by
on April 18, 2014 on 4/18/14 from ,

Homesickness, Historical Perspectives, Black History, & Easter At The Youth Center

This week has been a little harder. Home sickness has began to really set in. I miss my family and friends terribly. Thankfully, my partner has been sending me pictures and talking to me regularly and that has helped. It’s strange being the outsider in a foreign place. Especially a place that seems so similar at first glance, but it is not the same, like stepping through the looking glass. I really thought I knew most of the words for things that are different, but I didn’t (and still don’t). It’s a weird feeling. It feels a little lonely and a little anxiety inducing to be corrected all the time and to do something embarrassing everyday. It feels like if I relax too much, I’ll forget where I am and make a stupid mistake. Also, coming from a disadvantaged background sometimes feels like there’s few people who can relate to me. I miss the comfortable sense of familiarity of home. Making friends has really helped alleviate all that though, and I try to get out whenever I don’t have homework (not very often). While I haven’t gotten to see them much, my friends from the squat have helped me feel more at home.

Speaking of, they did not get evicted! A crowd came to support the squat on eviction day. People brought food and tea to share and played music. It was like a little block party. The bailiff and police showed up, asked them if they were going to leave, squatters said no, and then they just left. That was it. It was so civil. I’ve never seen police behave that way. Afterward, everyone went inside to celebrate. Folks passed around a guitar, shared stories, and of course talked politics. It felt great to be socializing and it was interesting learning about British history from the perspectives of people from similar class backgrounds to me and various different ethnic backgrounds.

For school this week, we went to a play and to the Docklands Sugar & Slavery museum both in the East End. The play was Kingston 14, about a corrupt police force in Jamaica and a robin hood type mob leader. At first, I thought the play was good. But when asked why, I couldn’t really articulate anything. I think I was just so excited to be there that I was determined to enjoy it. On further thought and discussion with others who went, it seemed to not really provide much insight into the dramatic scenes we were being shown. There were lots of scenes that teased me with story lines that I would have been very interested to see played out (like why is the mob boss revered as someone who helps the community?). It assumed the audience knew everything there is to know about Jamaican politics, which left me a little lost at times. But I understand that not all plays are written for everyone. Some folks were upset that it was all in Jamaican Patois, but I didn’t really have much trouble following what folks were saying unless they were screaming really fast. I think it helped to put me in Jamaica and to distinguish the British character (besides, there were subtitles provided). Overall, I’m not sure how much I actually liked it. I think I really liked the concept but would have liked to see it written a little differently. A guest from the museum who came with us suggested that it should have had a few more revisions, and I think I agree with that assessment.

The Docklands museum was great! We were very privileged to have a private tour with one of the people who started the museum. He had a very captivating presence and beautiful voice, he could have made something boring seem interesting. In addition to browsing the exhibits, we got to hear why pieces were chosen or emphasized and sometimes what was left out for lack of space or funding. We also learned many facts that contradict what has been taught in English schools about black history. Like the fact that the Windrush was not the beginning of black history in England. As much as 10% of the London population was black prior to the Windrush. Also, that racism was the resulting ideology used to justify the trans-Atlantic slave trade, not the cause of it. The exhibits emphasized that it started as an industry first. Understanding this, I believe, helps a person have a much better jumping off point to understanding what racism really is/isn’t, the various forms that racism has taken, and thus understanding how contemporary colorblind racism functions now. So I was excited to see this. Although we were there for 3 hours, I could have stayed for 3 more (if not for a sore lower back and aching feet), he was such a wealth of knowledge.

At my internship, I got to be the Easter Bunny and hide “sweeties” all around the facility. It was great fun to watch the teenagers dashing all around searching for the treats, like children. Then after we filled them up with sugar, we promptly sat them down for a lengthy poetry reading with a much older man. In hindsight, maybe not the best plan. But they were so sweet with him. They listened to the best of their ability and cheered loudly for him when he was done. They seem like such a supportive cohort.

Before the young people arrived, I got to meet more of my coworkers. Including one who works in student government at his university. It was great to get to compare student politics and government structure. Finding out more about the various student clubs, how they interact, and what campaigns they’re working on was very interesting. International politics seem to play a much stronger role in influencing student club politics here than they do in the states. We also talked more about queer theory and where that’s at in student politics. It seems that it’s more widely understood in the universities, but is still regarded as a radical mode of thinking. In the debriefing, we talked about the young people in our program who identify as gender queer and we may be having a focus session with the young people about being inclusive of queer identities next week (Yay!).