What does culture mean to you?

Culture.  A word that has the ability to instantly spark discussions and create waves.  This is how I knew that The Kickback on October 24th was set to be a brilliant one and it did not disappoint – this was definitely one of our best conversations yet.

The conversation was led by Paul Macey, a man of mixed race who grew up in Burnley and was adopted by a white family.   He started off the night by sharing his own cultural experience growing up – “I started off by being identified as half-caste and coloured.  Then it was mixed race.  Then it was dual identity.”  Paul emphasised that culture is something that we can too easily get fixed on and that it should be quite fluid – “Black is not one thing, it is many things.  Asian is not one thing.”

Paul then opened up the conversation for everyone else to get involved, asking what we feel the difference is between generations.  Jenniah was the first to speak, telling us that he thinks you’ll see an imposition of what black culture really is through the media.  Tegan spoke next, saying “I think it would be important for us to define what culture is… You [Paul] said something really interesting about culture being fluid.”

For Alana, talking about culture is not about race.  “I see people based on the character of their soul… Culture is more spiritual,” she explained to us.  When it came to Gus he said, “One thing I’d say about culture is it’s very hard to define,” as he thinks that things are always being tampered with and taken to different places.  However, Susan thinks that culture is finding your own true self.

Picking up on a point Gus made about cultural appropriation, Tegan expressed that “there’s a difference between appreciation and appropriation.”  She referred to cultural appropriation as a nuance and gave the example of Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus using black women as props in their music videos.

Paul later gave us food for thought, saying, “It’s interesting how much culture can flourish in the face of discrimination” and “Sometimes culture is silenced.”

As we spoke more about the perception of culture or blackness, Andrae raised the question, “What does black sound like?”  He also provided an answer to his own question, saying, “I think we have to adopt to society” and that it seems like slang is more associated with black people.

The conversation later shifted to what it’s like being black British.  Susan thinks that it can be really difficult for black-British people and African-Americans to find out who you are, as you can go to school and be at home, and have to be different people.  I shared that although I may see myself as British, I do not see myself as European and refer to myself as West Indian.  However, Tegan does not even see herself as British, but rather as a Londoner.

As we spoke more about identity, Boy Nash strongly expressed, “We live in a society and in a system that does not work.”  He told us that it’s up to you to find your strength, define your standards and define your truth, as “we all have our own truth.”

Boy Nash also believes “culture has divided us to some extent” and he thinks that “maybe we should help push each other’s culture and respect each other’s culture.”  Alana thinks that most of the problems we see would be solved if there was less segregation and more love.  Jenniah also made a very interesting point in regards to love: “Being kind and loving is a  powerful tool.  Weakness comes when we don’t combine love and knowledge with the game.”

Paul later asked us how we felt about Black History Month and if we think it helps the conversation.  Tegan thinks that Black History Month could be important for non-black people, while Jenniah thinks it gives time for reflection and that we need to shape the discussion.  Tamar said, “I don’t feel like it added any value to who my identity is… [but] we have to start teaching our children and our youth about their history from a very early age.”

Gus feels Black History Month is a double-edged sword, and Hakeem does not think that it has helped the cause – “I feel like we’re settling.”  Susan believes that it depends on how you perceive Black History Month, seeing it as “us organising events together”

However, Jenniah said, “The dangerous thing is that it dissociates us from general history.  We start to see ourselves as bubble-wrapped and disenfranchised from knowledge.”  Boy Nash also counteracted this point by saying, “We have to play the game here.  The system is cooked.  We have to use that one month wisely.”

To finish up the conversation, Paul asked us to share a positive word on culture that could empower and inspire others.  I’m going to end on some of those gems, which I hope will inspire all of you:

  • “Pressure makes diamonds.” – Gus
  • Be proud of who you are everyday.  Don’t just wait until October.  Everyone’s unique.  Just find the uniqueness within yourself. – Mac
  • “I’m not here to fit into your world.  I’m here to build mine.” – Alana
  • “You’re powerful.” – Jenniah
  • “Knowledge isn’t power.  Applied knowledge is power.” – Boy Nash
  • Know thyself and love thyself.  It’s only through self-love that we’ll heal our people. – Tamar

The Kickback will return on November 21st when we’ll be talking Online Dating, which I’m sure will be an incredibly different but also interesting conversation.  I’m looking forward to it already.

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