Young, Welsh and Black: The stories of four people and their lives growing up in Wales

 admin   2020-06-29 12:04   315 人阅读  0 条评论

The summer of 2020 has seen a massive shift in the way people in Wales think about equality.

Thousands turned out for Black Lives Matter protests and marches, which were held in numerous locations, including Cardiff, Newport, Swansea, Chepstow, Abergavenny.

People are reading books and asking questions, learning what's appropriate and generally trying to educate themselves to just be better.

If the Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted anything in the UK - it's that racism does exists, in many forms, whether it's implicit or explicit.

According to Stats Wales, Wales has a population of 3.1 million - and roughly 186,600 are BAME people. That's a higher number than the whole population of Wales' third largest city, Newport.

But growing up as a black person in Wales can see challenges arise that not everyone has to face.

Some people might not even be aware of the subtle racism that exists - more than one person we spoke to called them "micro-aggressions" - but there are issues faced by people in the black community that form barriers to the simplest aspects of their everyday lives.

"It's microagressions most of the time and it's really hard to explain them to people," said 34-year-old Liana Stewart.

The freelance producer and director, who has made a few powerful short films on the impact of George Floyd's killing has had on the people in the UK (watch them here), added: "Often you can't prove it, you just know."

Young, Welsh and Black: The stories of four people and their lives growing up in Wales 广东11选5  第1张Liana Stewart is a director and producer from Butetown, Cardiff (Image: Andrew McNeill)

She gives an example of a time she was on work experience in Wales, where she had clearly been wronged, but felt it wouldn't be right to call out the person.

Liana, who now spends her time between Cardiff and London, said: "This woman was calling a name, and getting closer to me. I realised the name she was calling was the name of the only other black person in the building - which was not me.

"I didn't turn around, because it's not my name, and because I didn't turn around she grabbed my arm and was like 'I'm talking to you'.

"I was like: 'Oh, that's not my name,' and instead of apologising - which is what you'd do to anyone - she said: 'Well you all look so alike'.

"And that is awful to say to someone - she had short hair, I had long hair, for one.

"You can't say anything either because you're the minority and if you say anything, you're the one who is the aggressor.

"If I had said something, she would've got upset and she'd be the victim and I wouldn't. That's how it always plays - you're the problem.

"I never told anyone, apart from the other black person who I was mistaken for. You just laugh at it. You have to laugh otherwise you'd cry all the time.

"It's something that happens all the time.

"You feel like you have the weight of every black person on your shoulders. In every job, in every situation. You feel like you have to represent everyone else. So you're conscious of that.

"So you want to make sure you're extra nice, you're extra polite, because you feel like you need to be."

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Growing up in Butetown, Cardiff, Liana said she wasn't really aware of racism until she was older, because the area was so multicultural.

She said: "I didn't face any racism growing up - I actually wasn't aware there were issues with the way people looked and their skin colour because I grew up in a really multicultural community.

"So when I first learnt about racism at school I was horrified - I had no idea about slavery or anything.

"I went to Mount Stuart Primary School, and we had a black headteacher, Betty Campbell and she also lived in the community.

"She taught us black history, which wasn't being taught anywhere else as far as I know in any other primary schools in Wales - it wasn't part of the curriculum in Wales.

"But she enforced it because she had so many minority kids in her school. In fact I would say you didn't feel like you were a minority in that school - or in my community - because everyone was different.

"I never felt like a minority at all until I started working.

"A lot of people, where I grew up, would use different addresses, because they felt other people were prejudiced against people from Butetown - this was before the gentrification. "

Young, Welsh and Black: The stories of four people and their lives growing up in Wales 广东11选5  第4张Young, Welsh and Black: The stories of four people and their lives growing up in Wales 广东11选5  第5张Video Loading Video Unavailable Click to play Tap to play The video will start in8Cancel Play now

At 16, Liana left Butetown and moved to Grangetown. After going to uni in Newport, she then left for London to pursue her career.

But she was much younger when she first experienced racism personally.

She said: "My first racist experience was actually when I was nine, in town. There was a rugby match on and someone didn't see me in the back of a taxi and he just said to the driver 'get the n***** out of the car'.

