My Random Thoughts

Location: United Kingdom

A Naija Guy living (and loving) in the UK.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Identity Part1: Nationality

For most of us Africans living in the UK the question "So, where are you from?" gives us reason to pause. Are we being asked what part of the UK we live in or is this someone with secret National Front affiliations trying to find out which African country this immigrant needs to sent back to?. I once watched a play at the Theatre Royal Stratford which had the thought provoking title of 'Urban Afro Saxons'. It explored the nature of personal identity within a community of recent immigrants and second generation immigrants and was interesting food for thought.

As Nigerian immigrants, first, second and in some cases third generation how do we choose to identify ourselves when asked the question "Where are you from?". Would you say Brixton, Manchester, Streatham or will you say Nigeria? And should you decide to have children here and bring them up in the UK, what answer would you expect them to give?

Sociologists would describe our identity as relating to an individual's comprehension of him or herself as a discrete and separate entity and which habits or customs that individual would choose to form a part of their instinctive behavior, and furthermore what customs he/she would adopt. Our Cultural identity relates to our belief systems, art appreciation, morals, the laws we abide to, our religion and what societal norms we hold dear. As long as we live our ideologies will continue to evolve, does this mean our cultural identity could change or perhaps just shift slightly?

Norman Tebbit a former Conservative minister once suggested that there should be a 'Cricket Test' for ethnic minorites who wanted to become British Citizens. The test requires that you can't truly be 'British' until you can support the English Cricket team as opposed to that of your ancestral home country. Now since Nigeria are unlikely to be successful in Cricket in my lifetime perhaps we can use the 'Football' test. In the 2002 world cup Nigeria Vs England who were you cheering on?

In 1966, as part of a protest against the Vietnam War and to illustrate the effect of racism in his home nation, Mohammed Ali famously declared "No VietCong Ever Called Me Nigger" and allied himself with his new religion of Islam rather than the USA. There are a number of cases of high profile sports people who have chosen to publically declare their affilliation with a particular country or cause, notably Cathy Freeman waving the aboriginal flag after winning the 1994 Commonwealth Games and Linford Christie draping himself in the Union Jack (the union jack had become a symbol of the racist right organisation National Front and this thus displeased quite a few Black Britons).

One of my Uncles has been here since the 1960s and his children were all born and bred in Birmingham down to having the Brummie accents. Short of spending short holidays in Lagos, the UK is their home. They have never even been to Abeokuta, their Dad's ancestral home. Those children are likely to live and die in the UK. Strangely they all have Yoruba names that they can't pronounce properly and hang out with West Indians. Are they Nigerians or Black Britons? And should we really be forcing these children to choose?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Bank Holidays & the South Bank

Ah, the end of another Bank Holiday weekend. I'm seriously considering writing to my local MP to ask if he would like to present to the House of Commons a Bill to increase the number of bank Holidays in the UK along the lines of those in other countries in the EU (Workers in the UK enjoy only eight bank holidays a year compared to 12 in Italy, 13 in Austria and up to 14 in Spain and Portugal).

Anyway, three days gives me enough time to recover from a hard week, get out and then recover from going out before the new week starts. Yesterday I choose to experience music at the South Bank.

First it was off to the Royal Festival Hall where the Out of Africa event was holding. I missed most of the music since I only got there about 6pm but I was able to walk around the stalls and sample some J rice (first time I've experienced it being cooked with basmati rice!) cooked Ghanian style. Apparently its an annual event so I will need to remember to check it out next year and get there early.

In the Royal Festival Hall Foyer, there was music from Pianist Gboyega Adelaja (see pic) and I was suitably impressed to see a good scattering of Naija folk (I'm saddened when I attend Nigerian art showcases to see it being predominately attended by white folk. Imagine my amazement when I tried to encourage a couple of Nigerian friends to attend an art exhibition in memory of Fela Kuti only to be told 'I was trying too hard to be Nigerian' WTF?!?!) . The only thing missing was some rice from Iya Basira and some Gulder to wash it down with and I would have felt at home. Some dude even had some T-shirts with yoruba proverbs on them for sale (wish I had taken his details). Salawa Abeni was in concert later but had to give it a miss cause I had an appointment with poetry just across the river at Embankment.

A couple of hours later and a five minute walk across the river at the Motion Bar it was a night of poetry and music from up and coming British and American artistes at the monthly Poetry n Motion events. The only thing that ruined it slightly for me (apart from the fact that the show started over an hour late - Black people lets get out shit tight!) was the loud music which drowned out some of the lyrics from the poets (I just love performance Poetry). We even got a surprise performance from Raheem Devaughn and it was an experience seeing the ladies swoon (lawd God, I hope I'm not being ungrateful but I could have done with a beautiful voice). Anyway the poetry and live music ended at midnight and after waiting a few minutes for the staff to clear the chairs and tables it was time to par-tay to R&B and Hip-Hop for a couple of hours.

