“Welcome to your homeland!” a man shouted out to me, as I clambered off a tour bus in Kenya and made my way across the border to Tanzania with the rest of the group (who were all white). I had only been in Africa for a few days, but the greeting made me stop and think for a while, as I realised that as a descendant of slaves I was indeed ‘home’.
So I thought if I can now add Africa to the UK and the Caribbean as one of the places where I am meant to ‘belong’, why do I feel like a foreigner in each and every one of them?
I was born in Kensington and Chelsea in the mid 1970s and grew up on council estates in Fulham and Feltham. Any black person growing up in the UK at this time will tell you that it was far from easy. Race riots, blatant discrimination and the National Front were always a threat, so my issues around identity probably began during these formative childhood years even if I was, at the time, unaware of them.
In fact I distinctly remember being quite happy as a child being raised with my older brother by a single mum - learning to hopscotch, plait hair, playing with cabbage patch dolls and watching the ‘Russ Abbot Show’ on TV.