"I knew it was bad but I'd never experienced that before and didn't realise how bad it was.

"That was an adult man. It was shocking.

"The taxi driver didn't take the money and apologised and that's really when I realised it must have been a really bad thing."

Young, Welsh and Black: The stories of four people and their lives growing up in Wales 广东11选5  第6张Nathan Palmer is fashion designer in Penarth (Image: WalesOnline/ Rob Browne)

Nathan Palmer is a fashion designer in Penarth. He grew up in Canton, Cardiff, but says his experience was quite different to Liana's, who grew up in a multi-cultural Butetown.

Growing up, Nathan said he constantly faced questions about where he was from, even after explaining he lived in Canton and was born in a nearby Cardiff hospital.

He said: "It seems like a general introduction. People ask "are you from Africa?" And I say why would you assume I'm from Africa, my heritage is the Caribbean. It's all down to education really, and perspective of where a black person would automatically be from."

He says he still receives these sorts of questions now.

"Growing up being black in Wales, it feels like people automatically feel safer if they know I'm Welsh. Like stereotypes are eliminated.

"It's not a nice way to live. Just so the person you're engaging with can feel at ease with you.

Nathan believes that positive things have come from the tragic murder of George Floyd in America. He said: "It has highlighted that there are so many types of racism.

"Obviously you have the racism that's blatant and in your face and then you have corporate racism, there's still racism in schools. For me it's worked out to be positive but it's come about the wrong way.

"It's had to come from the worst of circumstances."

Nathan said his line of work is based on merit but generally there are "glass ceilings" in place for black people.

"You have to work harder," he explains.

"I'm lucky that I'm in an industry in which I get judged, but judged on my work.

"It is unfair as a black person that it's not always the case. It's just what I'm used to."

Young, Welsh and Black: The stories of four people and their lives growing up in Wales 广东11选5  第7张Nathan doesn't believe things will change in his lifetime (Image: WalesOnline/ Rob Browne)

But it's not just in his career he's had to work hard. Nathan explains that after leaving a fairly multi-cultural primary school, he faced issues - that he couldn't really talk to anyone about - in high school.

He said that when he went to high school, that's when he "could identify that racism was a thing."

Nathan said: "I was one of only two or three black kids in the whole school and you'd get highlighted for absolutely anything. Good or bad.

"If you had done something good, it was a case of 'Oh he's doing it for the brothers' even though there were no other 'brothers' there."

When asked who would be saying that - surely not the teachers - Nathan replied: "Do you know what, you'd be surprised by some of the remarks the teachers would make.

"But they would do it in jest. And because the teachers were doing it, the pupils found it acceptable to do - so what do you do?

"There's not much you can do, half the time you have to bite your lip."

"People will say, 'it's just a joke, we're not trying to be offensive' but of course it's offensive. If it's making me feel a certain way, it's not good for me is it?

"And then I've got these messages growing up, right the way through life, even when I've grown up."

Young, Welsh and Black: The stories of four people and their lives growing up in Wales 广东11选5  第8张Nathan with his two boys (Image: WalesOnline/ Rob Browne)

Nathan said he tries to give off a good impression as he believes other black people may be judged by his actions.

"I'm a dad of three children, I've got two young boys, he said. "I always have to mind my Ps and Qs because I know that I have little ones coming after me.

"I have to be a role model for them."

He also believes that unless educational changes are made, certain views towards black people won't, despite the progress made by the Black Lives Matter movement.

"Unless it's eradicated in schools - and the parents of the children in these schools are on the same wave length - people will go back to their old views.

"Even when I go to my children's school, there's never black history around - I've spoken to the head teacher before, it'd be great if that could change.

"It's going to be an uphill climb. Change won't be in my lifetime."

Andrew Ogun is a 22-year-old from Newport. He was the driving force behind the peaceful Black Lives Matters march in his home city.

He also believes that there are many forms of racism - and that over here in Wales, it's different to what we see in America. It's different but it's still a problem, which is why he felt it was important to get involved with the Black Lives Matter campaign.

