am writing this, black people are having their '#metoo' moment. That is to say that the tragic and horrifying killing of George Floyd has given the Black Lives Matter movement an unprecedented global momentum in the same way the exposure and subsequent downfall of Harvey Weinstein did for the modern feminist movement.
White people, for once, are genuinely listening and responding. This moment feels different. Before all this, it felt like educated white people would only pay lip service to the injustice black people experienced without admitting their own unconscious bias, yet now they appear to be confronting the issue of racism, not only within their ranks but within themselves.
So to help white people understand the injustices, prejudices and conspiracies designed to hold black people back, I will be writing a series of blogs this week to educate white people on various untruths about black people.
So let the class begin. Lesson one: ‘Why Black on black crime is a myth’
The insidious meaning behind the myth of ‘Black on black crime’
Black-on-black crime is the biggest load of bullocks since someone thought the Earth was flat.
The very idea of black-on-black crime is nonsense. It does not exist.
The problem with using ‘black-on-black’ crime to describe or to group offences by black people towards other black people is that it implies that this sort of behaviour is unique to the black race. Pick up any tabloid newspaper, and it talks about the "black-on-black" stabbing pandemic that is tearing through London's streets. It's another way to make black people seem more barbaric than other races.
Think about it. When a white man murders another white man, and this happens a lot because black people do not commit all murders in the UK, the media do not call this white-on-white crime. If a Chinese man steals from another Chinese man and then kills him, the media do not label this Chinese-on-Chinese crime. It's not called a Chinese murder. It's simply called murder. End of.
The very term 'black-on-black' communicates that the crimes committed by black people are far more atrocious than the same crimes committed by any other race. If one black man stabs another black man and he dies, suddenly it’s an issue across the whole black community.
Black-on-black crime is utilised by the powers that be to distract attention from the injustices and unfairness that black people experience. Racist white people use it whenever they begin to feel uncomfortable when they realise black people are systematically held back by society. To avoid the uneasiness of the truth, white people will say "yeah but black people stab other black people" as if this justifies the inequality black people face.
I must admit that, not so long ago, I was hoodwinked by this nonsense. As someone who consumes mainstream media a lot, it was easy for this consistent myth of black-on-black crime to make its way into my head and masquerade as the truth. I used to think that black men killing other black men was just a problem within the black community. Imagine that. That’s the power of the media.
So to conclude today’s lesson, Black-on-black crime is a myth. It does not exist. There is only human-on-human crime.
Next lesson: Why white people can't use the 'N' word...