Posted in Blog, Creative Writing, Personal, Writing

Getting All Mixed Up While Filling In The Census Form

It’s that time again.

Time to break my arms and legs,

let myself fit neatly and uncomfortably into the ethnicity box on a form.

For many years,

I’ve ummed and ahhed about how all the stars in the sky that fell down and created my human form can be categorised.

Brown eyes that have been to many continents,

rambunctious round strands of her that won’t sit down, because these curls have tales,

things to tell you, that you wouldn’t believe.

A skilled tongue, that pleases everyone she meets, in many languages (okay, three and a half), so what do I call her?

Which box do I tick?

My nose is thick and prominent,

once marked for surgery but now begrudgingly accepted,

but I don’t know how to tell the census that I’m not sure if she came from my Mum or my Dad.

My pen is staring up at me,

not knowing what to make of me,

and I am staring back,

with a varied background,

not knowing what to make of me either.

Once again, I am not English, apparently,

because the form says that is only for whites,

and I’m only half right for the red and white flag,

so down the form I go,

to the land of minority ethnics and mullatos.

What the fuck will my kids tick?

I suppose it depends on who I fuck,

and how many drops of their grandfather find their way into their blood from mine.

Shall I curse them to endless umming and ahhing at presumptuous and preclusive boxes,

or will their road be easier, brighter and white passing?

It’s just a form, I suppose.

Just a box ticking exercise,

so I shouldn’t think about it too much,

because I don’t have time for an identity crisis today,

but I am a map, with many pins,

and this is a small box, with a small mind,

that isn’t ready for someone like me.

I don’t think it will ever be ready for someone like me.

Posted in Blog, Personal, Thoughts On Writing, Writing

Happy Birthday, Maya Angelou.

Angelou_Obama

 

When I was twelve, I first read “Gather Together In My Name” by Maya Angelou. I was reading her books in the wrong order, I know, but it was the first one I came across in my quest to discover more about black literature, and learn more about my heritage.

There have been times in my life, where I, as a biracial person haven’t felt black in any way, times, when I’ve felt black throughout my entire body, and times, when I feel like an awkward, but accepting mixture of black and white. I know the actual blackness, or right to claim blackness of biracial people is a difficult, divisive, and sometimes sensitive subject for people. I’m not going to tell you I have all the answers, I absolutely don’t, but what I will tell you, is that reading the work of Maya Angelou, even in the wrong order, gave me a peace and acceptance that I wish I had owned from the start of my life.

I was never given much black literature to study during school, and that was where I got most of my reading material. It wasn’t until GCSE English classes when a few poems by black writers sat shyly behind the blindingly white majority in the AQA Anthology, that I discovered it in the curriculum, but before that, at the age of twelve, I grew impatient, and determined to learn more about myself and since I loved to read, that seemed the obvious place to start. I knew black writing probably existed, and much further back than the Anthology would have me believe. How could it not? Black people existed, and they all had voices, no matter who tried to silence them. Where there are voices, there is literature.

There was a lot, that at the age of twelve, and probably even now, I hadn’t experienced. There was however a lot contained in “Gather In My Name” that I could relate to. I found understanding, in so many things that nobody had ever been able to explain to me before. It isn’t that people never tried, but there are some things that just can’t be articulated by someone who has never experienced it, and probably never will. I had spent years reading one half of my life, and feeling there was a part of me missing, before discovering that all the questions, insecurities and mysteries of the other half had been answered, loudly and beautifully, through the literature of Maya Angelou. I read through everything of hers I could find, before delving into more and more black writers, addicted to learning about my other family and the black community that I had exiled myself from, due to a naïve, afraid, untrue belief that I couldn’t be a part of it. I finally had the confidence to ask if I could be included in the other side of myself, after feeling I had no right to.

I felt more connected to my father’s side of the family. We had shared nationality and language, but I never felt we shared race before, because while I had (and still have) some black features, and a black parent, I felt separated. Maybe we still don’t share race, according to some, and maybe I will never truly know or experience life as a black woman (again, this comes down to how you define blackness, but that is another blog post, really), but I felt closer, not by speaking, but by listening, reading, and learning. The half of my life I had never reached before was finally with me, and I felt complete. The isolation of only understanding one side of myself was lifted, and while my identity was still growing, I could feel it was closer and clearer than ever before.

There are realities for black women that will never be my own, due to the privileges afforded to me, as a biracial woman, but the things we do share, I have been able to understand, and discuss, and that never would have been possible, without picking up that first (actually second, but…) Maya Angelou autobiography, and so, on what would have been her eighty eighth birthday, I am thankful for Maya Angelou, for helping me understand myself, and who I could be.

RECENT WORK

Casa Azul
What Jen Did Next

Portraits From The Pier

COME FIND ME
TWITTER
INSTAGRAM