What I would give for more Bank Holidays...

Friday, May 26, 2006

X-Men3 and its Symbolism

X-men3 was released today at the start of Bank Holiday Weekend. For those who have seen the first two films in the trilogy, you will recognise that the central theme of the movies is that of the intolerance shown towards the mutants by humans and the vastly different approaches by the two mutant leaders towards the problem. If while you have been watching the trilogy you have seen parallels with the civil rights movement in America in the 1960s you are not alone. There are obvious clues strewn throughout the three movies to keep this undercurrent alive.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, are the two African American leaders whose perspectives are mirrored by that of Professor Xavier and Magneto. Where MLK thought that integration would lead to freedom; Malcolm X preached that separation was the way to emancipation of the black race. In the film Professor Xavier and the X-men want to live with humans, they want integration and thus fight for peace. Magneto and his followers, like the NOI under Brother Malcolm, have lost faith in the justice system of the dominant racial class and seek to take the situation into their own hands.

Some of the obvious clues thrown in as eye candy include:
X1: The film ends with Xavier playing chess with Magneto in a plastic jail cell. Magneto tells the Professor that he will continue fighting the humans 'by any means necessary' (A phrase commonly associated with Malcolm X in the 1960s).
X3: At one point in the film when Mystique is called upon to testify, she repiles, “I don’t answer to my slave name.” (Anyone remember Kunta Kinte?). When Kelsey Grammer’s Beast recalled a time when things were different, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, retorted, “Did you just call me boy?”

Those who believe the parallels are not purely coincidental may have taken heart from the opening scene of X3 where the two leaders are working together to resolve societal ills and hoped for a happy ending. Sadly it wasn't to be and X3 falls flat on its face with the portrayal of Magneto as an evil man who lets his ambition lead his desire to progress his race.

Personally I would have prefered a greater level of respect for the need for a spectrum of views and the necessity of a Malcolm X character to balance out the non-violent MLK, with that perhaps X-men the movie might have proven more than just a comical parody of real life events and become an education into what the civil rights movement could have been.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Remembering the first time...

I was recently listening to some old school stuff that I had on tape. Before you ask, the answer is Yes, Homeboy still has a tape deck. Its useful for when I want to go down memory lane and bring out those old compilations from Samaco Records (remember them?). Anyway I came across the song ‘Tonight is the Night’ by Betty Wright. The song is an intimate and humorous take on her first real life sexual encounter when she was a teenager (click here to listen to a clip of the song from

I’ve also recently come across a blog where in the replies section some dude out of the blue shares information about his first sexual encounter with the house help when he was 15 and she was 20 (talk about child abuse!). Anyways my point is some people will have painful memories of their first time, others embarrassing and some have the kind that they still treasure many years later. Its not uncommon to bring up this topic and people start getting those dreamy eyes (almost like JD from Scrubs!) when they are reminiscing.

Most of us will remember the full name of our first sexual partner and dependent on how long ago it was, probably still refer to them with their full name (I find it interesting how we always refer to certain people using their full name – has anyone come across a reference to Paul McCartney that didn’t include his full name?). I think our first partners are a bit like that, the Toyin Adebayos, Jonathan Adams and Kemi Ojos.

So how does your first encounter shape up ? Fond memories or best forgotten?

I'll leave you with some lyrics from Betty Wright:
........Tonight is the night, That you make me a woman, mmm...You said you’ll be gentle with me, And I-I hope you will, hmm...mmm...I’m nervous and I’m tremblin’, Waitin’ for you to walk in, Tryin’ hard to relax, But I just can’t keep still.....

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Purple Hibiscus

If you live in the UK you can buy own Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book Purple Hibiscus for only 99p (yes I know Naijas like to claim but on this occasion we can!). The book is a good read and I bought it for a few friends for Christmas, (I should have waited, saved some money, damn). Anyway, come on get off your asses lets support our sister.

Some blurb about the book from the Times website: Kambili, a 15-year-old girl, lives in fear of her father, a charismatic yet violent Catholic patriarch. Escape and the discovery of a new, liberated life come when Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, and Kambili and her brother go to live at their aunt’s home, a noisy place full of laughter.
Read more about the book here.

