New Forest Beauty

Struggling With My Identity As A Black Woman In The UK

I have lived most of my life in the UK—Wales, more specifically—and I have loved every minute of it. I have made friends here and lived what I can only describe as a full life, but the more I dig within myself, the more I start to realize how much I have buried certain struggles. I have often looked in the mirror and thought, “Who am I?” or “Who do I want to be?” I think we all have, but for me, this question held a certain pain and was also a burden.

Growing up in the UK was an amazing opportunity, but it did not come without its challenges. I was obviously different from most of the people I went to school with because I was Black, but as a child, you are very naïve in seeing such differences until they are pointed out to you. I like to say I was a “whitewashed” child as I grew up in a predominantly White country without knowing much about where I was from, only growing up with British ideals. I was taught that I was a British child and that I had to be proud of my British history. British and American history were all I was taught in school, and the only thing I knew of African history was slavery, oppression, and struggle. In my mind, I thought, “Why would I want to be associated with that?” I never bothered to ask my parents more about who we were, and so the more history I learned, the more I turned away from who I was. I was Black only in skin and the rest of me was British, but I could never be both. I wanted to associate myself with success and achievement, and in my mind, I would not achieve that as long as I was African.

It was only as I grew older that I started to recognize my responsibility as an African. It was my responsibility as a Black person to find out more about my identity and who I was, and if education would not teach me, I would teach myself. The beauty of African history is that it is vast, and while not talked about as frequently as other histories, it is quite easy to get a hold of if you look for it. Now, I am not talking about the history of oppression and struggle—that is all we are taught in mainstream schools—but the African history that celebrates our successes and the powerful men and women who made the continent what it is. For the first time in my life, I sat down with my parents and asked them who I was and where I came from, and the more I learned, the more I started to understand my identity. Suddenly, the fight of trying to choose who I was became more of a balance.

As much as I loved the country and city I had come to live in, I could not deny and forget where I had come from. I had to love my origin as much as I loved where I had come to settle. I think the world has this view of Africa, that we are a people who struggle, have been taken advantage of, and are oppressed. It is a narrative I would like to change if I can. We are a resilient people, a people who, despite adversity, have managed to still stand. I never want to be ashamed of where I come from, because it is who I am. It is my DNA. I am not only Welsh and Black, but I am Africa.

When I achieve all I achieve, I want people to be able to see that I, a girl from Africa, from a small mining town called Mufulira, managed to go beyond the world’s expectations of me and my skin color. I was not another statistic; I was not just another narrative to be told. I was more. I am more and I will be more.

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