He said: "In the US it's explicit, in the UK it's implicit. Implicit bias is an issue.

"It's more subtle."

Young, Welsh and Black: The stories of four people and their lives growing up in Wales 广东11选5  第9张Andrew Ogun, one of the organisers of the Black Lives Matter march in Newport (Image: Andrew Ogun)

Andrew talked about one of the first times he experienced this subtle unfair treatment in Newport. He was just 14 years old.

He said he was hanging out with friends, all of various ages, and he was searched by police as the only black person in the group.

Other friends had alcohol but he didn't. The next day, he said he had a letter telling him he had to attend an antisocial behaviour session and was shocked to find out that not one of his white friends received the same letter.

Andrew said: "It's disheartening. It's a stark reminder of your race - it hits you like a lightning bolt.

"When I got off the phone with my mates and they all told me they didn't have letters, I just sat there and my mum just sat there and we both knew exactly why."

"I literally hit me like a lightning bolt."

Connor Allen also grew up in Newport. He's a 27-year-old actor and writer and said growing up was "a mixture of different experiences".

"I was very lucky to grow up on a multi-racial council estate where race wasn’t a big issue so that was a relief," he said.

"And I had many friends that I would play with and hang around with who never cared about me being mixed race. So it wasn’t really a huge issue at times when I was growing up."

But Connor, who's also an Associate Artist at the Riverfront Theatre in Newport, admitted it wasn't always plain sailing.

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He said: "I had occasional remarks of “you're not really black though are you” or “stop trying to be black Con, you're white” as one would try to compare skin complexions with me.

"That was confusing as to me I saw myself as mixed race, part of the black community and part of the white community but many people just saw my light skinned complexion and saw me as white so a lot of those ignorant remarks and micro-aggressions filled my growing up.

"Looking back a lot of what I should’ve picked up on was the opinions and reactions to hair, especially my afro once I started to grow it out.

"Having random people stare because its not the 'norm' or because its different. Random strangers wanting to grab my hair and feel it like it's some sort of attraction for the amusement of others.

"Now that I’m older I recognise the impact that it has and how best to deal with it but as a young kid/teenager that’s very hard to understand when you’re already struggling with where you fit in the world that is predominately white and that’s only half of your experience."

He added that the first time he remembers facing obvious racism was at school. He explained that children were calling him "a monkey because I have a fat nose and having monkey noises aimed at me by other kids."

He added: "I just remember being confused; like that doesn’t make any sense and going home to mum and her trying to explain where it stems from."

Young, Welsh and Black: The stories of four people and their lives growing up in Wales 广东11选5  第12张Connor Allen from Newport (Image: Mark Douet)

As far as his career is concerned, he doesn't think racism - or positive discrimination - have played parts in him getting to where he is.

His race, and the things he's faced because of it, have shaped him though.

He said: "Race has been a huge help in terms of giving me the upbringing and background I have had, and with that comes an array of knowledge and experience which has only helped my artistry and helped propel my authenticity and voice.

"If I wasn’t mixed race then I wouldn’t have had the years of adversity and upbringing that has moulded me into the man I am today. And so much of who I am is part of the challenges I had growing up.

"But I completely understand when a lot of black and mixed race people talk of imposter syndrome in the arts and thinking they only get opportunities because they tick some box or because they are part of this BAME umbrella and not because of their talent.

"So its a difficult line to tread at times."

Young, Welsh and Black: The stories of four people and their lives growing up in Wales 广东11选5  第13张Connor is an actor and writer (Image: Kirsten Mcternan)

Back in Cardiff, Liana explains there are things people can do.

"I'd encourage people to do some research and actually listen," she said. You can have an opinion on race, nobody is saying you can't.

"All we're asking you to do, as the black community - and I'm sure I'm speaking for the other minorities here in Wales - just listen to us and engage in a conversation. We're not scary.

"There are plenty of books out there. You can read and you can talk to people. If you know someone who's black, engage in a conversation, ask them what it's been like, ask them what difference you can make.

"It's the best way to learn; if you were travelling to a new country, what would you do? You'd read a blog, read a book, ask people what it was like.

"It's the same with race."

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