Having completed a dissertation in Black British writing, I was faced with a body of work that looked at the significance of the black experience post 1945 in Britain. It was great to see how authors of teh modern age spoke about their experiences as black people in England and the different effects and reflections the authors had, or portrayed as a result. I enjoyed reading the wind rush pieces and council flat beginnings because it gave me a glimpse into a history I was not part of but played such a large impact on the life I live today. The authors were able to recreate their eras and simply speak about what otherpeople went through and it just so happened that the people they were writing about were black. Today reading different blogs and articles it seems like we are losing that authenticity and reflection on life itself. Instead the focus is largely on the blackness and then life is dropped in as an afterthought. I am beginning to question if we are replacing writing British for righting black.
So what is the difference between writing black vs writing British? Writing British is simply writing about life experiences, writing black is forcing an agenda and plays an emphasis on the fact that being black is the focus. The Black British voice has never really built a strong presence and following in the UK and abroad although through the likes of Benjamin Zephaniah, Caryl Phillips, Andrea Levy, Malorie Blackman and many others, the genre is gaining momonetum. It is great the the black experience is getting a platform and other cultures are therefore able to be informed and appreciate a vast and unique culture. However having read my own blog description and several other blogs written by black people I am growing increasingly worried that the focus has become on writing black instead of simply writing our experiences (in My case British) and showing my life that way.
For several centuries black people have fought for the right to be seen as more than black and now that this is finally happening, we want to be seen as black. Strange. To make things clear, I am not for one moment saying that being black is not important, and that we should all play colour blind because that would be silly. I understand that my blackness permeates everything I do and is foundational to who I am. Now it is for this reason that I am starting to think that my work does not have to shout I am black all the time, once people know my ethnicity, the fact that I am black will immediately be taken into account. Are you with me?
Literature has and still is about the human experience, it is about seeing the way the author interprets society, philosophy, culture and everything in between. It is a great mode of expression and if you ask me, one of the best ways to get to know oneself better and reflect on life. Taking the time to formulate sentences, think through experience and apply retrospect does wonders for the mind, soul and body. I want my writing to speak about my experience and not be written in such a way that I box and pigeon hole myself. There is a difference between political writing and Marxist like manifestos and on the black agenda we are beginning to blur the lines.
On that note I am going to change my blog description.