Tell us a bit about your cultural heritage.
My mum and dad were both raised in St Ann, Jamaica. My dad had already been living in the UK for some years before he’d met my mum. They came over together in the 1980’s, where they found a place to live in Streatham. Both my parents came from working class families. They have always been incredibly hard working and understood that to make a living in UK as a black family, they would have to go above and beyond to gain and make the most of every opportunity. A trait they attribute to their upbringings in Jamaica.
Family is another major part of our culture. It wasn’t uncommon to see huge 220L barrels in our kitchen, with items for the family over in Jamaica. Food, clothes, anything that would help out the family, or things that could be sold in the market to help out with money. There was such an importance in being able to give back and assist the family “back home” in our household. It didn’t matter how big or small.
Religion and food are also two very strong staples of the culture of Jamaica. It may seem strange to link the two together, but my memories of hearing hymns and songs around the house often went hand in hand with the amazing smell of mum and dads cooking. I’m going to say this now, Jamaican food is the best there is! Period! Jerk Chicken, Rice and Peas, Oxtail, Ackee and Salt fish with dumplings, and so much more. Jamaican culture is enriched by its flavorsome, spicy and unique food.
Lastly, “Out of many, one people” is the motto of Jamaica. This is a tribute to the unity of the different cultural minorities inhabiting the nation. One thing I love about the culture, is that you are able to make a connection with someone on some level, just because you are from Jamaica, or have been brought up by Jamaican.
Having grown up in Britain, would you say your cultural background is still a big part of your life?
I definitely would. The lessons passed down from previous generations, the bonds that can be felt with people who came from or had a similar upbringing to what I had, and the joy of being able to celebrate my culture with people at Notting Hill Carnival. I think growing up in Britain, while having a Jamaican background, is a combination I love and still embrace to this day.
Why do you think raising awareness of diversity and different cultural backgrounds is important?
Sometimes you can only embrace other’s culture by actively seeking out to understand them. Nothing bad ever came from understanding where someone has come from, and what lessons they have learnt through being raised differently. By exposing people (and especially children) to many diverse and different cultures, one can gain a deeper understanding of other people, and you can become more of an ally, rather than being someone who observes from the side-lines.
My memories of hearing hymns and songs around the house often went hand in hand with the amazing smell of mum and dad’s cooking.