Moving to the whitest place in the world

My Brighton view one rainy day

About 24 years ago I left the grimier side of Manchester where I was born and raised and I moved to “that London” . I was 18, fresh faced and green as a cabbage. I had literally no clue about anything and I found London intimidating and exciting. It took me about ten years to find true friends and even longer to find an area where I felt that I fitted in. I moved from South to East and finally settled in Hackney where I have lived for the past 4 years. I have it pretty sweet here in Hackney where I share a flat with one of my best friends & I have lots of incredible friends close by. Also amazing fabric shops, live music venues, food from all over the world in my local shop, trendy bars or cosy old mens pubs and beautiful parks to waste my time in

So why am I moving? Well….. It could be because I’m just a bit too comfortable, I just need something else or I need to shake things up a bit. It is easy to become stagnant or feel that way. I never realised that this was the case until I started visiting friends on the south coast on a regular basis. But the main reason I’m moving is that whenever I leave London and land in Brighton with the seagulls squawking and the sea rolling and the pebbles on the beach under my feet I feel at peace

It took me a while to start thinking ‘maybe I could move here’ but once the thought entered my head I couldn’t shake it. That was about two years ago and now I am at the looking for a place stage. I am actually looking for a place & I hope to move before the end of the year. Shit is going DOWN! It’s serious now

Its funny how you take a place for granted. In Hackney I am now aware of all the good stuff that I am going to miss. The diversity. The diversity. The wonderful diversity! If you don’t know you may have guessed by now that Brighton is very white and Hackney is glorious yellow brick road technicolour in comparison although I’ve only just stared to appreciate that. I just took it for granted before. In fact everywhere I have ever lived in London had loads of people that look like me, people from many faiths, olive and brown and black faces from all over the world. And with that comes all the gorgeous food and banter at market stalls

I’m going to miss the old Jamaican guy with the mouth full of gold teeth who works at the garage round the corner who always has a beautiful smile and a compliment for me. I will miss the black woman on my road who dresses like some kind of voodoo high priestess in her black witchy robes and high head dress. I smiled at her once and she cursed me at the top of her voice “Smiling at me? Why the F**K are you smiling at me like you f****** know me?” she continued to do this all the way down the street & I loved it! I will miss the Turkish guy on my favourite fabric stall who always knocks a quid off the price for me. I will miss the African ladies in my local charity shop who always have a big smile for me and call me “sister”. I will miss seeing the Hasidic Jews on the bus. I will miss the black boys on their tiny bikes. I will miss always being a stone’s throw away from a Caribbean food shop. I will miss sitting in the park and seeing the Muslim family and the African mums in their colourful gowns and the football team made up entirely of black men. I will even miss Lincoln the old black dude who begs me for change every time he sees me . I always think that he could be my uncle or my father. I will miss the bashment girls with the serious colourful weaves and the list goes on and on and on

Am I moving to the whitest place in the world? No. But it will be the whitest place I’ve ever called home

The Nigerian sea ritual that I was happy to witness

Don’t get me wrong there are people of colour in on the south coast of England. I know they are there because I see them. I SEE them. Clearer than I have ever seen them. I see myself in the eyes of the little mixed race girls holding hands with their white mums. I see myself in the Nigerian women I stumbled upon doing sea rituals on the beach. I see myself in the Asian shop keepers smile. Am I being dramatic? Probably, but it doesn’t make it any less true

I met a woman called Pauline who lives there and she encouraged me to move “we need more of us here. Come” she said. She said when she sees a new black person on the street she’s like “Hello!” as if she knows them because she’s so grateful to see them. I was like … s**t is it that bad?

But I don’t say hi or nod my head or smile at every black person I see in London ( I would be doing it all day long!) but I found myself doing it in Brighton.

Without even thinking I’m saying hi to the black guy on his bike at the seafront or sharing a knowing cheeky look with the security guard outside the bar or giving a big smile for the black woman at the bus stop. So there are black people there, not just tourists but black families are being raised there. A whole new generation

1977 when punk was changing the world. I was eating cake for the Queen. I’m pretty sure somebody at the nursery said “lets put the little brown one in the middle”

And saying all that, I have been at a bar or a gig or a party in East London and I have been the only black face in the room. It happens. Its not so alien to me. I have a lot of white friends. More white friends than black ones. I’m not sure how but it just happened that way and yeah…. I am consciously and at times violently aware of that but that’s a whole other post to for the future (Its coming). So its not that different is it? From my youth being the only little brown face in the nursery or the only black girl on the holiday resort in Ibiza (a total disaster of a holiday by the way. I was talked into doing an 18–30 holiday and it was as awful as you cold imagine). Its not that different is it?

Except it totally is. Because I’m older now and I can make a choice about what parties I attend and I really like not being the only black face in the room

18–30 Ibiza holiday in the 90’s. Horrific

So it seems kinda crazy that I’m moving to this place but the pull is strong and I keep thinking “You’ll make it work” which I will

The black people are here I thought… I just need to find them. My first step was to do a quick online search of black charities in the area and found one immediately that mentors black, mixed and ethnic children in the Brighton area. As I know how important it is for these children to mix with other kids and adults that look like them or have the same experiences, I reckon I could do some good there. I think that’s a really good and positive start

Although I am nervous about moving and changing my life I am also aware that London is a couple of hours drive away and I will be vising there quite a bit for work and social events. I know where to buy plantains in Brighton thanks to a quick Google search and I know where to get my hair braided to. It’s going to be OK

The pull of the sea is strong and that’s where I’m heading…

I’ve been spending all this time wondering whether I am ready for Brighton but really Brighton should be asking whether it is ready for me. I’m coming . Ready or not

My favourite view

Originally published at clarkeanthea.wix.com.

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