I am half way through 2015. A whole year has gone past since last I spent a night at my parent’s house. 2 whole years has gone by since last I was overseas visiting the world and connecting with lost family and new family. Time has gone by, things have been learned and said, spoken and forgotten but I have reached a point in my life where I am thinking about all the things that I should have said.
I have always been able to talk about my feels. I speak, write, shout, laugh, cry, moan, nag and demand. I make myself heard and I love to listen when the people around me reply. Ever since I left the shores of Africa for a journey that would change the lenses that I viewed the world through, I have noticed myself more quiet. I am more full of excuses and reasons why I should not or can not speak. Adult life expects you to be well-mannered, polite and sweet because these are the rules. Adult life tells you to keep secrets when people ask you to, to ignore bad things, to turn a blind eye and cry alone in a place and in a way that does not worry the rest of the world. Well I am so full. I am fit to bursting with other people’s secrets.
When I left the comforts and warmth of my home and ventured deep into the Western world I learned that I was black. Do not be mistaken, I have always known my colour. I think that children like me learn the existence of their colour at a very young age. Adoption across colour educates you like that. I have always known my colour. I know the richness of it. The softness of it, the hues and tones it hides, flashes and turns. The yellows in winter, the blues in summer. The red in my cheeks the white when I am sickly, sulking and week. When I left home I learned what the world called black. There were many things then that I should have said.
I learned 2, almost 3 years ago now, that my cousin could not call me black. He was afraid to say the word, did not know what to call me, could not describe me as what I am. I laughed then, and punched him in his strong white shoulder, but I should have stepped back and slapped everything that he had ever learned, everything that had ever barred him, everyone that had tainted his mind, hard, sure and true in the face and shouted a big, Fuck you! Not to my cousin but to the society and attitudes that surround him and others like him. I have lived in this skin my whole life, I know nothing else. I can not pretend to be anything else. I am black and would not change my skin for anything or anyone, yet there are people out there in the world who fear this shade and choose to hate it. To you, there are many things that I should have said.
I stood, a year ago in a club in London, a smart club with a dress code and cover charge, wiping an alarming amount of phlegm off my forehead and nose. Someone from the floor above me had coughed up this vile fluid and had spat the collection onto my face as I kissed my white lover. Once I had wiped it off, it was gone, I was unhurt, unharmed. I was shocked but unharmed and all I wanted was to ask the person why? I wanted to share some words with them, look into their face. There were things that I wanted to say. But as I walked around searching for a guilty looking face I found nothing. No-one. This is when the tears came. There were things that I wanted to say. There were things that I wish I had said.
This past weekend I attended a Mandela Day event in Mowbray with Rape Crisis. I was one of many people, women, men and children, young, old and middle-aged, who packed care packs which would be distributed and sent out to hospitals, police stations and clinics. I found myself in a situation unlike anything I have ever experienced. I still can not quite place my emotions around it. All I know is that my skin crawled in a way that it has never done before and still I did not say a word. My words vanished from me and all thought slipped from my mind. I was empty and hanging like a wet blanket, heavy and cold. As I packed my decorated bag with shampoo, toothpaste, a toothbrush, pads, panty liners, a snack and a new pair of underwear I noticed a man very close to my shoulder. An old man, an old white man. Not South African.Too close and for too long. He noticed me and looked right into my eyes. He whispered, “I wish I was making one of these for you.”
In that moment I knew that he had meant it as a pick-up line but the words and their actual meaning and the way that he looked at me was a combination of filth that I could not brush off. I could not speak then but I have words now. When will my skin, my face, my smile, my hands, my spit, my blood, my sex belong to me? When will I be mine to define, mine to love and mine to celebrate. I want to shake the core of the Earth so that ‘man’ can feel my fury. When will it stop?
These are but a few of the things that I should have said.