So whats your number? Part1

I inadvertently rubbed another blogger the wrong way recently by offering some unsolicited 'advice'. I won't go into any detail cause that really isn't what this story is about (why men gotta be so insensitive sometimes? Mo work on your shit man!) but what I found interesting was how in letting off steam she felt she had to reiterate that she had only had two sexual partners in her lifetime. Now I had already said that point wasn't relevant for me but it obviously was for her. It reminds me of the Christina Aguilera song where she says '...sorry I'm not a virgin and sorry I'm not a slut...'. Its obviously a sensitive spot. Homeboy then put two and two together and before I end up with 4 (or maybe even 7) I just thot it'd be useful to seek some other views.

Now tight as me and my girl be, this kind of shit I can't even consider bringing up with her. Why? Cause it was the source of some major friction when we first hooked up. She had only ever been with one sexual partner before me and since my intentions are honourable with her I kind of worried that it might mean that 10 years down the line she might wonder if she was missing out by only ever being with two men. Now that was another occasion when I should have kept my damn mouth shut. She basically tore me a new one (fortunately the only time where she has let off on me like that......well almost only) . Me being the man that I am I had been upfront with her about where I had been when we were first getting close just so we were all clear (I'm ashamed to say my number was well into the double digits). So I guess that she took it that I was questioning her morality, decency, why did I want to date her if I didn't trust her etc , I think you get the gist. She also was unhappy that I was judging her using my own yardstick. So you can see its not really something I can bring up with my baby.

There's the background and now here I am wondering what people think are respectable numbers. Whats too low and whats too high? Should it differ dependent on whether you are male or female? How is it related to age? ie are you excused having a 'high' number if you over 30 and still single? How many people are comfortable with saying what their number is cause we all anonymous here (and would you say the same thing if we met at a party face to face?).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sticks and Stones can break my bones…

I’ve been having friction at work with our team administrator for the last couple of months. Her job exists solely to service the administrative needs of my team ie typing, minute taking, filing, franking mail etc. She seems to get on well enough with my oyibo colleagues, but seems to save her bile specially for me. The embarrasing thing for me is that we are two of only three black people in an organisation of almost 70 people. She is of Jamaican heritage and I Nigerian. Yesterday the problems came to a head where after a team meeting she implied that I was adopting an 'Uncle Tom' attitude in order to advance in the company. I choose to walk away rather than let her see how much her comments had riled me.

Originally the central character that featured in Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', the label has become one all progressive black men have come to fear. It is one that is thrown out to discredit, ridicule and depict men of African origin in a negative light. It implies that the individual is servile and has feelings of inferiority to Caucasians. It has often been used by black men who have ideological differences as to how to approach the civil rights movement/ advancement of the race (dependent on which side of the Atlantic you are). Malcolm X followers looked at the civil disobedience of Martin Luther King and labelled him an Uncle Tom. Malcolm's infamous "House and Field Negro" speech has retrospectively been used to refer to MLK's non violent approach (Even though he never refered to MLK in the speech).

Marcus Garvey used the term for the lighter skinned WEB Dubois due to their differences in approach for uniting people of African Ancestry in USA in the 1920s. Closer to home Frank Bruno cried in the ring when he beat Oliver McCall to win the heavyweight championship belt, while he repeated into his gloves, tears streaming down his eyes 'I'm not an Uncle Tom, I'm not an Uncle Tom'. He was reacting to Lennox Lewis's taunts due to his public persona of being the smiling black face, the jester to entertain the 'whites'.

In recent times the label has been bandied about very liberally once a black man engages in activities not considered 'black' such as skiing and listening to any music that isn't Hip-Hop or African (Whats wrong with liking music by Sting or Green day?). Black teenagers have also blamed a fear of being labelled as a reason for underacheivement in schools and even in more extremely surreal instances have complained that they were scared of eating with a knife and fork in the school canteen as it would be 'white' or 'Gay'. Clarence Thomas, OJ Simpson, Celebrities that have been tagged are aplenty. The worry is that the more widespread and liberally used the term is, the more likely it is to slide down the slippery slope towards insignificance. When a brother is truely deserving (why the hell would a black man stand as a candidate for UKIP? They want to send us all back to Africa! I was born here!!) similar to the child who cried wolf it might just be ignored.

In its original sense it has the power of evoking images of Aunt Jemima and yelps of 'Yes Massar', individuals who believe they are inferior and white race need to be respected and feared. This is the Uncle Tom that exists in the midst of us, his/her existence threatens the progress that the rest of us seek to acheive as he may be trumped up by the far right as the way a minority should be. This person is not me, I'm taking my four acres and a mule but I'm not going back to Africa with it, you all will need to put up with me a while longer. But since I've just spent the last hour exorcising this from my spirit perhaps words can harm me afterall.