Every now and again I watch something that reminds me of the 70s and my childhood.. the struggles with identity, the internalised anger, frustration and heartache caused by external events, politics, racism and indifference of those around me who saw me as an ‘outsider’ .. a vagrant, an immigrant, a ‘visitor’ at best.
Then I watch the latest episode of Small Axe – a British anthology film series, created and directed by Steve McQueen.
The anthology consists of five films which tell distinct stories about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London during the 1960s and 1970s.
The series premiered on 15 November 2020 on BBC One in the United Kingdom and on 20 November 2020 on Amazon Prime Video in the United States.
The title references a proverb – “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe” – that was popularised by Bob Marley in his song “Small Axe“.
I was born in Kampala, Uganda, have Indian (rather than Pakistani, which I feel segregates me from my original homeland) heritage and grew up in England initially in a children’s home where life was very challenging.. in ways that Alex Wheatle (Small Axe, Episode 4) might be able to relate. It’s amazing how watching a drama about someone else’s situation and history, can surface both pain, suffering and joy – all at once.
Ironically, I felt I had more in common with ‘white’ people than ‘my own kind’. I say often to some of the people I work with, that I speak (only) English, think in English, am accustomed to English values and traditions, but happen to be a ‘bit tanned’ cause I’m also white really (albeit in my head or as my alter ego).
Growing up, I was the first in my family to get an education, (9 ‘O’ Levels, 3 ‘A’ Levels) and make it to university (I went to THREE!). At university, I never sat still. I engaged in community & voluntary work, took charge of and led student societies and rarely slept. I felt I wanted to be an active part of the many voices, ideologies, protestations and social angst around me .. only to find, it’s all nonsense. I see ‘the same old same old’ today .. sadly, little has changed in the last decade compared to when I was younger. The 80s-90s in my opinion were ground breaking. Many of the younger generation today live in comparative luxury and rarely use their time, voice or youth to better society. In my humble opinion of course!
We spend much of our lives searching for who we are inside .. expressing and representing ourselves externally as one thing and being something entirely different in private. Few build up the courage to (eventually) show who they really are .. many often choose death (natural or suicide) rather than ‘face the music’ — disbelief, feigned surprise, judgemental voices, pointed fingers (and worse). So many famous celebrities have provided examples of what I’m describing. And it never gets easier no matter what generation you’re born into.
Then, once part of the adult world, life lessons truly begin. Navigating amongst an ocean full of all contradictory influences, characters, “ism’s”, philosophies, religions, and institutions, takes its toll before you find your place and (if you’re fortunate, some type of) equilibrium is restored — resulting in either a form of acceptance or denial of who you want to be or who your willing to accept you are supposed to be, living by other people’s standards.
After so many years, and now married with my own children (3 boys), I’m finally (beginning) to feel comfortable with who I am and feel blessed to be part of a multicultural Britain. Ironic, how those who now come to Britain do so without any real appreciation or respect of others who came before them. Guess this is a sign of the times and also an example of changing attitudes, sense of entitlement, and so on.
Now that I am 50 years old, I’m beginning to recognise the sacrifices, ingenuity and vision of the people who came before me .. irrespective of their colour, creed or class. That includes the ‘white’ British people who were decent, open minded and accepting of change.. and in some cases, even helped to promote it. Guess this is a matter of opinion which may be coloured by your own personal experiences.
After too many years of trying to give back and struggling to my place amongst my extended family and professional community, I am finally (!) doing something for ME.
I have written my first book — Understanding the Role of Artificial Intelligence and Its Future Social Impact — and continue to explore my inner genius. Forever conscious of making the most of who I am and what I have inside of me.
If you’d like to know a bit more about me and what drives me, check out my profile on IGI Global, my book publisher. If you want to learn more .. get in touch.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope it inspires and enables you to discover and bring to the surface your inner genius.
God bless. Peace & much love.