Tell us about your cultural heritage
I come from a very standard Caribbean family where saying "I want to be a graphic designer" roughly translates into "so you want to play with crayons instead of getting a real job", or something like that. As a qualified teacher who gave me tutoring lessons every day after school, I think my Grandad was particularly disturbed by this career choice. I say this to illustrate just how much of an emphasis was placed on education in my family and this is pretty much the case across the entire Caribbean. The many talks I have had with my Grandad have had a huge influence on who I am. Any conversations that broach the subject of the difficulties of being a black millennial in the UK often result in him trumping me with the story of how he came here from Guyana with £50 in his pocket and his O-levels, and sent for my Grandma and uncle as soon as he had made a life for them, which is a common story of how many Caribbean families came to be in the UK.
I have visited Guyana many times for weddings, birthdays and Christmases. I always feel a sense of connection and home, no matter how often my cousins insist on referring to me as "English boy" when I am there. Due to various historical events there is both an African and Indian presence in Guyana, which has caused a beautiful cultural overlap and is the reason why dinner could be anything from Chicken Curry and Dhal Puri or Roti, to Ackee, Saltfish and Bake. Guyana is unique in that it is the only English speaking country in South America and isn't actually an island like the rest of the Caribbean, which is a fact that leads to plenty of jokes and banter about the legitimacy of Guyana's status as part of the Caribbean/West Indies.
Having grown up in Britain, would you say your cultural background is a big part of your life?
My cultural background is a huge part of my life, so much so that I barely notice it until I think about it. It's in the food I eat, the music I listen to, the celebrations and family gatherings I attend and most importantly, it's in the thick Guyanese accent that slips out every time I annoy my Grandma. Being born in the UK has birthed a unique cultural experience that allows me to draw influence from my background but remain British. I think it is experiences like this that have created a generation of like-minded millennials: 1st and 2nd generation Brits raised by families who travelled here from various countries who can relate wholeheartedly to each other.
Why do you think raising awareness of diversity and different cultural backgrounds is important?
I think it is very important to raise awareness of our different cultural backgrounds. Where a person comes from has a huge impact on who they are as a person, their mannerisms, how they could interact with you and how they perceive historical events. Our experiences and understanding of what it means to be British are not the same, it is easy for us to gloss over differences and perhaps dismiss them as strange or wrong. Seeking to understand another's culture and experiences will help us on our way to creating environments that are suitable for everyone regardless of their background or religion.
Being born in the UK has birthed a unique cultural experience that allows me to draw influence from my background but remain British.