More Than Just a Month
During the course of my lifetime, I have experienced first-hand the drawbacks and benefits of being a black [Nigerian] person living in the U.K. In primary school, no one wanted to be “African”. It was a term the other children used to mock you – that includes the other black children who were of Caribbean descent.
As a child who strongly believed in right and wrong with little room for shades of grey, pretending to be from the Caribbean when you were not, always struck me as a strange thing to do. Facts were facts after all. But looking back on the experience as I aged, I understood. It was a form of survival.
Perhaps it did not occur to me to pretend along with the other children because I was not persecuted the way they were. I did not have an African first name, I had an ambiguous sounding surname (albeit Nigerian) and my accent was very British, so the other kids left me alone. That experience taught me about hierarchy and intersectional privilege.
It finally became cool to be African and more specifically Nigerian, by the time I got to university. The thing I believe tipped the scale in our favour was music. Whether you understand the lyrics or not, music has a universal language that unites people.
In 2010 a musical movement called Afrobeats (the ‘s’ is very important) hailing from Nigeria with a rather distinct sound, began gaining traction. In 2012, a track named Oliver Twist by an artist called D’Banj reached number nine in the U.K. charts. I also heard it playing in an episode of EastEnders and that is when I really knew Afrobeats had infiltrated mainstream music.
Afrobeats, not to be confused with Afrobeat – which was created in the late 1960s by Nigerian artist and activist Fela Kuti, has developed into something that now dominates playlists and radio stations across the globe.
Music is an important part of everyday life in Africa (and on other continents that are home to black people). It is part of festivals, religious ceremonies and social events. Songs and often specific lyrics are used to mark significant events in a person’s life such as birth, adolescence, marriage and death).
Black history is more than just American history and tales of slavery. It is far reaching, diverse and highly nuanced. For me it is appreciating the fact that Afrobeats paved the way in the UK for my cousins and other black children – not just of Nigerian descent, to proudly shout about their culture because there is nothing wrong with being black
Assumpta Vitcu is a London based British-Nigerian Poet, Writer plus Wedding and Special Event Planner. Her work has been featured within Praxis Magazine and a number of publications including the Aké Review and POSTSCRIPT. Assumpta’s writing centers on love, loss, life-lessons and loneliness. She is passionate about showcasing the multicultural experience in the homogeneous mainstream wedding industry. Instagram: @byavecreations | YouTube: https://www.youtube.