To celebrate Black History Month and the 75th anniversary of Windrush we have been working with the New Art Exchange and their NAE YOUnity Commission funded by Freelands Foundation. Our aim is to highlight the voices of Nottingham's Windrush generation and some of the challenges they faced...
My dad Ezra was from Beckford Kraal in Jamaica and came over to the UK on a boat in 1953, settled in Nottingham and had a child. My mum was from a place nearby called Thompson Town. She came over in 1961 by plane, lived in Manchester for a little while and then moved to Notts where she had her first two children. They met over here, and they fell in love and had two more kids together here, myself and my sister. Both my parents also had children before they came over to the UK. Those siblings were left with my grandparents in Jamaica, while my mother and father tried to establish themselves in the UK, with the plan being for them to come over once they had settled. This is known by some as ‘Barrell Children’.
I was born here in 1970 and grew up on Burford Road in Forest Fields, which was like the Harlem of Nottingham at the time. As a kid it was a great place to live and we were out on the streets from dusk till dawn, playing curby, dobby and kick the can with kids of various races and colours.
There were a lot of Black and mixed-race families on our street, as well as lots of Pakistani and Indian families, and the Hyson Green flats were just round the corner. Obviously there were a lot of white people too, but it was a nice multicultural mix and there were quite a lot of West Indian and Caribbean events and culture.
I started out in music by rapping at school with my friends. I took it a bit more seriously than most though, which is probably why I'm still doing It (music production not rapping). We had a little crew called the MC’s Logik and we toured with Queen Latifah and De La Soul, and had a record deal with the legendary house music DJ Graeme Park. Since then I've done production for people like Klashnekoff, Terri Walker, Estelle and John Legend, Melonyx, Rodney P and many more.
To me Windrush is an unfinished journey that started when we were taken from the motherland
When I grew up there was a Black music magazine called Black Echoes, and they had a Black music chart which had UB40 and Lisa Stansfield in it. Over the years more white artists would make Black music. Subsequently, people within the music industry felt uncomfortable with the term Black music and it became known as ‘urban’ music. However, if I was making Chinese food it would still be Chinese food, right? On the plus side UK music does allow for quite a lot of blending of styles by being such a melting pot. Genres like jungle, drum and bass or grime just wouldn’t have been nurtured and allowed to thrive in America in the same way. Whereas they were all able here due to British multiculturalism and the impact of Black culture.
I’ve been back to Jamaica during the last year, after my mother passed away. We buried her up in the hills in Thompson Town, which is what she wanted, and it was quite a spiritual experience. The last time I was out there was seven years ago and before that was when I took my son for his 18th birthday - he’s in his 30’s now. I also visited Jamaica when I was 13, (that was a long time ago) when my grandmother was still around.
To me, Windrush is an unfinished journey that started when we were taken from the motherland. Arriving in the Caribbean and leaving en masse to our enslaver’s motherland is just a part of the journey, as we will all eventually find our way back home to Africa. I did a DNA ancestry test and found out that I was 75% Nigerian, with the rest being from Senegal, Mali, Ghana and Burkina Faso. Basically, I am 100% African, but somehow through Windrush and whatever happened before slavery, my Caribbean ancestry is Maroon. This would explain why I don’t have any European Heritage, as Maroons fought the enslavers and lived in the hills.
I was born and brought up here in Nottingham and have lived in the UK my whole life, but given my heritage it is mind blowing that I speak English, and have a name like Richard Douglas. I think it’s important for all young Black people in the UK to learn about not just Caribbean history, but African history too. Like it or not, we’ve had an inferiority complex enforced on us for many years by never being taught about the history of our people. It takes a long time to get rid of those shackles. I doubt we’ll ever see a Black Prime Minister in the UK in my lifetime, but it will be an amazing example for children if and when that finally happens.
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